Saturday, September 19, 2020

Madrid, the biggest set of western spaghetti (Part 1)


Distrito Castellana norte Madrid

September 12, 2020

More than 200 western films have been shot in Madrid, many more than in the province of Almería, generally more associated with this genre.

The regional government has published the Far West Territory guide with routes to explore the landscapes that were the scene of this film genre.

The Madrid region played a very important role in the development of the European western, which emerged when this film genre seemed exhausted in Hollywood. These productions achieved world fame thanks to some Italian directors for whom the subgenre was baptized as "spaghetti westerns". During the 1960s and 1970s of the 20th century, more than thirty towns in Madrid were transformed into film sets. The Community of Madrid has collected all these film locations in the Far West Territory guide.

Madrid, the Hollywood of the West

Javier Ramos Altamira, historian, documentary maker, author of the book El cine del Oeste en la Comunidad de Madrid and advisor to the guide , defines Madrid as “the Hollywood of the West” due to the important role it played in the western spaghetti boom . The region had already become a great set at the initiative of international directors who decided to shoot in Madrid because it was cheaper and had good film studios, technicians and specialists. Madrid was considered from the 50s and early 60s as an attractive cinematographic location for other genres, and brought together numerous Hollywood stars for blockbusters such as Salomón y la Reina de Saba or55 days in Beijing .

The first westerns that took advantage of the resemblance of Madrid's natural landscapes to North Americans were Spanish and American productions. Among them, “The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw” stands out, directed in 1958 by Raoul Walsh, a film for which the first western town in Spain was built, in the town of Colmenar Viejo.

But the final impulse, which marked the character of the so-called western spaghetti, came with the Italian director Sergio Leone and his film “A Fistful of Dollars” (1964), with a then unknown Clint Eastwood as the protagonist and with the soundtrack by Ennio Morricone. The first title of the Dollar Trilogy saga was a before and after for the director, the actor and the musician and for the European version of the western, which took off with great momentum. Leone also shot the other two installments in Madrid, “For a Few Dollars More” (1965) and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966).

More than 200 western films shot in Madrid

In the Madrid region, more than 200 films were shot of the more than 500 Western films that were filmed in Europe. "Most people associate this cinematographic subgenre with Almería and its desert landscapes, but few people know that many more spaghetti westerns were shot in Madrid than in the scenery and landscapes of Almería", affirms Javier Ramos Altamira. Something that will probably never happen, "because, unlike Almería, in Madrid the decorations have not been preserved", explains this expert.

At first, the films shot in the Old Continent emulated the American films of the genre, but the Italian director Sergio Leone "turned the traditional western style upside down", according to Ramos Altamira, for whom European Westerns are characterized by offering a more realistic vision of the Wild West, with "dustier towns and ragged cowboys." “The stories are more violent and are recreated in the shootings; The close-ups of eyes, boots and revolvers are also very characteristic, adding drama and intensity to the scene”, details Ramos Altamira, but the most characteristic ingredient is the music, which adds a lot of tension.

Initially, the American industry denounced the European version of its Western films, although, finally, it ended up adopting the model due to the success they achieved. Even some production companies, like Paramount Pictures, shot in Spain.

Hollywood stars did not want to be left out. Raquel Welch, Robert Mitchum, Claudia Cardinale, Alain Delon, Gina Lollobrigida and Burt Reynolds are just a sample of the cast of actors who shot some films in the European version of American Westerns in the Community of Madrid.

The Rojo compound is now remodeled and converted into a restaurant. The pine forests of Casa de Campo were not unrelated to other film genres, as well-known North American films such as “Spartacus”, by Stanley Kubrick (1960) or “Chimes at Midnight” were shot there by Orson Welles (1965).

[To be Continued] 


1 comment:

  1. I'm gonna make three films in Madrid, Spain in the near future. Two are Westerns and one is a Mafia film. The two Westerns are "Blood Never Argues" and "Hey Amigo, I Honor Your Death!" while the Mafia film is called, "Viva Mafia". Wish me luck.