Choosing a favorite western movie is an almost impossible task, because there are just so many that vie for attention in my memory. Yet I have to admit that the group that I love the most are Sergio Leone's spaghetti Westerns that came out in the sixties.
I saw them all and read the novels. In my mind The Dollars Trilogy - A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966) belong to my school days, when I was studying for my O' Levels and A' Levels, the qualifications I needed to get to go to University and medical school. They were my diversion from science and they spurred me to read more in the genre.
I know that the spaghetti Westerns divide opinions. The fact that they were shot in Italy and Spain, with different fauna and flora from the southwest puts a lot of people off. Yet for others they served to create the mythic west. And the characters were all larger than life. Who could not be enthused by actors like Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach?
Lee Van Cleef smoked an amber stemmed meerschaum pipe in For a Few Dollars More. With his sharp features, gimlet eyes and blue smoke curling from that pipe, he probably did wonders for pipe sales around the world. Indeed, check on the Internet and you'll find that you can get a LVC style meerschaum.
Yet, that meerschaum pipe somehow got into my psyche, I think, for Logan Munro, the Wolf Creek town doctor smokes one exactly like it.
And of course, Clint Eastwood's cigars are excellent and integral parts of his persona.
Oh heck, why not have a listen and a look at some great stills. It is haunting and stirring.
The plot is classic Western. Blondie (the good) played by Clint Eastwood, Angel Eyes (the bad) played by Lee Van Cleef and Tuco (the Ugly) played by Eli Wallach are involved in a lethal triangle and a chase to find the buried stash of gold, which Bill Carson, the last survivor of a horse carriage loaded with dead bodies tells Blondie and Tuco about. Tuco gets the name of the cemetery where the gold is buried, but Blondie has the name of the grave marker, so Tuco has to keep Blondie alive. Three men, all deadly and buried gold. Terrific!
Last year my wife, Rachel, and I went on a long distance walk in Almeria, where they filmed a lot of the spaghetti Westerns. We walked through the scenery used in the movie. And here is a picture of the farmhouse and chapel of El Cortijo del Fraile in Nijar, Almeria, which is used in the movie. Excuse the French Foreign Legion hat!
Out of interest, this was also the scene of real life murder of a local girl called Paca Canadas in 1928. A marriage had been arranged for her in the chapel,but she was 'kidnapped' by her lover, who lost his life in an 'honor' killing. The playwright Federico Garcia Lorca based his play, Blood Wedding, upon the case.
And how is this for a bit of film trivia:
Lee Van Cleef claimed to be faster on the draw than Clint Eastwood. So, they put it to the test.
Eastwood could draw, cock and fire in 0.45 of a second.
Van Cleef took only 0.125 second.
See: Once Upon a Time in the Italian West: The Filmgoers' Guide to Spaghetti Westerns, Page 46
I love that trivia fact.ReplyDelete
I also watched the films and read the books (as a pre or early teen). I actually still have a couple of the books and the For A Few Dollars More soundtrack on vinyl!
Hi Jo, thanks for stopping by. Yes, brilliant, aren't they? Keep that vinyl safe.Delete
Keith, that was a fantastic post. It spread a lot of light on actual locations. I really liked it. And I think The Good The Bad and The Ugly is tops.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Jerry. It is a beautiful part of the world, which has been used in a lot of movies. Just a few miles away they shot one of the memorable scenes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the one where Indy's dad (Sean Connery) sent a flock of birds up in the air with his umbrella. To bring down an airplane.Delete
I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this post--that music just gets into your mind and won't leave you. LOL All those spaghetti westerns were good, IMO. They really opened up the western movie as a genre, I think, even more so than it had ever been before. Thanks so much for your post about one of the best!
Thanks, Cheryl. I think that is true, they really did open the genre up, definitely in Europe, and sparked an enthusiasm in another generation. We need that to happen again.Delete
Forgot to say to all, Keith is out of pocket today but will be back later on tonight or tomorrow to answer comments!ReplyDelete
These Westerns came at the perfect time. The world was a different place and they struck a cord with folks, especially the youth. Although not my favorite Western, that would probably be Magnificent Seven, but it does rate right up there. Thank you so much for a great and informative post. Loved the trivia and the photo. DorisReplyDelete
Hi Doris, I absolutely agree. And The Magnificent Seven is another of my favourites, too. A great story, based on the Seven Samurai. Its soundtrack is another of the greats.Delete
Keith- go to an online bookseller and find the "Man with No Name" graphic novels. There is a "Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" adaptation, plus several all-new adventures.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Troy. I'm heading over there right now!Delete
Great post. Such a nostalgic movie. And, where True Grit is one of the most quoted by lawmen (and women) at work, I've heard this theme whistled in the van before many a search or arrest warrant.
You've probably heard this but the GB Ukelele Orchestra has a nice rendition.
Hi Marc, gosh there's another great one, True Grit.ReplyDelete
I went to a GB Ukeleke Orchestra concert and heard them play that. It was fantastic. So fantastic that I immediately bought a Uke and tried to learn how to play, but I failed miserably.
Thanks for the link, I thoroughly enjoyed that.
Yes! Loved the trilogy, but the score for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is one of the best in the business, and dang, now I have it on my brain. Will have to watch the movie for my fix. :)ReplyDelete
Most people know that "A Fistful of Dollars" is a remkae of the Kurasawa samurai epic "Yojimbo", but most folks don't know that so is the Bruce Willis gangster flick from the early 90s, "Last Man Standing." I once watched all three back-to-back and was surprised how much of the dialogue was the same in all of 'em (well, other than being in English subtitles in Yojimbo.)ReplyDelete
Jacquie, I confess that I had to watch it too! But it is great to have an excuse to revisit old friends.ReplyDelete
I didn't know that, Troy. I'll have to explore that. I love Bruce Willis's movies.ReplyDelete
What an interesting post, Keith. I loved the music and all those intersting little factoids. I especially liked the pipe. Lucky you to have visited the scenery from those spagetti westerns in your travels. What fun.ReplyDelete
Terrific post, brought back lots of fun memories. And the photos are wonderful! One of the Westerns I really liked was "A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die," with Robert Ryan and Alex Cord. Though a typical spaghetti Western in its bleak grittiness, its plot was somewhat unique. The main character is a gunman who fears he has epilepsy. He desperately searches for help and sanctuary, knowing the unpredictable tremors could cost him his life at any moment. The performances were, I thought, unusually good. :-)ReplyDelete
Keith: I agree with you on The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. I really liked that movie. I also place A Few Dollars More with it since Lee Van Cleef and Clint Eastwood are on the same side. I cracked up when Clint and Lee were discussing how much these 17 guys were worth and Lee waved a book and corrected Clint on one of his numbers was off by a thousand. I sure was glad to see Enzio get his. Great post.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Sarah, Lorrie and Larry it was fun to write. And good to know that lots of people also like the spaghetti Westerns.ReplyDelete
Wooooey woooey woooo, waaaah waaaaah waaaaaaaaaaah.... who can't forget that!!! LOL... I love the Magnificent Seven for the soundtrack. Good, Bad, Ugly is another classic too. Great post!!ReplyDelete