Thursday, August 7, 2008
A Fistful of Spaghetti
I am breaking ground here at THitPB in two ways. 1) We have never before reviewed a movie this old (1964); and 2) this is our first spaghetti western. If you don't know what a spaghetti western is, let me drop some knowledge on you (don't worry, it doesn't hurt).
In the '60s and '70s, a sort of sub-genre of western was developed. Italian filmmakers would shoot their westerns in Spain (which resembled the American west) with Spanish casts and crews - save a marketable American or two, thus alloweing for massive cost savings. And the food was better. Out of these spaghetti westerns, we got a few icons: Sergio Leone, Ennio Morricone, and, of course, Clint Eastwood. This film is the first of the Eastwood "Fistful of" trilogy and is followed by FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY.
The film is stark. The landscapes are barren. The characters are simple. There's not a lot of ambiguity here. No major moral conundrums to be solved. It's simply about a man (Eastwood) who rides into a corrupt town, plays all the bad guys against each other, and rides off into the sunset at the end. Oh, and everybody (and I mean EVERYBODY) dies (except Clint). Seriously, there's a way higher body count in this than in any Freddy/Jason/Adam Sandler movie out there. And it's Clint doin' most of the killin' (every verb ends in "in'" in these movies).
It's really completely great. You can see the beginnings of the man who would be Bill Munny in UNFORGIVEN. You can see every western cliche on parade, from exploding piles of gunpowder to the art of the quick draw to the handsome stranger to the hangman's noose. It's a bit slow in places, but it's a western. I've got the two other parts of the trilogy in my Blockbuster queue, so I'll report on those in the future, but I highly recommend the first. I give FISTFUL OF DOLLARS three and a half exploding barrels out of five.