January 18, 2017

50 years ago today: The U.S. gets its first spaghetti Western, "A Fistful of Dollars."

"'A Fistful of Dollars' was filmed on a low budget (reported to be $200,000), and Eastwood was paid $15,000 for his role."



You see, I understand you men were just playin' around, but the mule, he just doesn't get it. Course, if you were to all apologize... I don't think it's nice, you laughin'. You see, my mule don't like people laughing. He gets the crazy idea you're laughin' at him. Now if you apologize, like I know you're going to, I might convince him that you really didn't mean it....

72 comments:

Birkel said...

And Obama is still an empty suit on an empty chair.
Eastwood had his measure.

harkin said...

Three cheers for the incredible beauty of Marianne Koch and the incredible hair style (salon-quality feathered-shag) of Jose Calvo.

Brando said...

My favorite of Clint's was "For a Few Dollars More" particularly the "d*ck measuring scene" where he and Van Cleef meet and test their marksmanship on shooting off each other's hats. A perfect wordless scene establishing both characters well.

There were a lot of great ones with lesser names like Terence Hill and the original "Django".

Curious George said...

Behind the scenes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gz37DHO937U

Huh, filmed in Spain, not Italy.

traditionalguy said...

Wonderful scene. Was that a clip of quick draw Trump Twittering back at his attackers? Or was that Raylan Givens from Justified? Clint Eastwood was being harsh to his attackers long before Trump started playing his Dirty Donald role.

Interestingly Putin and the rest of the world are now focused on DJT's gun hand.

harkin said...

"Huh, filmed in Spain, not Italy."

Most spaghetti westerns were filmed in Spain.

The spaghetti comes from Leone and most of the production/cast.

chuck said...

Saw my first spaghetti western in a German theater with a German audience. It was 1966, so perhaps it was this one. What I recall is that when one of the dirty bad guys poked his head up over a rock the whole audience went 'ooh'. Germans tend to be very neat...

rehajm said...

That's very funny, Lowercase Chuck!

buwaya said...

It is literally true that they don't make them like that anymore.
In any way at all.

Brando said...

"The spaghetti comes from Leone and most of the production/cast."

I think in some of them all the actors (except Eastwood) did their lines in their native Italian, and it was dubbed over. Must have been interesting for Eastwood to converse with someone where they're each speaking different languages.

tcrosse said...

Loved Eli Wallach in The Good The Bad and The Ugly.

Jersey Fled said...

I was working at a drive in theatre at that time. Saw the picture every night for a week.

Best week of my life.

buwaya said...

"Must have been interesting for Eastwood to converse with someone where they're each speaking different languages."

I grew up this way.

Brando said...

"I grew up this way."

But in your case could neither party understand what the other was saying?

Robert Cook said...

Based on Japanese movie YOJIMBO by Akira Kurosawa, and starring Toshiro Mifune. YOJIMBO, in turn was based on one or the other (or both) of two Dashiel Hammett novels:
RED HARVEST and THE GLASS KEY.

The Drill SGT said...

My favorite of the series, was The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


Blondie: You may run the risks, my friend, but I do the cutting. We cut down my percentage - uh, cigar? - liable to interfere with my aim.
Tuco: But if you miss you had better miss very well. Whoever double-crosses me and leaves me alive, he understands nothing about Tuco. Nothing!
[Chuckles, bites cigar]

David Baker said...

I went to see it on opening day, the 2pm showing. The theater, at 96th and Broadway in NYC, was nearly empty, and after being up all night and all morning, I fell asleep during the you-insulted-my-mule scene.

Next thing I know the lights were up and people were streaming in for the 4pm showing. A real popcorn crowd, too - except for a gaggle of professors slumming from Columbia, embarrassed they were spotted by a cute coed wearing a cheerleader outfit. Which she performed to the amusement of the crowd.

Then the lights went down, and I fell asleep again. Nevertheless, I liked the movie in reruns.

mockturtle said...

Those were the only westerns I liked. My favorite scene was from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly:

shoot, don't talk

John said...

Brando,

You really shouldn't mention terrance hill without bud Spencer

My favorite is ace high where eli wallach joined the fabulous duo

John Henry

buwaya said...

"But in your case could neither party understand what the other was saying?"

Yes, 70% or more.

Its much harder to speak intelligibly in an imperfectly understood language than to listen.

Brando said...

"You really shouldn't mention terrance hill without bud Spencer"

I'll have to check some of those out--for a while Netflix had some good ones on demand, along with some of the old "giallo" crime movies.

Brando said...

"Its much harder to speak intelligibly in an imperfectly understood language than to listen."

For me I find reading a foreign language easier than listening to it, and speaking it or writing it hardest of all.

Bay Area Guy said...

Clint really is a force of nature.

He was an uber star from these spaghetti westerns, then became a double-uber star from the Dirty Harry movies.

Then, he goes one last Western again, with Unforgiven -- and gets an Oscar at age 62.

Does he then fade into the sunset?

No, he becomes a triple-uber star directing more movies into his 70s & 80 -- and won't stop. The guy is amazing.


mockturtle said...

He was also mayor of Carmel, CA.

harryo said...

Eastwood said the name "spaghetti western" was actually a translation of the Japanese, who called them "macaroni westerns".

The film was so low budget, and they couldn't find a tree in the town. Leone wanted to film Eastwood riding by a tree with a noose. Finally they found a dead or dying tree in this mans front yard. So they cut it down and stole it, to add it to the scene.

The old man came out and asked what the hell they are doing! They said they were from the government road department, and the tree looked like it might fall on the road. The old man said, well OK then.

They also told the Bishop of the area, they were a Jewish film company, and he allowed them to work on Catholic holidays and Sundays. Which came in handy, because they could borrow a filming crane from a Catholic company who couldn't use it that day anyway.

buwaya said...

"For me I find reading a foreign language easier than listening to it, and speaking it or writing it hardest of all."

Exactly. I can read "Figaro" well enough
http://www.lefigaro.fr/,

but when I have tried speaking in French to unfortunate French persons they get a look in their eyes, that lost look of an unexpected encounter with the bizarre. Doubtless they are hearing some patois, probably from a distant and exotic place, some remote spot south of the equator and east of Suez.

Bay Area Guy said...

In the first Dirty Harry movie, Clint's character gets mistaken for a peeping Tom in North Beach, SF --- right by an apartment I later rented in 1994.

There's some great views of North Beach (Washington Square Park) when Dirty Harry is hunting the sniper. I love that neighborhood!

gspencer said...

The spaghetti music stuff is still in my playlists.

Bad guys getting theirs.

An enduring theme of life, n'est pas?

Yancey Ward said...

There are two kinds of Spaghetti Westerns in the world.......

Yancey Ward said...

Gspencer,

I was surprised when I looked up Ennio Morricone and found that he still alive.

Yancey Ward said...

Eastwood tried his own brand of Spaghetti Westerns with High Plains Drifter, Pale Rider, and The Outlaw Josie Wales, with varying degrees of success.

Michael K said...

The guy who taught Eastwood to direct was Don Siegel, who had been a second unit director for years.

head of the Montage Department, where he directed thousands of montages, including the opening montage for Casablanca. In 1945 two shorts he directed, Star in the Night and Hitler Lives, won Academy Awards, which launched his career as a feature director.

He directed whatever material came his way, often transcending the limitations of budget and script to produce interesting and adept works. He made the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1956. He directed two episodes of The Twilight Zone, "The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross" and "Uncle Simon". He worked with Eli Wallach in The Lineup, Elvis Presley and Dolores del Río in Flaming Star (1960), with Steve McQueen in Hell Is for Heroes and Lee Marvin in the influential The Killers (1964) before directing a series of five films with Clint Eastwood that were commercially successful in addition to being well received by critics.


Incredible career. Several careers.

traditionalguy said...

Point of Order: The Outlaw Jose Wales was not a Western. It was a Mssourian Scots Irish knockoff of Beowulf.

Brando said...

"but when I have tried speaking in French to unfortunate French persons they get a look in their eyes, that lost look of an unexpected encounter with the bizarre. Doubtless they are hearing some patois, probably from a distant and exotic place, some remote spot south of the equator and east of Suez."

French is particularly bad--too many letters that aren't pronounced, vowel sounds that make the same sound--but then I've heard from a lot of English-as-Second-Language speakers that English is among the hardest of all, particularly our spelling and grammar rules. Makes me glad I can't spell and don't use grammar so good!

David said...

The stupid bad guys always stand near to each other where the hero can mow them down all at once. Just a short sting of military training could give them a tactical advantage. But they never learn.

David said...

"stint"

Brando said...

"The stupid bad guys always stand near to each other where the hero can mow them down all at once. Just a short sting of military training could give them a tactical advantage. But they never learn."

They learned it from the same place as the kung fu baddies who patiently wait to take on the hero one at a time rather than smother him at once.

Static Ping said...

David: The stupid bad guys always stand near to each other where the hero can mow them down all at once. Just a short sting of military training could give them a tactical advantage. But they never learn.

It's not just the bad guys. The good guys do that in Starship Troopers. Then again, that's one of the lesser problems with that film. What a mess.

I always do appreciate it when low budget films with excellent plots and good characters trump shallow big budget extravaganzas.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Hey, if "When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk" isn't fourth-wall-breaking and tactics-respecting, what is?

Brando said...

"I always do appreciate it when low budget films with excellent plots and good characters trump shallow big budget extravaganzas."

Low budgets can really bring out a director's best abilities--focusing more on plot and execution and relying less on effects. One of the best things to happen to Spielberg's Jaws was the shark not working properly so he had to focus more on the "unseen" terror.

Brando said...

"Hey, if "When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk" isn't fourth-wall-breaking and tactics-respecting, what is?"

Especially since he said it to a guy he just shot--though it would have ruined the scene if after Tuco says that his victim moaned "you diiiiiick..."

My name goes here. said...

I object. This thread is overlooking Eastwood's most most sublime role ever, as Kelly in the movie Kelly's Heroes.

harryo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HoodlumDoodlum said...

A classic. Maybe better in the original Japanese...but they're such different movies you can love 'em both. I didn't realize how inexpensive the film was, that's all the move impressive.

I watched Once Upon A Time in the West on an extra-wide screen in college: I recommend the experience.

Jay Vogt said...

Taking nothing away from the potent combination of Leone & Eastwood, They both owe a debt of gratitude to an equally powerful team of Anthony Mann & Jimmy Stewart a bit more than a decade earlier.

The earlier two gave us "The Man from Laramie" and "Winchester 73". In my view these two hold up a bit better than any of the Leone & Eastwood collaborations. Great though those are, they age into the hokier end of the nostalgia spectrum.

Leone's work is derivative of Mann's; simple and immediate plot devices, terse economical dialog, sparse formal staging of background and props, vengeance as motivation and structurally self-conscious editing. And you can't watch Clint Eastwood without thinking about Jimmy Stewart. I'm sure even he'd acknowledge that.

BN said...

Ideas for SNL skits:

"The Good, the Bad, and the Bigly"

"Fistful of Pussy"

"For a Few Rubles More"

Jay Vogt said...

Blogger Brando said..."Low budgets can really bring out a director's best abilities--focusing more on plot and execution and relying less on effects. . . . . "

+1

Both Leone and Mann had to work that way too. It's obvious that if forces them to really concentrate on what needs to be in a scene.

Hey, if you give even, say Stanley Kubrick a big budget, you get Barry Lyndon.

Earnest Prole said...

I object as well. No one has mentioned “Every Which Way But Loose.”

Big Mike said...

@mockturtle, I enjoyed the "Shoot, don't talk" scene when I first saw it. Later I realized that (1) Tuco is shooting a cap and ball Navy Colt (note the octagonal barrel). Notwithstanding that it's a "Navy" revolver, cap and ball pistols cannot fire after they've been held underwater and the powder gets wet*. (2) The one-armed gunslinger Tuco kills is wearing a cartridge belt, but the movie is set during the Civil War so large caliber cartridge revolvers would not exist for nearly a decade (to the best of my knowledge the only cartridge revolvers from that era were Smith & Wessons chambered in .22 short). And (3) the one-armed gunslinger is also carrying a cap and ball revolver, so why is he wearing a cartridge belt in the first place?

There are lots of other gun anachronisms in the movie. "Blondie" seems to be shooting a Winchester model 1894 rifle when he rescues Tuco from hanging. If he'd been using a Henry rifle (as he does in "For a Few Dollars More") it would be okay, but if his time machine is that good why come back to the middle of the Civil War? And "Angel Eyes" has a cartridge belt but quite clearly holsters a Remington .44 caliber cap and ball pistol in the final three-way shoot out.
_____________________

* Navy revolvers were chambered in .36 caliber. They are called that because a naval warfare scene is engraved on each cylinder, and not because the gun was purchased by the US Navy.

Big Mike said...

@David, I was a young man watching a TV show about World War II -- I'm going to guess "Combat!" -- and my father, an officer who'd been in North Africa, Italy, and France, walked into the room and said something to the effect that "one grenade would get the whole patrol" before walking back out.

mockturtle said...

Big Mike, I have watched the scene several times and have concluded that Tuco was holding the revolver in the soap bubbles but not underwater. In any case, spaghetti westerns were not striving for authenticity. :-D

mockturtle said...

TGTBATU is one of the DVDs I own and watch at least once a year. Great film.

John Taylor said...

Ringo, Sartana, Sabata, Johnny Oro, Arizona Colt, Django, Holy Water Joe, catholicism and opera... I love the sets.

Bob Loblaw said...

The stupid bad guys always stand near to each other where the hero can mow them down all at once. Just a short sting of military training could give them a tactical advantage. But they never learn.

Well... they're dead.

JML said...

Starship Trooper?! They were kids! Fighting bugs! You can't use that movie to demonstrate small arms tactics.

OK, some of the bugs were really smart. Not NCO smart, officer smart. Which is why they lost.

Big Mike said...

@mockturtle, do you have any idea how big a Navy Colt is? The barrel is 7" long so cylinder has to be underwater even if the tip of the gun is in the soap bubbles.

:-P

Bad Lieutenant said...

In the scene where the three pistoleros come in the door of Clint Eastwood's hotel, and Tuco comes in the window, Clint is cleaning his pistol, which I do not recognize, but I do recall noticing that it took metallic cartridges. It was not a .44 as I expected, I would guess it was probably a .36 caliber.

John Nowak said...

My favorite moment in an Eastwood film is from In the Line of Fire, where he plays a Secret Service agent who stops a guy from shooting the President. At the end, Eastwood is listening to the recorded "If you are listening to this, I'm dead" message from the villain, and wanders off halfway through.

You're a dead, crazy person and nobody cares about your "Manifesto."

stever said...

Never cared for The Gauntlet, easily the worst of that era of post spaghettis. Josey Wales was good as was High Plains Drifter.

Good, Bad and Ugly - classic

mockturtle said...

Big Mike retorts: @mockturtle, do you have any idea how big a Navy Colt is? The barrel is 7" long so cylinder has to be underwater even if the tip of the gun is in the soap bubbles.

:-P


Huh? Not if he had it flat.

Big Mike said...

@Bad Lieutenant, I checked and you're right. I missed that. The gun is a Colt model 1851 (more commonly called the Navy Colt), but it has been converted for metallic cartridges -- years before the first .38 metallic cartridges were ever made. Yet another anachronism.

Hollywood sometimes gets it right -- that's a real Winchester Model 1873 in the Jimmy Stewart "Winchester '73" -- but the John Wayne film "The Searchers" shows them fighting off Comanches in 1868 using Colt Model 1873 Single Action Army revolvers and Wayne uses a Winchester Model 1892.

Out here in Virginia there are active Civil War reenactors who are rigorous about using the right firearms for their reenacted battles, and the North-South Shooting Association has shooting competitions using reproductions of Civil War vintage rifled muskets, Sharps rifles, Spencers, and cap and ball revolvers. I don't myself shoot black powder, though I'm tempted to try, but a fellow who does wrote that reloading a cap and ball revolver takes five minutes to complete -- seven if you rush. There are some great cap and ball videos out on YouTube, most of them posted by "duelist1954," "Hickok45," and a Hungarian called "Capandball."

You might especially enjoy watching duelist1954 shooting the LeMat revolver. It was designed by a New Orleans doctor and features a 9 shot cylinder that rotated around an arbor that was actually a very short 20 gauge shotgun barrel. It was actually made in France and imported to the Confederacy via blockade runners. Nathan Bedford Forrest supposedly carried two of them.

As a military guy you might enjoy Capandball's latest video, where he puts aside 19th century antique weapons long enough to try a 20th century antique -- the Russian PPSh 41 submachine gun. Famous in World War II for its round magazine and barrel shroud, it had a cyclic rate of fire of 900 rounds per minute.

Freeman Hunt said...

Leone was incredible. One thinks that and then realizes how much more incredible he really was after seeing some spaghetti westerns by other directors.

Freeman Hunt said...

My dad was not a big movie watcher. He didn't like to sit still for that long. But he would watch any of the films from the Dollars Trilogy.

JAORE said...

No mention of the launch vehicle, "Rawhide"?

Head 'em up!

gadfly said...

"The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" will always be part of me. Its the ringtone on my cellphone - and it is set at the highest sound level.

mockturtle said...

"The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" will always be part of me. Its the ringtone on my cellphone - and it is set at the highest sound level.

Where did you get it, gadfly?

raf said...

BTW, if you watch closely you will learn that 'the man with no no name' is named Joe Manko.

Jim Gust said...

The thing that really makes this scene iconic is the music, by Ennio Morricone. He had a genius for earworms.

I highly recommend another Leone-Morricone collaboration, Once Upon a Time in America. With a very young Robert DeNiro and the first film of Diane Lane. It's long, but it's worth it.

I also recommend a dvd of a symphonic concert of Morricone's work, directed by the man himself, filmed in Germany a few years ago.

mcr said...

Not only is FISTFUL OF DOLLARS a remake of YOJIMBO, it led to a lawsuit by Toho against Leone. Kurosawa sent Sergio Leone a letter saying "I have seen your movie, and it is a very fine movie, but it is my movie." Leone was so pleased to have gotten a letter from the master that he had it framed and put on his wall. The lawsuit was settled out of court and Toho and Kurosawa received 15% of the gross from FISTFUL OF DOLLARS; Kurosawa later said that it was his most profitable movie.

If you've not seen YOJIMBO, it's an absolute classic. Stars Toshiro Mifune, arguably Japan's greatest-ever actor, and has Tatsuya Nakadai, who might be the second-best, as the main villain. The rest of the cast, especially Isuzu Yamada, Eijiro Tono and Atsushi Watanabe, are absolutely fantastic.

mockturtle said...

If you've not seen YOJIMBO, it's an absolute classic. Stars Toshiro Mifune, arguably Japan's greatest-ever actor, and has Tatsuya Nakadai, who might be the second-best, as the main villain. The rest of the cast, especially Isuzu Yamada, Eijiro Tono and Atsushi Watanabe, are absolutely fantastic.

Thank you for the tip, mcr. I'm a big fan of Japanese films but have never seen Yojimbo.

Bad Lieutenant said...

It was also remade as Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis.

T. A. Hansen said...

Savage Guns (1961). A Fistfull of Dollars (1964)