St Joseph News Press
St. Joseph Missouri
By Louise Hickman
November 29, 1964
Rome (AP) Out here south of the Arno, a man sits tall in the saddle, shoots from the hip and drinks his vino straight.
That’s the way it is in the movie badlands outside Rome, amico mio because in Italy that’s where the the West begins.
It ends in feature length films that may not be “High Noon” but are usually enough like workaday Hollywood westerns to be good boxoffice-at least for non-Americans.
And for the astute cinema wranglers riding herd in Italian filmdoms’ latest phenomenon – the eastern western – a good financial return on their art is good enough for them.
Names are Anglicized
To movie fans who grew up on Tom Mix, Buck Jones, Ken Maynard and William Boyd, it might seem like pure cinema sacrilege to have celluloid gunslingers with names like Mario del Conte and Gianpaolo Francobolli. To get around that, the names are anglicized.
But the Italians, Europeans, Asians and South Americans who see the Rome-made westerns don’t seem to mind. There seems to be an unflagging market for the horse opera and with westerns now just a minor part of Hollywood production, the Italians have jumped in to meet the demand.
They see nothing laughable about it, either. If Americans can make movies about Michelangelo, they ask, why can’t Italians make films about cowboys?
Italian actors have quickly learned the ways of the Old West and can now sneer, drink from a dirty glass, fall off a horse, fan off a dozen shots from a six-shooter, and do the Montana waltz like the best of them back in the states.
Shot in English
Language is another thing. Reluctantly, the film makers have decided that it’s simply too much trouble to do original western dialogue in Italian (come on! mount up boys. Lets head ‘em off at the pass” – in Italian “forza! saltate a cavallo blocchoamoli nella gola.”).
Instead, the films are shot in English, no matter how broken. This makes it easier all around to dub them for the foreign language outlets elsewhere.
Turri Vasile, producer of Massacro al Canyon” and “Minnesota Clay,” explains the Italian rage for the range in terms of a decline in American production.
Hollywood now concentrates on TV westerns and the so-called “big” westerns. The budget westerns that are bread and butter for distributors abroad have disappeared, starting in a European do-it-yourself trend that also has them shooting it up on the plains of Spain and Yugoslavia.
Western Town near Rome
Right outside Rome there’s a whole western town, complete with saloon, bank and barber shop – and with plenty of hitching space in the plaza.
Wherever the location, the lead usually goes to an American actor. Cameron Mitchell. Guy Madison and Rod Cameron have starred in recent productions.
Italians direct the films, but along with
most of the secondary players assume American sounding pseudonyms. One Rome
press agent went so far as to say his company’s current moneymakers was not an
Italian western. “We consider it am American film produced in Italy,” he said
Ads for the movie ballyhoo it as “the exceptional American western that is triumphing in all Italy.”
With titles repeating words like west, Texas, dollars and sheriff, the illusion is nearly complete. The action will do the rest.
“Formula, Not History”
“A western is formula, not history,” says director Sergio Corbucci. “You have to satisfy the public’s concept of the thing. There aren’t many American westerns that show what America was really like then.”
Corbucci has just finished his first western and is the first to put his own name on the product. That’s the only thing that’s worrying him now that “Minnesota Clay” is about to be released. “Chemically, it is excellent,” he observes. “It has all the ingredients. I did my studying by running off old westerns.”
Most of the 35 films that he has directed to date have been comic or Roman-spectacular. “A western is a lot more fun than a comedy, and though it’s pretty tiring – with horses that don’t fall right and guns that don’t go off – it’s easier than historical Roman films, with those massive 3,00 people.”
The fashion for westerns may soon fade. Italians already show signs of catching James Bond fever. The transition may be marked one day by something called “007 Rides Again.”