By ANTHONY LUSARDI
December 29, 2017
The moment you hear "spaghetti western," the first movie that probably pops into your head is The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, then maybe A Fistful of Dollars, or For A Few Dollars More. The Dollars Trilogy, along with Clint Eastwood, automatically covers the entire subgenre. You might think of: Once Upon a Time in the West. Featuring titans like Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson as the opposing forces of good and evil, this Sergio Leone masterpiece, along with his Man With No Name, are the quintessential spaghetti westerns.
With dark humor, satirical subject matter, antiheroes, graphic violence, extreme long shots contrasted with extreme close-ups, and music by Ennio Morricone, these spaghetti westerns evolved the western. They subverted its genre conventions and opened a path to the modern Revisionist genre. Looking at modern westerns, like the 2016 remake of The Magnificent Seven, much has definitely changed in the film genre that America can call its own.
The influence of all four Leone spaghetti westerns is so immense, that many other notable spaghetti westerns have been overshadowed. In fact, from the 1960s to the 1970s, about six hundred spaghetti westerns were thought to be made in Italy. Many have had mainstream success, while others achieved cult status. Both of which contain their own unique characters, their own exciting action, and their own western style.
Below is a list of spaghetti westerns which enthusiasts and movie lovers can use to explore beyond Sergio Leone's overshadowing legacy in cinema.
1. A Pistol for Ringo (1965), dir. Duccio Tessari
Remember A Fistful of Dollars? This spaghetti western is the antithesis. And that's a matter of principle, at least according to the main character.
Using the same formula of an antihero who makes two different forces fight one another in order to achieve profit, A Pistol for Ringo features its own nameless character who is hired by the law for a dangerous mission. That mission includes infiltrating a gang of Mexican bandits who rob a bank and are now holding a rich family and their plantation workers hostage. But like how Amanda Waller thought the Suicide Squad was under her control, the law may soon regret asking help from the angel-faced outlaw.
The man who calls himself Ringo (played by Italian actor Giuliano Gemma) is the opposite of Clint Eastwood's Blondie. He is clean-shaven, well-dressed, personable, prefers milk over whiskey, and smiles. But, like Blondie, he uses cunning and manipulation for his own advantage, and is always demanding a higher cut of the reward money. Despite looking like a younger, morally-good Gary Cooper from High Noon, Ringo is also a man of many principles, often which bring him into conflict with both the law and other criminals.
Ringo also stands out from Fistful due to its dark humor; a characteristic that has helped spaghetti westerns stand out from American westerns. Ringo contains enough to help make its own individuality.
From its success, Ringo became a notable spaghetti western character in the Italian film market. And, like Eastwood, Gemma became a popular face among the whole subgenre. Even his co-stars (Fernando Sancho, Nieves Navarro, George Martin, Antonio Casas, Jose Manuel Martin, and Lorella De Luca), appeared frequently in spaghetti westerns.
The movie's immediate success inspired director Duccio Tessari to team up with the same cast to shoot a reboot/sequel the same year: The Return of Ringo. This one has an entirely different protagonist, also named Ringo, with a more Homer Odyssey-esque story. Following this popularity, Italian film studios were then making their own spin-off Ringo movies or re-releasing old movies as Ringo films.
Trivia: Like A Fistful of Dollars, A Pistol For Ringo uses a similar plot of a protagonist manipulating rival gangs to complete his objectives. A Fistful of Dollars is really an unofficial remake of the Japanese samurai film Yojimbo (1961) by director Akira Kurosawa, of which uses a similar uncredited plot from the 1929 detective novel Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett.
[To Be Continued Next Week]
Editor's Note: The series will continue next week with the next installment.
lives in Rockaway Borough
He's a 2013 graduate of Centenary College (now Centenary University) in Hackettstown, NJ
He currently work as a freelance reporter
Anthony is an avid movie fan, reader, and lover of arts and entertainment. I've attended and covered music concerts, art exhibits, festivals, parades, book readings, library lectures, and even a movie premiere in Parsippany and a movie shooting in Roxbury.