Saturday, September 26, 2020

Big Box-Office in Italy [archived newspaper article.]


The Ottawa Citizen

By Betty Runcie 

The Eastern Western

     ROME – “Stupendo!” say Italian audiences as they reel out of movie houses packed to standing room only. The smash Italian westerns are taking the cinema world but storm. “And when the heroe shoots the four men at one – a-h-h… That’s what we like!” 

     Those who laughed at filmdom’s latest phenomenon, the eastern western, are changing their minds after a look at Italy’s box-office charts. “Per un pugno di dollari” (For a Fistful of Dollars), an Italian production shot mostly in Spain on a shoe-string budget, so outdrew American films, that Italian film-makers are sure they have found the magic formula to bring movie–goers back into the fold.

     Director Sergio Leone, whom I spoke to with publications man Dr. Pizzi one evening last week, is slightly dazed at the results. 

     At first they had tongue-in-cheek when they used exaggerated gunshooting scenes (much, much, much more blood-thirsty than those of the Americans) but then they found the audiences like it that way – the more violent the better.

     They don’t like the modern, mild American ones. Says Leone with a slight gleam in his eye: “The American Western is a fable, but we know cowboys weren’t always so nice. They always shot in the back, and if possible when the enemy was asleep.” 

     Their sharp-shooter shoots sharper, drunkards get drunker villains more evil sweet girls sexier then they ever were in the old horse operas.

     Fist-fights are avoided like the plague, feeling than any man worth his salt either shoots or runs. 

     In the ensuing film “Minnesota Clay”, a tempestuous woman pumps 12 shots from a six-shooter into her former lover. The action reminds one of the TV series “The Untouchables” in its blood-thirsty violence.

     Clint Eastwood, an American actor who starred in the TV serial “Rawhide” for several years, sits tall in the saddle and takes his vino straight. He is the teacher  and as he says: “It’s hilarious to see all these Latin cow pokes!” The people who are taking in all the money have the last laugh. The film only cost $25,000 to make and that’s no bad. 

     Movie-making goes at a fast and furious pace here but not always with the huge success of the Western. They are plagued with money troubles and audiences who prefer TV.

     Dr. Pizzi explains many of their troubles this way: We Italians are creative and tempermental to the extreme. Every Italian is a nation unto himself. 

     ‘On the buses, in queques – it’s everyone for himself. If we could get this great fighting spirit all together we could really pull ourselves up. Actors, directors, script writers, photographers often work and end up without getting paid. Another picture opens up with the same company and so it goes… but we love it!!”

[Thanks to Michale Hoss for the newspaper article]

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