Saturday, February 29, 2020

RIP Joyce Gordon

Commercial and voiceover actress Joyce Gordon, who was the first woman to serve as the president of a Screen Actors Guild branch, died late Friday February 28, 2020. She was 90 years old. Her death was announced by SAG-AFTRA Saturday. Born in Des Moines, Iowa on March 25, 1929, during the days of live television, she appeared in commercials that aired during The Jack Paar Show, Hugh Downs and The Price Is Right. A whole chapter of Alice Whitfield's 1992 book about the voiceover industry, Take It From The Top, was devoted to Gordon. Gordon also played dramatic roles, appearing on live television shows at the beginning of her career. She also used her voiceover skills for English dubs of classic movies when the practice was still common in the U.S. She was most famously the voice of Claudia Cardinale in Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West. She also appeared as a judge in episodes of Law & Order late in life. Gordon was also the English voice of Mara Krup in 1965’s “For a Few Dollars More”. Gordon is survived by her son, daughter, grandson and sister. She was married for over 50 years to actor Bernard Grant who was the English voice of Gian Maria Volonte in “Fistful of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More”, who died in 2004.

Tonino Delli Colli and that trolley against nature

By: Stefano Stefanutto Rosa

An evening with old friends at the Casa del cinema in Rome, wanted by his son Stefano, to remember a craftsman of light, one of the pioneers of photography in Italian cinema who transformed a craft into a great artistic expression. A tribute to Tonino Delli Colli, 15 years after his death, entrusted to the documentary Once Upon a Time ... Tonino Delli Colli Cinematographer by Claver Salizzato and Paolo Mancini , which for now will be distributed in festivals and events.

The film is inspired by the book by his son Stefano, published in 2017, "Tonino Delli Colli, my father, Between cinema and memories" which traces the story of one of the greatest directors of photography, from the beginning to Cinecittà in the late 1940s the latest film, of over 135 films, Roberto Benigni's La vita è bella (1999). A career marked by 6 Silver Ribbons, 4 David di Donatello and the prestigious ASC-American Society of Cinematographers Lifetime Achievement Award, which was withdrawn in Los Angeles in 2005 a few months after his death.

Tonino Delli Colli has collaborated with directors such as Mario Monicelli, Dino Risi, Federico Fellini, Roman Polanski, Louis Malle, Lina Wertmüller, Marco Bellocchio, Marco Ferreri, Margarethe Von Trotta. But above all he was from the beginning the trusted collaborator of Pier Paolo Pasolini. It was 1961 when Federiz, the company founded by Fellini and Rizzoli, produced Accattone, Pasolini's debut that begins to make some sequences with Carlo Di Palma director of photography. However, the footage does not satisfy Fellini who abandons the project. Fortunately, help comes from the director Mauro Bolognini who convinces the producer Alfredo Bini to finance the film. In the meantime Di Palma is busy on another set, recalls Stefano Delli Colli, and then "my father is called, who immediately accepts the proposal, even reducing the compensation, to which the Americans had accustomed him". A not accidental encounter for Tonino who was looking for an important test with auteur cinema.

“A blanket of primroses. Sheep against light (put, put, Tonino, fifty, don't be afraid that the light will get back - let's make this cart against nature!). The cold warm grass, tender yellow, old new, on the Holy Water. Sheep and shepherd, a piece of Masaccio (try with seventy-five, and trolley up to the first floor) ". In these verses ("Worldly Poems") written by Pasolini in 1962 there is the ironic chronicle of the meeting between the writer, in his directorial debut, and Tonino Delli Colli, who from that moment will sign almost all Pasolini's works, except Oedipus king and The flower of the Thousand and One Nights. Pasolini, by his own admission, does not know the cinematographic technique, learns it in a short time, "a week", and immediately asks Delli Colli to shoot the scenes in a completely different way, outside the classical canon. The producer Bini remembers in the documentary the phone call of a Tonino who was very worried about Accattone’s "broken" photograph , "which showed a suburb of livid villages, made of light and three-dimensional contrasts. Pasolini's visionary poetry asked Tonino to make choices that he had resistance to make, however sensing what Pasolini wanted”.

"With Pasolini, the agreement was wonderful even if they gave of her and were not in confidence - recalls Ninetto Davoli before the screening of the documentary - Tonino was a humble person of great professionalism". “He had the extraordinary instinct of light - recalls in the documentary the director Jean-Jacques Annaud who met him on the set of The Name of the Rose (1986), a characteristic of a self-taught who is the Leitmotiv of other authoritative testimonies. Just as his proverbial ability to find the right lighting in a short time conjugated to a rigorous daily schedule that hardly endured over seventeen / eighteen in the afternoon returns. Hence the relationship of love and hate with Sergio Leone, "Exaggerated and perfectionist, busy too many hours on the set", as Tonino remembers that he "reproaches" the many meters of film shot, with scenes repeated dozens of times.

"The documentary maintains the spirit of the book, that of narrating a cinema and an atmosphere on the sets that no longer exist today - explains his son Stefano - Unpublished materials such as super 8, VHS tapes, skillfully restored and filmed and images from from foreign and private archives. And we see the backstage of Accattone, Mamma Roma, Once upon a time in the West ”. Many testimonies collected: Luca Bigazzi, Pasquale Cuzzupoli, Elda Ferri, Roberto Benigni, Vincenzo Mollica, Furio Scarpelli, Giuseppe Rotunno, Nicoletta Braschi, Pasquale Mari, Piero De Bernardi.

Claver Salizzato in emphasizing how rare documentaries are about directors of photography, also because it is difficult to recognize the authorship of this profession, recalls some significant dates of Tonino Delli Colli's artistic career: 1950 when with a few colleagues he created the association of the cameramen then became AIC-Italian Association of Cinematographic Photography Authors; 1984 the Bafta nomination, the British Oscars, for Once Upon a Time in the West ; 1999 the Oscar for La vita è bella and 2005 with the American trip".

Finally, Laura Delli Colli remembers Tonino's partnership with her second cousin Franco, her father and affirmed operator: “What remains of the 'firm'? A legendary idea of ​​the cinematographic profession, then artisan even if unconsciously artistic ".

Who Are Those Composers ~ Riz Ortolani

Rizziero ‘Riz’ Ortolani was born on March 25, 1926 in Pesaro, Italy. He was the youngest of six children. Ortolani's father, a postal worker, gave his son a violin at age 4. Ortolani later switched to flute after injuring his elbow in a car accident. He studied at the Conservatorio Statale di Musica "Gioachino Rossini" in his hometown of Pesaro before moving to Rome in 1948 and finding work with the RAI orchestra. Though the chronology is unclear, he also likely served as a musician in the Italian Air Force orchestra, formed a Jazz ensemble, and came to the United States as a Jazz musician in Hollywood, all before scoring his first film.

In the early 1950s, Ortolani was founder and member of a well-known Italian jazz band. One of his early film scores was for Paolo Cavara and Gualtiero Jacopetti's 1962 pseudo-documentary “Mondo Cane”, whose main title-song More earned him a Grammy and was also nominated for an Oscar as Best Song. The success of the soundtrack of Mondo Cane led Ortolani to score films in England and the United States such as “The Yellow Rolls-Royce” (1964), “The Spy with a Cold Nose” (1966), “The Biggest Bundle of Them All” (1968) and “Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell” (1968). He also scored the 1972 film “The Valachi Papers”, directed by Terence Young and starring Charles Bronson.

Ortolani scored all or parts of over 200 films, including German westerns like “Old Shatterhand” (1964) and a long series of Italian giallos, spaghetti westerns, Eurospy films, Exploitation films and mondo films. These include “Il Sorpasso” (1962), “Castle of Blood” (1964), “Africa Addio” (1966), “Day of Anger” (1967), “Anzio” (1968), “The McKenzie Break” (1970), “The Hunting Party” (1971), “A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die” (1972), “Seven Blood-Stained Orchids” (1972), “The Fifth Musketeer” (1979), “From Hell to Victory” (1979), the controversial Ruggero Deodato films “Cannibal Holocaust” (1980) and “The House on the Edge of the Park” (1980), and the first series of “La piovra” (1984). In later years he scored many films for Italian director Pupi Avati.

His music was used on soundtracks for “Grand Theft Auto: London 1969” (1999), “Kill Bill: Volume 1” (2003), “Kill Bill: Volume 2” (2004), “Drive” (2011) and “Django Unchained” (2012).

In 2013, Riz Ortolani was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Soundtrack Academy.

Riz married singer, actress Katyna Ranieri [1927-2018] in 1956. He was the father of production manager Rizia Ortolani [1966-    ]. Riz Ortolani died in Rome on January 23 2014.

ORTOLANI, Riz (aka  Roger Higgins, Ritz Ortolani, Oscar Rice) (Rizziero Ortolani) [3/25/1926, Pesaro, Marche, Italy – 1/23/2014, Rome, Lazio, Italy (bronchitis)] – composer, conductor, songwriter, actor, married to actress, singer Katina Ranieri (Caterina Ranieri) [1927-2018] (1964-2014) father of production manager Rizia Ortolani [1966-    ].
Apaches’ Last Battle* – 1963
Gunfight at High Noon – 1963
Ride and Kill – 1963 [as Oscar Rice]
Hour of Death – 1964
Ride and Kill – 1964
Seven from Texas - 1966
Beyond the Law* - 1967
Day of Anger* – 1967
Kill and Pray* – 1967 [as Roger Higgins]
Dead Men Don't Count - 1968
Boot Hill – 1969
Night of the Serpent* - 1969
The Unholy Four - 1969
Madron – 1970
The Hunting Party – 1972
Massacre at Fort Holman* – 1972
Where the Bullets Fly – 1972

*Available on CD

Friday, February 28, 2020

Spaghetti Western Trivia ~ Original Casting for Once Upon a Time in the West

Sergio Leone’s casting of “Once Upon a Time in the West” was a bit different than what would show up for the actual filming of the movie. The main stars were set but the supporting cast had two actors replaced; Robert Hossein was to play the role of the proprietor/bartender at the Monument Valley way station. He was replaced by Lionel Stander. The other change was Robert Ryan was to play the sheriff of Flagstone but took the role of Zeke Thornton in the “Wild Bunch” and was replaced by Keenan Wynn.

New Blu-ray DVD Release ~ Django Schwarzer Gott des Todes

Django Schwarzer Gott des Todes
(Johnny Colt)

Director: Giovanni Grimaldi
Starring: Robert Woods, Elga Andersen, Harald Wolff

Country: Germany
Label: Colosseo Film
Discs: 1
DVD, Blu-ray
Region: B/2 PAL
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (16:9)
Languages: German DD 2.0, English DD 2.0, Italian DD 2.0
Subtitles: none
Running time: 86 min
Extras: Robert Woods interview, Italian and German trailers, gallery
Released February 28, 20209

Mank’s Movie Musings ~ Once Upon a Time in the West

Once upon a time in the West: Sergio Leone’s Postmodern fairy-tale is one of the greatest Westerns ever made

Director Sergio Leone’s magnum opus, Once upon a time in the West(1968), starring Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Charles Bronson and Jason Robards, is considered one of the greatest Westerns ever made. Like the title suggests, its an exaggerated, fairy-tale for adults, set in the old West.

“the rhythm of the film was intended to create the sensation of the last gasp that a person takes just before dying. Once Upon a Time in the West was, from start to finish, a dance of death, all of the characters in the film, except Claudia are conscious of the fact they will not arrive at the end alive…”.
Sergio Leone

The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard called Sergio Leone the first postmodernist film director . Though I am not exactly sure about that, Leone certainly was the first director to bring Postmodernism to the genre of Western . Leone came on the scene when the appeal of the traditional Hollywood western was waning. His Dollars Trilogy infused fresh blood into a dying genre and made a star out of Clint Eastwood. Leone came from a family with deep roots in the Italian film industry.His mother was a silent movie actress and his father directed and acted in films during the silent era. Leone grew up admiring the American westerns of director John Ford. He loved those movies to death, but he did not agree with their ‘politics’ and their optimistic worldview. So when it came time to make his own westerns, he took the basic themes and characters from the Hollywood westerns and then transported them to a bleak, arid, surrealistic landscape. His worldview was un-apologetically amoral and pessimistic. He turned the archetype of the moral Western hero into a ruthless killer who is concerned only with his own survival . His three Dollars films were highly stylized ,operatic melodramas, which were unabashedly populist entertainment and was lapped up by audience all over the world. But the populist nature of those films prevented the critics from fairly assessing his work during their time and he would have to wait a while before he received his fair share of critical appreciation.

And talking about ‘Waiting for a While‘, Waiting is an important component in viewing Leone’s films. The biggest virtue a film viewer needs to posses in appreciating the cinema of Leone is Patience. Because it would take a while for things to happen. Though Leone is more closely associated with Akira Kurosawa,the pacing of his films are very similar to that of another Japanese master Yasujirō Ozu. Leone’s films move at a slow, deliberate pace and he is more interested in the gradual build up rather than the ultimate pay-off , which happens very suddenly and quickly. He did this intentionally because one of the issues he had with the American films was that they moved very quickly. Things happened so fast that he never got time to digest it. His films are specifically designed in such a way that the viewer feels the passing of time. A Leone scene isn’t just another movie scene. Attention is paid to every small detail as Leone squeezes the very last morsel out of every scene. When Wachowski Brothers’ film The Matrix released in 1999, people were amazed by a new technology used in the film called bullet time; in which the action is slowed down to such an extend that we can see the full trajectory of a bullet as it is fired from a gun till it reaches it’s destination. But almost thirty years before The Matrix, there existed something called Leone time, where, without any camera tricks or special effects, the action is slowed down to a point where even someone spitting on screen becomes an elaborate ritual. And elaborate rituals are what Leone’s films are made of . Rituals created from vignettes and moments taken from traditional Hollywood westerns and then modernized, subverted or reinvented to suit Leone’s European sensibilities. The manipulation of time, the Postmodernism– where the characters and scenes has their roots in old Hollywood films rather than real life- , and the extravagant, operatic quality – thanks mainly to the great music scores by maestro Ennio Morricone ; the phenomenal work of Photographer Tonino deli coli and Avant-Garde sets and costumes by Carlo Simi – are the main components of the Leone film aesthetic. Then there are his visual trademarks; The tight close-ups of sweaty, sunburned faces inter-cut with wide vistas; the soaring crane shots that’s timed to a specific piece of music or the use of montage , where the scenes are rapidly cut together to music as in a a music video. Each Dollars film was a step towards a full realization of this aesthetic . The Fistful of Dollars was a leaner – About 100 Mins long – and fast paced film. The Next, For a Few Dollars More was more than 2 hrs, with more subplots and characters than the first one. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was a true epic at about 3 Hrs long , with the story set in the backdrop of the American civil war. Once upon a time in the West (OUATITW from now on), that came after the Dollars trilogy , marked his zenith as a maker of European westerns and provides a full exhibition of the Leone Style. Leone’s Dollar movies were made with the backing of European financiers on small budgets . But OUATITW was bankrolled by Paramount Pictures with a generous budget, which allowed Leone to run riot with his imagination. The sets and costumes are far more baroque and spectacular than his previous films, making OUATITW the best looking film of all Leone Westerns. There’s an extraordinary amount of detailing through which we get a sense of the life in the West. Paramount’s backing allowed Leone to shoot the film in Monument Valley, which was his Idol John Ford’s favorite location. He was also able to hire big stars like Henry Fonda and Claudia Cardinale.

The opening scene of OUATITW is a classic example of the Leone aesthetic. It is perhaps ‘the’ greatest opening sequence in movies and unarguably the best scene that Leone has ever directed. We see three gunfighters – played by Woody Strode, Jack Elam and Al Mulock– entering a railway station. It looks like they have come to ‘receive’ someone. But the train is two hours late , so they have to wait around till the train arrives. As they wait, the audience is also made to wait, as Leone concentrates on what each one is doing to kill time . One of them plays with a fly; another one is cracking his knuckles and the other is distracted by water leaking from the water tank above. The decrepit windmill in the background is making creaky sounds which act as eerie background music to the scene.Finally, the train arrives and we see the three Gunmen getting ready with their weapons. Now it is obvious that this isn’t a social call. The train stops and the threesome wait for their man to come out. But it looks like he is not on the train. They are about to leave, when they hear the ominous sounds of a harmonica. As the train slowly pulls out of the station, the figure of Charles Bronson appears on the screen. He exchanges some tense glances and terse dialogue with the Three men. Then suddenly, violence erupts . The men shoot it out and Bronson is the only man standing at the end of the shootout. This scene, which is almost 15 minutes long, has just about 4 lines of dialogue.You wound not find a purer cinematic moment than this one. No soundtrack music is played during the scene and natural sounds like turning wheel in the wind and sound of a train are used. It should be noted that this opening\credit sequence is very different from the Credit sequences in the Dollars films; where credits appeared over specifically designed Rotoscopic images of red and white, accompanied by Ennio Morricone’s loud, quirky score. This is Leone making a strong statement that this film is going to be very different from his previous westerns.

This scene has its roots in Fred Zinneman’s acclaimed film High Noon(1952). But there, the gunfighters wait for the main villain to arrive, but here,Leone subverts it to show the movie’s hero arriving. Leone’s homages and subversion continue in the next scene where the McBain family is massacred by Henry Fonda’s villain Frank. The scene has elements taken from Shane and The Searchers, two completely different westerns. The scene begins like in Shane , where the little boy sees the hero coming out of the woods. But then it morphs into the attack on the homestead by the Comanches in The searchers, were the Comanche chief Scar wipe out the family of Ethan Edwards. We expect the arrival of the hero, but its the main villain who is introduced in this scene. And who would be playing the Villain who wipes out the entire McBain family, including an angelic little boy?. None other than Henry Fonda, John Ford’s noble hero, who played Abraham Lincoln and Wyatt Earp. Casting of the princely, blue-eyed Fonda as the cold assassin is the ultimate act of subversion by Leone.

The first hour of the film is basically Leone introducing each of the five main characters in the film. The characters are more or less broad western archetypes. We get the good guy dressed in white, the bad guy in dark .The main , or rather only female character in the film Jill, played by Claudia Cardinale is a mix of the virtuous frontier housewife and the Whore with a heart of gold.The character of Jill seems to be inspired from Claire Trevor’s character in John Ford’s Stagecoach as well as Joan Crawford’s in Johnny Guitar.Then there is the Good-bad character of Cheyenne , played by Jason Robards. It’s a typical Leone character ,in the vein of Tuco in The Good the Bad and the Ugly, who is more of a Man-child and provides the comic relief . Finally, there is the character of the Railroad Baron, Mr. Morton played by Gabriel Ferzetti ; the representative of the business class invading the west. Each character has their own musical theme, as in an opera. The music was written by Ennio Morricone even before filming began and Leone would play the music in the background for the actors on set. The score is considered one of Morricone’s greatest compositions. It takes a while for the audience to understand the plot of the film. The plot is not Leone’s main concern anyway. He is more concerned with setting up elaborate set pieces. There is a massacre, a funeral, an extended scene in a Trading-post, a lengthy action scene set on a moving train; all building up towards the final fairy tale ending when the railroad arrives in the town of Sweetwater. The performances of the actors also mirrors this deliberate, self-conscious style. They are fully aware of the archetypal nature of their characters they are portraying . Their every move, every line-delivery looks choreographed.

The ritualistic nature of the film makes it more of a religious epic, with characters also standing in for broad religious archetypes. Christianity is one of the most prominent themes in Leone’s films and its portrayal is always Catholic and Latin. Charles Bronson’s character is the angel. Bronson has a superhuman control over space and time. He seems to know everything about every character in the film;their past, present and even their future. Fonda’s Frank is the devil . At the beginning of the film we see him destroy the McBain family . The entire family is massacred before ‘ The Holy Mother‘ Jill can join them . The theme of integration and disintegration of ‘The Holy Family‘ is there throughout in Leone films. In A Fistful of Dollars , Its Marisol, her child and husband who make up the family. They are separated by the villain Ramon and reunited by Eastwood’s mysterious stranger. In the Good, The Bad and The Ugly, we have the Ramirez brothers, Tuco and Pablo who are on the opposite sides of the moral divide; one is a priest, the other is a Bandit. In For a Few Dollars More ; It is Douglas Mortimer’s quest for revenge against the Bandit Indio, for raping and murdering his sister. In this film too,there is the theme of revenge fueled by the murder of a family member, with Bronson obsessively pursuing Fonda for murdering his brother . The betrayal by a friend is another one of Leone’s major themes; with the name of Judas being repeatedly invoked. In The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Tuco calls Blondie a Judas, here its Cheyenne who calls Harmonica with the same name for selling him out for five thousand Dollars. Claudia Cardinale’s Jill seems to be a mixture of the two Marys from the new testament; the Madonna and the Whore. In the end, she becomes the mother of the new town of Sweetwater ,and in turn, the creator of the new world that would emerge with the arrival of the railroad and the destruction of the old West of Harmonica, Frank and Cheyenne.

Leone’s films were never as political as the films of Sergio Corbucci or Damiano Damiani- Both of whom were strong proponent of left-wing politics through their films. But Leone was also, if not downright critical ,but ambivalent regarding American notions of freedom and progress. We see an undercurrent of anti-Capitalist commentary in the Dollar films. It is much more pronounced here in OUTIW, especially with the character of Mr. Morton and the tactics he uses to outsmart even the evil Frank. It is interesting to note that Frank ends up becoming a sort of noble figure at the end of the film, when he rides into confront Harmonica. Frank tried to become a businessman like Morton, but failed , because he is- as he calls himself – ‘Just a Man’ . And he is no match for businessmen like Morton , who are invading the west and will ultimately wipe out ‘Men‘ like Frank and Harmonica.. This is Leone’s most political movie and he may have been influence by his co-writers (and fellow film-makers) Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento in this.. But Leone refrains from any extreme form of violent political activity seen in many Italian Westerns of the 1960’s. Its nowhere near a Django or A Bullet for the General. This a very somber, very elegiac movie that is both a celebration and a critique of the American Westerns and American West. Leone , being a European , brings the outsiders point of view of ‘looking in’ at American cinematic myths . He seems to find them alternatively thrilling, violent, extreme, repulsive, and often ridiculous and his Westerns are an amalgamation of all these conflicting feelings. Sometimes We could find all these emotions pouring out through the course of a single scene. Take the extended scene at Lionel Stander’s trading post. The trading post is part stable, part saloon, part storehouse. We see Stander talking animatedly to jill at the beginning of the scene. Then Jason Robards’ bandit Cheyenne barges in and the tone of the scene changes. The scene becomes even more ominous, when there is stand off between Cheyenne and Bronson’s Harmonica , who seems to have been present at the post all the time. But then , It is followed by a rather ridiculous scene where Cheyenne puts a gun to another inmate , and forces him to shoot his handcuffs . Once Cheyenne leaves with his gang members, Stander resumes his animated conversation with Jill. This scene with its abrupt shifts in tone , which at first glance looks rather silly and by the way was entirely cut out of its initial U.S. release, is the typical Leone scene.

Or take the final shoot-out between Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson, which again goes on for at least 15 minutes. We have been waiting for this moment for almost three hours now. But still, Leone is in no mood to hurry things. He again makes everything very deliberate and ritualistic. The scene is choreographed like a dance. The characters walk. They wait. They circle each other. They stare at each other. They squint. They spit. They take off their jackets. They wince. Just when they finally seem prepared to shoot , Leone uses a flashback. i mean, right at the point that they are about to pull out their guns, he goes back in time. Snatches of this flashback has been playing intermittently throughout the film from Bronson’s perspective, where we see a tall, dark figure(out of focus) slowly walking towards the screen. Now, Leone’s camera closes in on Bronson’s eyes, which could be the biggest close-up of all times, and the figure finally comes into focus.We realize that it was the image of a young Frank that Bronson has been reminiscing all this time. The flashback scene is equally bizarre. Its a scene set in the Monument Valley and there is a Roman arch right in the middle of it. We see Bronson as a young boy ,with his brother standing on his shoulder with a rope around his neck. Fonda thrusts a harmonica into the boy’s mouth and asks him to play it for his dying brother. The moment the flashback ends, the shootout happens with Harmonica gunning down Frank. Its all over in a matter of a seconds.

When Paramount hired Leone to make another western, they were expecting something rip-roaringly entertaining as the Dollars films. Instead, what they got was the biggest , most expensive art western ever made. OUATITW was a radical shift from Leone’s previous films. Hence it was not the success the producers were hoping for. After the The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Leone had decided that he wont make any more westerns. But when Paramount’s generous offer came along, he couldn’t refuse. So he decided to make this film as a mournful eulogy to the West and the Western.The film was cut by about half an hour for the American release, but still the film flopped. It was a huge success in France , where it played for about 2 years in a theater in Paris.. This film was a turning point in Bronson’s career as he graduated from a ensemble star – in films like The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen – to the lead actor. He would go on to greater success playing variations of the Stone-faced avenging angel in films like Death Wish. The critical reaction to the film was very negative, as it was the case with Leone’s films at the time. The American film critics were prejudiced against Leone , for what they thought was the corruption of their sacred movie genre by an Italian filmmaker. But sometime in the Seventies this changed and a new breed of critics started re-assessing Leone work . Today, both Leone and OUATITW is held in high esteem. Leone’s influence can be found everywhere; from music videos to films of Tarantino . OUATITW is considered Leone’s greatest film. Some critics consider it the greatest Western ever made. Which again is something i am not sure about. For one, its not a traditional Western. Though it is not exactly a revisionist western or a send-up of westerns. At best,one could call it an Ironic Western.It is very self-conscious, meta movie, that always remains at an ironic distance from the viewer. But one thing is sure; It is one of the greatest films ever made, where we see a great film Auteur working at the height of his powers.

Special Birthdays

Erika Glassner (actress) would have been 130 today, he died in 1959.

Odon Alonso (composer) would have been 95 today, he died in 2011.

Klaus Piontek (actor) would have been 85 today, he died in 1998.

Gloria Paul (actress) is 80 today. 

Robin Smith (actor) is 65 today. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Spaghetti Western Location ~ El Jaralon

El Jaralon, Spain is a rocky and wooded area that extends east of La Pedriza. In several sequences of western films, the downstream artificial basin (see Embalse de Santillana) and Pico San Pedro can also be seen in the distance. Among the films made in this area: "Murieta" (1965); Ringo and His Golden Pistol (1966); "For One Thousand Dollars a Day" (1966); "Awkward Hands" (1969); "Dead Men Ride!" (1971).

“Murieta” 1965

“Ringo and His Golden Pistol” 1966

“For $1,000 a Day” 1966

“Awkward Hands” 1969

“Dead Men Ride” 1971

Special Birthdays

Dorin Dron (actor) would have been 100 today, he died in 1994.

Carlo Leva (set decorator, actor) is 80 today.

Marcello Arnone (actor) is 65 today.

Eva-Lena Zetterlund (actress) is 65 today.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

RIP Don McManus

Canadian opera singer, theater, film, television actor Don McManus died in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on February 24, 2020. He was 87. Born Donald Leslie McManus in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on August 30, 1932, Don had a very successful 60 year career as an actor and singer, starting in 1950 in his hometown. He went on to perform operatic bass roles for 20 years with The Canadian Opera Company and performed on stages across Canada including at the Royal Alex, Rainbow Stage, Charlottetown Festival as well as in Australia and Britain. Don later appeared in films and TV series including two Euro-western TV roles as Angus McQuay in 1988’s “The Campbells” and as a photographer in 1990’s “Bordertown”.

New film release ~ Savage State

L'état sauvage – French title
Savage State – English title

A 2019 French, Canadian film co-production [Mille et une Productions (Paris), Metafilms Inc. (Quebec)]
Producers: Giles Daust, Catherine Dumonceaux, Sylvain Corbeil, Farès Ladjimi, Hejer Anane, Galilé Marion-Gauvin
Director: David Perrault
Story: David Perrault
Screenplay: David Perrault
Cinematography: Christophe Duchange [color]
Music: Trevor Anderson, Sébastien Perrault
Running time: 118 minutes

Victor - Kevin Janssens
Esther – Alice Isaaz
Justine - Déborah François
Samuel – Pierre-Yves Cardinal
Grand Chef – Vincent Grass
De Lisle - Grégoire Colin
Bettie – Kate Moran
Edmond – Bruno Todeschini
Madeleine – Constance Dollé
Miss Davis – Lee Delong
Abigaëlle – Maryne Bertieaux
Contrebandier – Michel Gregory Dagenais
Layla – Armelle Abibou
With: Marc de Panda, Bamar Kane

When the American Civil War breaks out, a family of french settlers must abandon their Missouri home to flee and go back to Paris. Edmond, the patriarch, is accompanied by his wife Madeleine, their maid Layla and their three daughters: Esther, Justine and Abigaelle. Esther, the youngest, is irresistibly attracted to Victor, a former mercenary who's escorting them. This relationship soon acts like a poison within the group of travelers, especially when Victor's past is catching up with him.


By Fabien Lemercier

Review: Savage State

David Perrault plays with the codes of the western in a peculiar, almost gothic film of uneven strangeness, imbued with a ghostly, romanesque quality.

A trade of perfumes for (fake) diamonds that turns into a shootout; a tense ball where drunk, triumphant Northerners pester the local women, treated as prostitutes under General Order No. 28; a horse carriage oscillating on the verge of a cliff; hooded bandits chasing a convoy; rifles, galloping horses, dynamite and even a touch of voodoo; thick fog and a snowstorm in the great American West where railways are about to change everything: with Savage State, which had its international premiere in the Voices Rotterdämmerung section of the 48th International Film Festival Rotterdam, David Perrault attacks the western genre head-on, an extremely rare entreprise for a young French filmmaker.

Revealed in Critics’ Week in Cannes in 2013 with Nos heros sont morts ce soir (which was already a stylistic reinterpretation, of 1930s American cinema this time), the director/writer attempts to respect the codes of the genre (its wide landscapes, its harshness, its face-offs and viril men) all the while deforming them (with a hyper-expressive visual style that pushes the film towards the fairytale and the waking nightmare, and with the central role played by women in the story). An audacious entreprise which isn’t without its risks…

It is December 1863 in St. Charles, Missouri, and the American Civil War is raging. Threatened by the arrival of Northerners and the crumbling of their sheltered world, a bourgeois family of French colonisers decides to flee and return to Europe with the three daughters of the house, all of them fit to be married: Esther (Alice Isaaz) who gives the film its point-of-view, Justine (Déborah François) and Abigaelle (Maryne Bertiaux). Edmond, the father (Bruno Todeschini), hires the experienced mercenary cowboy Victor (Kevin Janssens) to lead the expedition, which also includes his extremely religious wife Madeleine (Constance Dollé) and his lover Layla (Armelle Abibou), the black maid of the family. But a gang of blood-thirsty outlaws headed by Bettie (Kate Moran), a woman dangerously obsessed with Victor, is on their trail…

With very contrasted visual choices (shadows and backlighting, slow-motion, contrasted colours, blurriness and fragmentation), David Perrault creates an atmosphere verging on the surreal which struggles to imbue the confined spaces of the film’s first act, before blossoming in the later spectacular natural landscapes where the film seems much more at ease. Mixing together (too) many topics and styles in its ambition to tackle the paradoxes of freedom and emptiness under a feminist angle, and to respect the tropes of the western all the way playing with them, Savage State struggles to find a clear personal identity in a series of scenes that are alternately really interesting and excessively theatrical. A set-up where the actors are not without merit, but which leaves the sensation of a strange cinematic experiment within the genre of the European western, which was recently explored much more wisely and efficiently in Gold, by German director Thomas Arslan, and in Jacques Audiard’s The Sister’s Brothers, for example.

Produced by Mille et Une Productions and by Metafilm (Canada), Savage State is sold internationally by Pyramide, which will also release the film in French cinemas on 26 February.