zaterdag 25 maart 2017

R.I.P. Giorgio Capitani

Giorgio Capitani dies at the good age of 89

And yet another one has left us: Giorgio Capitani, director of Ognuno Per Sé passed away in his home town Viterbo at the ripe old age of 89.

In his home country Giorgio Capitani was best known among large audiences for directing a long-running crime televison series, Il Maresciallo Rocca, situated in his beloved hometown Viterbo. But Capitani was also a very prolific film maker who directed more than fifty movies. At a very young age he already made a couple of home movies (they served as an introduction in the real movie business). He made his debut in the 1950s and worked within various genres such as romantic drama (Delirio, 1954), peplum (Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus gli invincibili, 1964), and especially comedy (L'arcangelo, 1969; Pane, burro e marmellata, 1977).

# Ognuno Per Sé (1968)

Capitani made only one spaghetti western, but it was a good one and it was also one of his own favorite movies: Ognuno per Sé, internationally best known as The Ruthless Four. It was a rather prestigious production, made on a decent budget (for a genre movie) with a stellar cast, American actor Van Heflin appearing alongside genre regulars like Klaus Kinski, George Hilton and Gilbert Roland. He was not the first choice as director: During the preperations of the movie, the original director, Lucio Fulci fell out with the producers, Luciano Ercoli and Alberto Pugliese. Screenwriter Ferdinando Di Leo then proposed to direct the movie, but the producers opted for Giorgio Capitani, even though he had no previous experiences with the genre.

The working title was ‘'Ognuno per sé (e Dio per nessuno)'' meaning: Every man for himself (and God for nobody at all), but the part between brackets was dropped.

English title: The Ruthless Four
German title: Das Gold von Sam Cooper
French title: Chacun Pour Soi

There are various good DVD releases of this fine movie. It was released in Germany by Koch Media, in France by Artus Films. Both releases use the same transfer (the on-screen title of the German release is in French)

Other links:


* Il Maresciallo Rocca, wikipedia page in Italiano
* Marco Giusti, Dizionario del western all’italiano

vrijdag 24 maart 2017

R.I.P. Tomás Milián - Cuchillo forever

R.I.P. Tomás Milián - Cuchillo forever

Tomás Milián who died last week from a stroke in his apartment in Miami, was born in Havana, Cuba, on March 3, 1933. His father was an army general under Gerardo Machado, president of Cuba between 1925 and 1933. After the collapse of Machado's government, Tomás' father was arrested and jailed; he was released later, but denied most of his civil rights.  In 1946, a 12-year old Tomás witnessed the suicide of his father, an event that would scar the young man for life. In 1957 the family moved to the US.

Tomás became a student of Lee Strasberg, studying method acting at the Actors Studio in New York City. He was offered a few minor roles in major productions but decided to move to Italy to prove his luck in the then flourishing Italian movie industry. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he appeared as a supporting actor in several movies produced and directed by Mauro Bolognini.

In 1965 Spanish director Eugenio Martin offered him a role in the Italian-Spanish co-production The Bounty Killer (El precio de un Hombre, Italian title: La morte ti segue... ma non ha fretta). His next role, in Sergio Sollima's The Big Gundown (La Resa dei Conti), as the charming Mexican bandit Cuchillo, falsely accused of rape, would mark his great breakthrough: the movie also featured Lee van Cleef and is often called one of the finest spaghetti westerns in history, topped only by some of Sergio Leone's masterpieces. The finale features a famous duel with the charactor of Cuchillo beating a ruthless gunman with his knife, the so-called "poor man's gun". Milian would return as Cuchillo in Run Man Run, in which the character had become a revolutionary. To fans of the spaghetii western, he will forever be Cuchillo.

Ironically this refugee from Cuba was asked to play a left-wing revolutionary in movies like Giuli Petroni's Tepepa (in which he appeared alongside Orson Welles!) and Sergio Corbucci's Vamos a matar, Compañeros. He saw his characters as Third World heroes, making history for those who were denied a decent life, not necessarily as political (that is communist) activists, but on the set of Face to Face he would repeatedly clash with co-protagonist Gian-Maria Volonté, a left-wing activist. He also appeared in the non-political, but highly symbolical (some would say diabotical) Django Kill... If You Live, Shoot! (Se sei vivo spara).

Even when playing Spanish speaking characters, Tomás Milián was usually dubbed by a voice actor (a practice very common in Italy), but in Tepepa he delivered his own lines for the first time, creating a curious - and according to many very funny - mixed language called 'Spitaliano' that contributed a lot to his popularity in Italy.

After the glory years of the spaghetti western, Tomas Milián turned to other genres such as giallo, poliziotesco and comedy. He became enduringly popular in his new home country (he had become an Italian state citizen in 1969) thanks to two roles: the petty thief Er Monezza and the unorthodox police officer Nico Giraldi (in a series of eleven comedy thrillers between 1976 and 1984). Milian was dubbed in these movies but wrote his own lines in Roman slang.

Although he will be remembered primarily for his appearances in genre movies, Tomás Milián also appeared in highly regarded - non-genre  - productions such as Bernardo Bertolucci's La Luna (1979) and Michelangelo Antonioni's Identificazione di una Donna (1980). In the autumn of his years, he returned to the US and made some guest appearances in Hollywood productions such as Steven Spielberg's Amistad (1997) and Steven Soderbergh's Traffic (2000).

Ironically he had expressed his wish to return to Rome to his close friend Monica Cattaneo shortly before his death on March 22.

Tomas (as Giraldi) with John Dulaney


* Tomás Milián, Wikipedia page in Italian and English
* Marco Giusti, Dizionario del western all'italiano
* Tomas Milian è Morto: in Italia il successo come "Er Monezza", Gazetta.It

maandag 13 maart 2017

Silence: The Happy Ending

Silence: The Happy Ending 

The Great Silence, or in Italian Il Grande Silenzio (1968, Sergio Corbucci) is generally referred to as 'that western in the snow'. Snow-capped hills are an unusual, but not unique setting for a western, and what really sets the movie apart is the bleak ending that seems to turn ever western cliché upside down, including the often heard idea that in a western the good guy always wins. Yes, in this movie the bad guys win, in gruesome fashion. People who watch the movie unprepared, are often shocked by the grim, ultra bleak ending. I remember that I was nearly blown out of my socks when I first saw the movie, in the Eighties, on a French VHS. Mon Dieu, good grief, what the hell was that ?

Upon its original release, The Great Silence was not very successful in Italy, even though several reviews were positive. Very violent for its time, with thumbs shot off and blood dripping from fractured skulls, the film got an ’18 rating’, which meant young Italians, who loved spaghetti westerns, weren’t allowed to see it. And those Italians who were allowed to see it, didn’t like the bleak ending: in Sicily a man reportedly fired at the screen out of rage when Silence was killed. 

Corbucci also shot a 'happy ending', with both Silence and the sheriff coming back from the other side (so to speak) and eliminating the bad guys in a furious shootout. Some think it was shot because the producers weren't happy with the original outcome but it has also been suggested that it was shot for foreign markets, notably North-Africa and Japan. The alternate ending  was added as an extra to some DVD releases, but all versions were as silent as the film’s titular hero. A few gunshots were heard on some versions of it, but no voices. This seemed to indicate that the happy ending was never used, but not too long ago a spoken version popped up on the Italian Medusa release.

The alternative ending with sound

The quality of the audio varies, some lines are very clear, others are quite hard to decipher (luckily there are subtitles HOH). From a technical point of view, it’s a great scene, with brilliantly staged, vintage Corbucci action, but the lines are horrible and the scene seems to betray the entire movie. It will also give you the feeling you’re entering some kind of alternative universe, in which the outcome of familiar events has been radically altered: Nixon beat Kennedy in the 1960 elections, Elvis lives, and so does Silence. You can watch this ‘sound version here :


Here's the dialogue, Italian/English:

Sheriff (to Silence):
Sono arrivato a festa finita, ma te la sei cavata bene. Credevo che ti avesse massacrato le mani.
Seems I arrived too late for the party, but you’ve done a good job. I figured they would ruin your hands.

Sheriff (to the wanted men:)
Anche per voi sono contento perché non vi serbo rancore, anche se vi siete mangiati il mio cavallo.
I’m happy for you too and I won’t hold a grudge against you, not even when you have eaten my horse.
Ora aspetterete qui l’amnistia e poi voterete per il nostro Governatore alle prossime elezioni.
Let’s wait for the amnesty and then vote for our governor at the next elections.

The wanted men:
- Ci potete contare! Grazie, Sceriffo.
You can count on that! Thanks a lot, Sheriff.
Possiamo andare a casa? -Siamo liberi, Sceriffo?
Can we go home? Are we free, sheriff?

Sheriff (to the wanted men:)
Non scherziamo! Per ora andate in prigione. Il regolamento, innanzitutto. Avanti, tutti fuori e in ordine! Muovetevi!
No foolin’ around! For the moment, you must go to jail. We can’t ignore the law. Let’s go, and behave yourself. Move your asses!
Starete un po’ stretti nella nostra cella, ma non vi parrà vero dopo il freddo che avete patito. Avanti, camminate! Fuori, fuori!
It’ll be a little crowded in our cells, but you won’t find it too hard after this freezing cold you had to endure. Come on, outside, outside!

Sheriff( to Silence:)
Avrò bisogno di un aiutante per tenere a bada questa gente. Mi serve uno in gamba, che agisca e parli poco.
I could use some help to keep these guys under control. From a brave guy who knows what to do, and doesn’t talk too much.

Translation by Scherpschutter (Simon Gelten)
Clip uploaded by: Dicfish (Alexander Pescador Fisher)


My Review of The Great Silence on Spaghetti Western Database: THE GREAT SILENCE REVIEW

If the clip won't play, you can watch it on SWDB: The Great Silence - Alternate Ending 

zondag 26 februari 2017

The Magnificent 7 Ride

The Magnificent 7 Ride
(No, not a Spaghetti)

No, this is not a spaghetti western. It's the third and final sequel to Sturges' classic (not counting the recent re-imagining starring Denzel Washington). It's also the only sequel that was entirely shot on American soil, but it stars one of the most iconic actors of the Italian western and uses his screen persona to nourish the script: Lee van Cleef's Chris, the leader of the original Seven, has become the sheriff in a border town and he is accompanied throughout the movie by a journalist who wants to immortalize him by writing his biography. Furthermore the script mixes the familiar premise of the seven men coming to the rescue with a revenge story, the type of story that brought Van Cleef eternal fame thanks to his adventures with Leone in Italy.

Our Chris has a good, almost peaceful life as a lawman, but now his much younger wife Arilla (Mariette Hartley) thinks one of his latest arrests, a 18-year old small time crook named Shelly Donovan is too young to stand trial. Shelley is charged with robbery, but Arilla pleas her husband to temper justice with mercy. Chris reluctantly agrees but Shelly almost immediately robs the local bank with two of his friends and the three young men go on the lam when things go horribly wrong, taking Arilla with them as a hostage. Chris is injured during the incident but heads in pursuit, accompanied by his biographer. When they discover the body of Arilla - who has been raped and tortured before her death - Chris swears to take revenge ...

In an Italian western it would have taken Lee 85 minutes to track down the killers (and five more to kill them in a showdown ritual), but in this movie the revenge story is  blended with another storyline about an old friend, Jim McKay (Ralph Waite), who also has become a sheriff and asks Chris for help in fighting off the constant attacks of the Mexican bandit De Toro and his gang of cutthroats. Chris first refuses but changes his mind after he has discovered that Shelly has joined De Toro and told the bandit about the trap Mackay had set for him. De Toro has killed all male townspeople and raped the women. Chris knows that De Toro will be back for more (and he also has an eye on the town's first lady, Stefanie Powers); first he doesn't know what to do, but then, all of sudden, he has the brilliant - but hazardous - plan to release six notorious criminals from the state prison in order to form his own private army ...

The movie has a good cast, Elmer Bernstein's score will give you the feeling of being in a trusted surrounding and the whole thing passes the time smoothly, but at the same time the mix of styles feels a little uncomfortable. The previous Mag 7 movies had been clear-cut adventure movies opposing right and wrong, but in this movie Chris is torn between his desire for revenge and his better, altruist self. He shoots two young men in cold blood while he should have taken them into custody (even if it would have slowed him down); in a spaghetti western we wouldn't have worried, simply interpreted it as an expression of the 'blood calls for blood' philosophy of the genre, but in this context the scene seems to cry for some explanation, but the script is too haphazard to treat any of the problems it raises seriously. After the morally ambiguous, interesting first half, the movie makes an about face and opts for a heroic, gung ho second half, full of explosions, romance on the barricades and enough carnage for three movies of this kind.

1972 - Dir: George McCowan - Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Stefanie Powers, Michael Callan, Luke Askew, Mariette Hartley, James Sikking, Pedro Armendáriz Jr., William Lucking, Ed Lauter, Ralph Waite; Gary Busey, Robert Jaffe, Melissa Murphy - Screenplay: Arthur rowe - Music: Elmer Bernstein