Archive for October 7th, 2013


Written by Jon Warner

It wasn’t the first spaghetti western, but A Fistful of Dollars was certainly the one that really put the whole sub-genre on the map. This is the film that synthesized several key ingredients that would make the spaghetti western into influential cinema, namely the iconic “Man with No Name”….aka Clint Eastwood who dishes out hefty doses of justice and deadpan humor. There is also the presence of Ennio Morricone, who wrote so many fabulous scores for several spaghetti westerns and is nearly synonymous with the sub-genre, who provides a clanging and lilting score that in its own way, is as memorable and jaunty as anything he ever wrote. And of course the assured direction from Sergio Leone, whose confidence in what he was doing seems to ooze from just about every scene in the film. These three together helped take the spaghetti western from its low budget roots and turned it into a western revival, with a legacy and influence that has seemed to transcend the western altogether.


Although Leone would go on to create more lavishly spectacled and densely thematic works (particularly his magnificent Once Upon a Time in the West), there is a certain appeal in the taut economy of storyline here in A Fistful of Dollars. As “The Man with No Name” (Clint Eastwood) rides into a border town near Mexico, he is told of the local feud between two families, the Rojo clan, led by the evil Ramon (a deliciously vile Gian Maria Volonte), and the Baxters, led by Sheriff Baxter. The Man with No Name determines he can profit off of this feud by facilitating the escalating violence and looking for ways of exploiting the situation. He winds up in the middle of some controversy when he sees some gold being stolen by Ramon and his gang, whereupon he sells information to both families to get them to engage in a fight over the “survivors” of the massacre. While this is going on, TMWNN learns of a woman named Marisol who is being held captive by Ramon, keeping her from her husband and small boy. TMWNN finds a way to free her from her captors, but Ramon and crew find out about this and soon beat him to a pulp (I’m not sure which film Eastwood looks worse in….this one after the beating or in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly after the walk through the desert with Eli Wallach). Through pluck and ingenuity, he escapes, and as Ramon believes the Baxters are hiding him, he and his gang set fire to the Baxter house and murder the entire family. TMWNN heals up and returns to town to exact revenge upon Ramon and rid the town of the Rojo clan in a fantastic showdown. (more…)

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Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts in Alfonso Curaon’s masterful “Gravity,” one of the year’s best pictures.

by Sam Juliano

A mini-heat wave intruded on the autumn season in the Metropolitan area, leaving hot weather fans scurrying for beaches, while many others lamented the absence of that brisk and invigorating air that defines the year’s most picturesque quarter.  Halloween novelty stores have been sprouting up all over, while in schools the orange and black is adorned on bulletin boards and on hallway displays.  The NFL season is in full throttle (Giants fans are growing desperate with that horrible 0-5 start) while baseball teams are jockeying for World Series berths.  Typical for this time of the year, movie theaters are trotting out their best product.  In NYC the Metropolitan Opera House has launched it’s season, and the HD simulcasts have begun.

The site’s western countdown has enjoyed a triumphant first week with tons of page views and five outstanding essays, each by a different writer that raise the bar for all future submissions.  In addition, we’ve had some fantastic comment sections, each loaded with lively discussion and scholarly insights.

Lucille and I saw two movies in theaters over the weekend, the Saturday night feature also with Sammy, Broadway Bob and his mom: (more…)

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