Monday 10 June 2013

Spaghetti Western Top 10 + 1!

Our release of Django, Prepare a Coffin hits shelves today - so what better way then to mark the occasion than with a good ol' fashioned run-down of the best Spaghetti Westerns ever committed to celluloid? The following Top 11 (because 10 is never enough) comes courtes of Spaghetti connoisseur and Arrow contributor Howard Hughes, who was only too happy to fold a napkin under his chin and tuck in...

#11 They Call me Trinity (1970)

My nominee for the best comedy spaghetti western. The humour’s a matter of personal taste, but director Enzo Barboni knows his subject: he cut his teeth as cinematographer on Django, Django, Prepare a Coffin, The Five Man Army, The Hellbenders and others. Terence Hill and Bud Spencer make a great comic team. The pair reunited for the loose sequel, Trinity is Still My Name (1971), and Hill teamed with Henry Fonda for the tragicomic, elegiac ‘end-of-the-west’ western My Name is Nobody in 1973.

#10 Sabata (1969)

Van Cleef revisits his dapper bounty hunter Colonel Mortimer from For a Few Dollars More, now rebooted as a James-Bond-of-the-west gadgeteer. Acrobats rob a bank, William Berger shoots people with a banjo, and there are tricky gunfights galore. Its pseudo-sequel Adios Sabata, with Yul Brynner, is pretty good too. 

#9 The Return of Ringo (1965)

Not your usual spaghetti western fare, this is Duccio Tessari’s take on Homer’s The Odyssey, now set in a New Mexico border town. Giuliano Gemma is fine in the lead, as he had been in the earlier A Pistol for Ringo, which was very different in tone to this serious, tragic semi-sequel. Both films feature the calibre cast of Nieves Navarro, Fernando Sancho, George Martin and Tessari’s future wife, Lorella De Luca.  

#8 Navajo Joe (1966)

Another spaghetti that’s considerably helped by its Morricone score and Spagnolo’s vocals. Burt Reynolds is a strong lead as the revenge-seeking Joe and Aldo Sambrell plays his formidable foe. As in The Hills Run Red, Nicoletta Machiavelli looks beautiful, as does Spain.

#7 The Hills Run Red (1966)

One of the most Hollywood-like spaghettis, fans seem to either love or hate Carlo Lizzani’s movie. Morricone’s score, the great use of Gianna Spagnolo’s haunting vocals and Henry Silva as the grandstanding baddie make this a winner for me.  

#6 A Professional Gun (1968)

My favourite ‘political’ spaghetti western. Corbucci strikes the right balance between humour and violence, in this, his most Leone-like film. See also A Bullet for the General and Compañeros for further Mexican Revolution-set adventure. As expected for Corbucci, Franco Nero comes equipped with a machine-gun.

#5 The Big Gundown (1967)

The 105-minute version, not shorter variants. Lee Van Cleef plays the lawman on peon Tomas Milian’s trail in Sergio Sollima’s superb cat-and-rat chase western. Sollima’s Face to Face is excellent too, and Death Rides a Horse and Day of Anger are also LVC essentials.

#4 The Great Silence (1968)

A snowbound western with a starry international cast, which delivers knock-out drama, yet remains close to its action movie roots. Corbucci’s best work, with an ethereal Morricone score, bounty hunters cast as villains and a harrowing ending. Slightly cut for UK TV showings, this actually improves the film.

#3 For a Few Dollars More (1965)

Not Leone’s best film, but the best and most influential example of a ‘spaghetti western’. Two heroic bounty hunters, an uneasy alliance, a bandit gang, rewards and revenge, a Morricone score and Andalusia. Van Cleef steals this from Eastwood in their first spaghetti western teaming (they had worked on two episodes of Rawhide together).

#2 Django (1966)

A rough-edged remake of Yojimbo, via A Fistful of Dollars, this pits red-hooded Klansmen and Mexican revolutionaries against Civil War veteran Franco Nero and his trusty coffin. Best sequels: Django Kill!, Django, Prepare a Coffin, Django the Bastard, $10,000 Blood Money. Best line: ‘I’ve got all the help I need’.

#1 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

At number one is one of the great westerns, at least in its 156-minute version (not the extended ‘special edition’). It’s that rarity: a perfect action film that succeeds in being intimate and epic, entertaining and arty. During the American Civil War, Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach shoot it out amid massed war graves, as each hope to get their hands on a stolen Confederate payroll. This film was so popular that a cover of Ennio Morricone’s theme reached No 1 in the UK music charts.  

Film historian Howard Hughes is the author of Once Upon a Time in the Italian West: The Filmgoers’ Guide to Spaghetti Westerns, the Kamera guide to Spaghetti Westerns and Cinema Italiano: The Complete Guide from Classic to Cult. He has also written a new essay, ‘The Dead are in their Graves’, for Arrow’s DVD and Blu-ray release of Ferdinando Baldi’s Django, Prepare a Coffin (1968), starring Terence Hill.

Get your Spaghetti Western fix and buy the Django, Prepare a Coffin Blu-ray here!

1 comment:

  1. La vaquerada spaghetti revoluciono la narrativa del oeste, comenzando por desmitificar la vaquerada tradicional de Hollywood que ideologicamente trataba de introyectar en el publico la idea del destino manifiesto, la politica de la ley y el orden, el mito de que el colonizador europeo era valiente, honesto y civilizador. Pero la vaquerada spaghetti le dio un menti historico a esa idea de colonialismo cultural, le dijo al publico que el heroe del oeste cuando no le servia a los intereses creaos del hacendado, terrateniente, minero o banquero, buscaba su propio objetivo, no siempre noble. Esto es muy obvio en el Bueno, el Malo y el Feo, Por Unos Dolares Mas y por un Punado de Dolares, que llevaron al estrellato universal a
    Cleant Eastwood, extrapolado de un papel secundario en television al papel protagonico en las tres clasicas italianas