Frontierado is Friday, August 4th!
ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is, to me, the definitive Spaghetti Western. This movie incorporates all of the best elements of Italo-westerns and has the additional advantages of actual artistic merit and some location filming in the real American West. One of the most distracting elements of many Spaghetti oaters is the fact that the films were mostly shot in Spain’s Jarama Valley, which is great for a Spanish Civil War buff like myself, but that valley doesn’t really resemble the American west that the stories are set in.
Sergio Leone got to shoot some scenes for this flick in Monument Valley and such authentic scenery definitely helps in a film that exploits visuals to a degree unseen since the age of silent movies. This is undeniably an action film, but Leone and his co-writers on the script ( Bernardo Bertollucci and Dario Argento. I’m serious!) intentionally used the framework of an old-fashioned western plot about the railroad, land-grabbing and westward expansion, yet made it all seem fresh.
I often jokingly call this movie Evil Is A Man Named Frank, because, in a masterpiece of reverse-casting Leone put Henry Fonda himself in the role of the conscienceless, sadistic and predatory Frank, the lead villain. Watching the black-clad Frank calmly blow away a defenseless child early in the film lets the Continue reading
Jeffrey Hunter as The Christmas Kid
I always think of this bizarrely-themed Spaghetti Western as The Gospel According to Sam Colt or Paul’s Letter to Smith & Wesson. Our title gunslinger is played by Jeffrey “Captain Pike on Star Trek” Hunter. As Jesus in the movie King of Kings, Hunter’s youthful appearance brought on ridicule from wags who called the film I Was a Teenage Jesus.
Once again Jeffrey plays a character who is born in a manger at Christmas and gets visited by three wise (well … no) men. The Christmas Kid‘s half-assed Jesus parallels continue from there in sporadic fashion. The little babe – called Christmas Joe at first – grows up to be a philosophical boy who practices pacifism.
When our hero’s home hamlet of Jaspen, Arizona becomes a Boom Town after copper is discovered, the place turns into a proverbial web of sin and vale of tears. Michael Culligan (Louis Hayward), the greedy town boss, builds an empire for himself out of crime and greed as the copper rush continues.
This being a western, the day comes when Christmas Joe must strap on a gun and pin on a badge for a three-year mission – I mean term in office – to fight the forces of evil in Arizona Territory. Now called the Christmas Kid our hero spreads the Good News of Gunplay as he blows away various bad men who leave him with no other choice. Continue reading
Frontierado is on Friday August 5th!
In the past Balladeer’s Blog has examined some of the big names among the fictional gunslingers of Spaghetti Westerns. I’ve covered the original Django, Sartana, the Holy Ghost, Dynamite Joe, Harmonica and even Tony Anthony’s character the Stranger. Here is a look at the Italo-Western hero Noon.
The Man Called Noon (1973)
The Story: Long before Robert Ludlum’s amnesiac secret agent Jason Bourne came this film. Based on a Louis L’Amour story The Man Called Noon featured Richard Crenna as the title character, an amnesiac who has incredible abilities with a gun but no knowledge of his past.
Just like Jason Bourne in the later novel, our hero Rubal Noon must piece together who he really is, why he has access to some large sums of money and why various dangerous factions want him dead. He also struggles to survive while all this chaos closes in on him. Luckily his instinctive skill at killing keeps him alive, albeit increasingly confused. Continue reading
Frontierado is coming up on Friday, August 7th! In keeping with the seasonal feel, Balladeer’s Blog has been showcasing various neglected westerns. And when it comes to neglected it’s tough to top the tiny sub-genre of what is already a sub-genre: Spaghetti Westerns. I’m talking about Llama Westerns, the microscopic fraction of Italo-Westerns that deals with gunslingers in Peru shooting it out over Inca treasure instead of the usual gold or revenge.
If Indiana Jones used a gun exclusively and thrived on riddling his adversaries with bullets in slow motion while blood squibs burst open THAT would resemble these Llama Westerns.
LOST TREASURE OF THE INCAS (1964) – Alan Steel, best known for Peplums like the Hercules or Maciste movies, plays an often shirtless gambler/ gunfighter called Samson in this film. He and his gunslinging pal Alan Fox (Toni Sailer) nip a frame-up job in the bud, then get caught up in a violence-filled race for the untouched treasure of a lost Incan city in the Palladi Mountains of Peru. Continue reading
Jeffrey Hunter as The Christmas Kid
Frontierado is coming up on Friday August 7th!
In the past Balladeer’s Blog has examined some of the big names among the fictional gunslingers of Spaghetti Westerns. I’ve covered the original Django, Sartana, the Holy Ghost, Dynamite Joe, Harmonica and even Tony Anthony’s character the Stranger. Here are a few of the lesser lights from Eurowesterns.
THE CHRISTMAS KID
Film: The Christmas Kid (1966)
The Story: Jeffrey Hunter portrayed this memorable gunslinger, who got his nickname from the date of his birth, December 25th. His nickname was always bitter-sweet, however, since his mother died giving birth to him on Christmas.
The Kid is a pacifist in fictional Jaspen, AZ during a copper rush. Our hero reluctantly takes up a gun and at first seems like he might be corrupted by the faction led by the crooked town boss (Louis Hayward) but eventually his girlfriend Marie dies as the violence escalates. The Christmas Kid redoubles his efforts against Hayward. Good but not a great film. The Kid deserved more than one screen appearance. Continue reading
Casey James, Balladeer’s Blog’s Official Movie Hostess
Casey James is as lethal as she is lovely and she is kind enough to be Balladeer’s Blog’s Official Movie Hostess. This time around the voluptuous love goddess is presenting the latest in a series of my reviews of the more obscure Spaghetti Westerns – the ones not well known to viewers who are only familiar with Sergio Leone’s films.
JOHN THE BASTARD (1967) – Don’t believe websites or reviews that call this a western adaptation of the story of Casanova. Instead, it is clearly a western adaptation of Don Juan, right down to a death by statue finale.
Our hero John Donald (Don Juan, John Donald … get it?) is a slick-talking gunslinger who seduces the ladies and outshoots their men as he roams the west with his manservant (not an African American) who often abets his boss’s trysts like Don Juan’s servant in the classic tale. Think of the scurvy adventures of the British antihero Harry Flashman and you’ll know what to expect from this movie. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog’s Official Movie Hostess, the legendary Casey James
Casey James is as lethal as she is lovely and among her many roles in life she is kind enough to be Balladeer’s Blog’s Official Movie Hostess. This time around this voluptuous embodiment of men’s and many women’s desires is presenting the first in a series of my reviews of the more obscure Spaghetti Westerns – the ones not well known to viewers who are only familiar with Sergio Leone’s films.
THE PRICE OF POWER (1969) – There were literally more than 550 Spaghetti Westerns made in the 60’s and 70’s since when the Italians do something they do it in a big, big way. Those hundreds of films vary in quality from pretty good to hilariously awful and the creative talents behind them often tried to outdo each other in terms of colorful heroes and oddball plots. My favorites include those movies where the Italians took more liberties with Western history than American filmmakers ever dreamed of.
That brings us to The Price Of Power which was also released under the title Texas. The point of this film is … well, it’s hard to say really. Even after repeated viewings. It’s difficult to determine if the filmmakers were trying to make a statement about the alleged conspiracy behind the assassination of President John F Kennedy or about the civil rights movement, or about capitalism’s impact on the political process in a free society or what. Whatever they were trying to do the end result is like a history lesson taught by Ed Wood himself. Let’s compare the historical record to the plotline of this very odd movie. Continue reading