I've wanted to write this post for a long time, but due to lack of time I hadn't been encouraged to do it until now. I would like to claim a genre, the spaghetti-western, that very few people know that its origin is in the Spanish western. The Spanish western, as it was called, served as a bridge and hinge between the classic American western and the Italian spaghetti-western and were the origins of the European western.
The Spanish western was a genre that has a bit of the classic western and a bit of the spaghetti-western. From the classic western he took the motivations of the characters, who were given a reason for being, living and dying. Spanish Westerns are much more psychological than Italians. From the spaghetti-western he took his aesthetics and setting (they are westerns that are located on the border with Mexico) and above all the use of violence, which it is very similar in both genders. Another similarity with Italian Westerns is the importance of music, although it would not reach the mastery of the Italian soundtracks (partly because of Ennio Morricone). Another difference with the Italian western is the importance of women, since they are films where women have a great importance in the plot.
Western Spanish cinema, produced only in Spain and shot in our country, had its splendor between 1960-1966, being the year 1964, the year that Sergio Leone's first great spaghetti-western was filmed, “Por un puñado of dollars". Despite the genre's success, Spanish Westerns are totally forgotten by critics and audiences, despite the fact that they are among the best films of the genre.
Spanish westerns drink from the success of western novels that captivated several generations of readers. Marcial Lafuente Estefanía, J. Mallorquí, Silver Kane were its main supporters.
The three directors who took the banner of European Westerns, which soon after would become a phenomenon of the masses and fans all over the world with Italian Westerns, were: Joaquín Romero Marchent, his brother, Rafael Moreno Marchent and Eugenio Martin. The most important was Joaquín Romero Marchent, who was a pioneer in the European western, establishing the pillars that would allow the birth of the spaghetti-western.
Thus, the origin of the spaghetti western is due to “El Coyote” (1955) and its sequel “La Justicia del Coyote” (1955) by Joaquín Romero Marchent, which anticipate and cement the foundations of the genre. The coyote films are an adaptation of the popular character created by José Mallorquí, who also collaborated with the scripts for these films.
The Coyote and its sequel are two films that have aged badly and barely endure a second revision. The most remarkable thing about the film was the magnificent performance of an unknown Mexican actor named Abel Salazar and the final duel that the Coyote had with the villain on a desert street, appearing in a ghostly way, similar to how Eastwood appeared in his film “High Plains Drifter” (1973). Also note that these westerns share aesthetics and setting with spaghetti-western.
[Coyote films based on the graphic stories of José Mallorquí.]
The commercial success of these two films led Romero Marchent to create his own production company, Centauro Films, to produce his subsequent westerns. Despite being the first Spanish director to shoot a western, director Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent is undoubtedly one of the most unjustly forgotten figures in our cinema. His two best westerns are "The taste of revenge" (1963) and "Before death comes" (1964), which do not have to envy the westerns that were made later. As we mentioned before, they were films with a classic cut, since hatred, revenge, greed was always present among their plots and they always raised moral questions to their protagonists. These films predate Sergio Leone's and laid the foundations for the spaghetti-western.
"The flavor of revenge" (1963) tells the story of the revenge of three brothers, who when they were children saw the murder of their father, children grow up in an environment of hatred and thirst for revenge. A very valuable western that is beautifully preserved. "Before Death Comes" (1964) is the other of his great westerns, an outlaw after a long sentence for murder, begins the search for his old girlfriend, who has married a rich landowner. A great script is showing us the profile of the characters, it has magnificent dialogues about justice, law and hatred, where the good is not so good and the bad is not so bad. Both westerns have excellent protagonists, such as: Richard Harrison, Gloria Milland, Jesús Puente and Fernando Sancho.
[The best westerns of Joaquín Romero Marchent.]
Later he would shoot four other westerns of lesser quality than these two, we are talking about: "Aventuras del Oeste" (1965), "Death meets sentence (1966)", "The adventurer of Guaynas" (1966) and the most interesting of these four, "Freda West" (1968). Freda West is a film where Joaquín Romero Marchent takes the classic Greek tragedy to the Wild West, where the murky relationship between a stepmother and her godson will bring down the whole family.
[4 great westerns directed by Joaquín Romero Marchent.]
In the 70s, he directed the first chapters of the legendary television series Curro Jiménez, and continued together with his production company to finance the films of his brother Rafael Romero Marchent.
Rafael Romero Marchent's best film was his debut film, “El ocaso de un pistolero” (1965). Again, with the regulars Gloria Milland, Jesús Puente and José Guardiola. The story of this western is very interesting, the sheriff accidentally kills the son of one of the city's gunmen, for which the gunman will try to take revenge by kidnapping the sheriff's son. Thus, both Rafael and his brother Joaquín were pioneers of the European western. In Rafael's enormous filmography, titles such as: “Two crosses in Danger Pass” (1967), “Two men are going to die” (1968) or the enormous “Garringo” (1969) stand out. Rafael was one of the directors honored in the excellent "Once upon a time ... Hollywood" (2019) by Quentin Tarantino.
Another important pioneer in the European western was Eugenio Martin, who was a key figure in Spanish cinema and specifically in the Spanish western, especially with the great western " The price of a man" (1966). His name is written in gold letters in our cinematography, especially for reaching the top of the B horror series, with the essential cult film, "Panic on the Trans-Siberian" (1972).
[The best westerns of Eugenio Martin.]
The price of a man is a perfectly oiled mix between the American western and the spaghetti-western and together with “Before death comes”, they are the two best Spanish western films. Film that what we see is not always what it seems and nothing is as it seems to us at the beginning of the film. The film was recognized as being of "special artistic interest" and made its protagonist, actor Tomás Milián, an icon of the genre. Less good than this, but also very interesting, Eugenio shot: "Requiem for the gringo" (1968), "The man from the bad river" (1971) and "The challenge of Pancho Villa" (1972), interpreted by the legendary actors Genre: Lee Van Cleef, James Mason, Gina Lollobrigida, Clint Walker, and Telly Savalas.
[More Spanish westerns.]
And finally, I would like to do it with other Spanish directors who with less fortune also made westerns, I'm talking about Manuel Esteba (“Twenty steps to death” (1970) and “A rope at dawn” (1972)) ; Javier Elorrieta ("If you want to live ... shoot" (1975)); Ramón Torrado ("Welcome, Father Murray" (1964) and "The burden of the mounted police" (1964)) and Iquino ("West Nevada Joe" (1965) and "A colt for four candles" (1971)).
And finally, I would like to finish with one of our most renowned Spanish directors of our cinema, who curiously only directed a western, being his first film. Today, it is one of the best Spanish Westerns in our history. The western is “Brandy” (1964) by José Luis Borau. Magnificent western shot in the Madrid set of Golden City, an authentic western town created to shoot our films of the genre. Note that it is based on one of the stories of José Mallorquí. Although it was a co-production between Italy and Spain, here we cannot talk about spaghetti-western, because what Borau did was to mimic the American western. In fact, Borau is inspired by the westerns "Alone before danger" and "Rio Bravo", especially with the moral dilemmas that assail the sheriff of the film. Besides the protagonist of this western, Alex Nicol, He had already participated in other important American westerns such as: "A gun at dawn" or "Laramie's man".
[Brandy (The Sheriff of Losatumba).]
I hope you liked this article, because before the spaghetti western there was the Spanish western, where directors such as Eugenio Martin or the Marchent brothers, magnified with honesty and love for the western this genre that we like so much.