The Importance of the Spaghetti


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What do you get when you mix the stories of classical Japanese film, Italian directors who know relatively little about the American West, and the American West?  Answer: An entirely new breed of film lovingly dubbed the Spaghetti Western.  Brought to light in 1964 by Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, Spaghetti Westerns became a staple of cinema in the 60s and through the 70s.  As time went on however, the Spaghetti Western lost is zeal.  It was lost under a pile of tumble weeds and ravioli.  SWs were replaced by faster-pace space sagas and monster movies.  Nowadays the Western genre of film as a whole is looked on as being rather dull, slow, and forgettable, and in all honesty many Western films are just that.  But, a good number of films are forgettable, given how many come out in a year.  But dusting the dust aside, the Spaghetti Western genre is filled with some of the greatest films ever made.  What comes to my mid foremost is the pivotal Dollars trilogy.

Consisting of A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1968), the trilogy follows the travels of The Man With No Name (played famously by Clint Eastwood) across the American West and Mexico.  Directed by Sergio Leone, the trilogy is one of the few that gets better with each sequel.  The importance of the Dollars movies is often lost by newer generations of movie viewers, but it is a trio of films who’s influence is potent.

From the action sequences, to the characters, the roll the trilogy has had on modern film making is pretty big.  The first of the three was based off of the 1960 Japanese film Yojimbo, and was the first to feature action sequences showing people being shot in American cinema.  Prior to A Fistful of Dollars, a scene would cut to the gunman shooting, then back to the victim after being shot.  Leone (unaware that this was the norm in American cinema) filmed the action as it happened over the shoulder of The Man With No Name.  This action was more brutal, and more realistic.

3-coffins-h

This action was more brutal, and more realistic.

The characters were inspired by characters in previous films (The Man With No Name inspired by the nameless Ronin from Yojimbo), and in turn inspired countless characters.  The Man With No Name has been credited as being one of the most recognizable cinema characters.  He has inspired characters from Max Rockatansky of the Mad Max series, to Boba Fett of the Star Wars movies.  He’s a fierce bounty killer who makes up for his lack in speech for his heroics.

"'The Man With No Name' had no name, so we could fill in our own." - Jim Carrey

“‘The Man With No Name’ had no name, so we could fill in our own.” – Jim Carrey

And with the films’ heroic characters came their own heroic themes.  The music of the trilogy was crafted by the talented composer Ennio Morricone.  The bizarre themes he created for the movies (which included gunshots, whip-cracks, and odd vocals to fill in for instruments the production company couldn’t afford) have been used in countless films since, and are often recognized not by name, but tune.

 

Sergio Leone mad movies in which every shot had purpose.  The Dollars trilogy isn’t considered one of the greatest trilogies of films simply because of its fun characters, catchy tunes, and stories, they’re considered well mad, because THEY ARE.  In each shot there are signs of excellent craftsmanship and a deep knowledge of film.  By using old filming techniques, like the quadrant technique, Leone insures that no matter where a person looks at the screen, there is something worth while.

a-fistful-of-dollars-showdown

Leone made each shot worth while. Both sides of the camera “quadrant” are filled with action.

The Dollars trilogy is a trio that rarely receives the respect in deserves.  In fact, the Spaghetti Western genre is often forgotten.  But, it is a piece of cinema of vital importance, and the impact it’s had on modern film should never go without recognition.

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The Importance of the Spaghetti