Spaghetti western

Spaghetti western

Spaghetti Western, also known as Italo-Western, is a nickname for a broad sub-genre of Western films that emerged in the mid-1960s in the wake of Sergio Leone's unique and much copied film-making style and international box-office success, so named by American critics because most were produced and directed by Italians. The correct term for these films, in Italy, is western all'italiana (Italian-Style Western); British critics tended to use the label Continental Western to describe these films, and the phrase 'Spaghetti Western' was originally created by American critics as a derogatory name for this group of films but has over time become accepted by fans of the films. The language in which the movies were originally released was Italian as well, but as most of the films featured multilingual casts and sound was invariably post-synched, most Westerns all'Italiana do not have an official dominant language.[1]

The typical team was made up of an Italian director, Italo-Spanish[citation needed] technical staff, and a cast of Italian, Spanish, German and American actors, sometimes a fading Hollywood star and sometimes a rising one like the young Clint Eastwood in three of Sergio Leone's films. The films were shot in inexpensive locales resembling the American Southwest, particularly in the Tabernas Desert in southeastern Spain, such as at the studios of Texas Hollywood, Mini Hollywood, and Western Leone.[2] Other filming locations used were in central and southern Italy, such as the parks of Valle del Treja (between Rome and Viterbo), the area of Camposecco (next to Camerata Nuova, characterized by a karst topography), the hills around Castelluccio, the area around the Gran Sasso mountain, and the Tivoli's quarries and Sardinia.

Typical themes in Spaghetti Westerns include the Mexican Revolution, often seen from a leftist political perspective (e.g., Damiano Damiani's A Bullet for the General, 1966; Sergio Corbucci's The Mercenary, 1968), a focus on revenge (e.g., Duccio Tessari's The Return of Ringo, 1966; Giorgio Ferroni's Blood for a Silver Dollar, 1965), the myth of the bounty hunter/bounty killer (e.g., Sergio Corbucci's The Great Silence, 1968; Robert Hossein's Cemetery Without Crosses, 1969), with the films often taking place on the border region shared by Mexico and the United States, a feature facilitated by the arid locations in which many of these films were shot (for example, Almeria in the South-East of Spain).



The American West as a dramatic setting in Italian productions goes back at least as far as Giacomo Puccini's 1910 opera La fanciulla del West; it is sometimes considered the first spaghetti western.[3][4] In film, these Westerns were originally characterized by their production in the Italian language, low budgets, and a recognizable highly fluid and minimalist cinematography which eschewed (even "demythologized")[5] many of the conventions of earlier Westerns. This was partly intentional and partly the context of a different cultural background.[citation needed] Over six hundred European Westerns were made between 1960 and 1980. Their settings include Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, as well as Mexico; many have the Mexican Revolution as a theme.[6]

In the 1960s, critics recognized that the American genres were rapidly changing. The genre most uniquely American, the Western, seemed to be evolving into a new rougher beast. For many critics, Sergio Leone's films were part of the problem. Leone's Dollars Trilogy (1964–1967) was neither the entirety nor the beginning of the "spaghetti Western" cycle in Italy, but for Americans Leone's films represented the true beginning of the Italian invasion of their privileged cultural form. Christopher Frayling describes in his noted book on the Italian Western, describes American critical reception of the spaghetti Western cycle as, to "a large extent, confined to a sterile debate about the 'cultural roots' of the American/Hollywood Western." He remarks that few critics dared admit that they were, in fact, "bored with an exhausted Hollywood genre." Pauline Kael, he notes, was willing to acknowledge this critical ennui and thus appreciate how a film such as Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961) "could exploit Western conventions while debunking its morality."[1] Frayling and other film scholars such as Bondanella argue that this revisionism was the key to Leone's success and, to some degree, to that of the spaghetti Western genre as a whole.

Notable films

The first entirely Italian western movie was Il terrore dell'Oklahoma (1959), directed by Mario Amendola.[7] The best-known and perhaps archetypal films were the "Man with No Name" trilogy (or "Dollars Trilogy") directed by Sergio Leone, starring Clint Eastwood and with the musical scores of Ennio Morricone: A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). The success of the second film cemented Leone's reputation as a Western director and helped make international stars of Eastwood, Van Cleef, and composer Morricone. Sergio Leone defined the style of the Spaghetti Western.

Notable personalities




See also


  1. ^ a b Frayling, Christopher (1998 (2nd Edition)). Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from Karl May to Sergio Leone. London: I B Tauris. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Huizenga, Tom. "Happy Birthday 'Fanciulla' — Puccini's Spaghetti Western Turns 100". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2011-07-14. 
  4. ^ Tommasini, Anthony. "MUSIC; The First Spaghetti Western". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-07-14. 
  5. ^ Dirks, Tim. "Western Films-Sergio Leone's 'Spaghetti' Westerns". American Movie Classics Company LLC.. Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  6. ^ Gaberscek, Carlo. "Zapata Westerns THE SHORT LIFE OF A SUBGENRE (1966-1972)." Bilingual Review 29.2/3 (2008): 45-58. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
  7. ^ Il terrore dell'Oklahoma (The Internet Movie Database)

Further reading

External links

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  • Spaghetti western —    A large proportion of spaghetti Westerns were actually Hispano Italian co productions, shot first in the Monegros region in Aragón and later mostly in the Almería desert. From the late 1950s, the perceived decadence of Hollywood film and its… …   Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema