The Spaghetti WesternMar 15, 2004 Write an essay on this topic.
Popular Products in MoviesThe Bottom Line If you want to know what a Spaghetti Western is, watch "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly".
The term 'Spaghetti Western' was coined in the 1960's in describing a sub-genre of a type of action film known as the 'Western'. The Western itself is a sort of realistic myth that has it's roots in the 'pulp magazines' of the 1800's and early 1900's that exaggerated and sometimes, simply made up stories about gunslingers, outlaws, cowboys and others, both real and imagined, who lived in the western half of the United States. Western movies have been around as long as the invention of the motion picture itself starring lead actors like Douglas Fairbanks and Tyrone Power.
The Western has changed little over the decades. Mostly, they have gotten more realistic in their depictions of violence and more modernized in their depictions of women. The basics of the Western, however, remain the same. Most Westerns are stories of good versus evil. Oftentimes, the good side is represented by the drifting cowboy who comes into town and soon finds himself involved in stopping a corrupt, power hungry sheriff or cattle baron from controlling the citizens. The schemes of the villian usually involve controlling the water, taking peoples' land from them or extorting money from them in some way. Sometimes, the conflict ends up being over a girl and the hero must rescue her before the villian can force her to marry him. There are many variations on the Western including 'Hero Westerns' like "Zorro" and "The Lone Ranger", 'Bandit Westerns' like "Young Guns" and any of the many movies about Jesse James and 'Historic Westerns' like "The Alamo" and "Rio Grande".
Then, there's the 'Spaghetti Western'. This sub-genre is called 'Spaghetti' because the films were made in the deserts and mountains of Italy. Filmmakers started making the flims there in the early 60's because there were rugged landscapes that were perfect for the style of film and because they could be made much more cheaply since there were no unions or guilds to demand higher wages.
The hallmarks of the 'Spagetti Western' (many of which were eluded to by the other review on this subject) can be found in a trilogy of films that made this type of movie popular with American audiences: "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly", "A Fistfull of Dollars" and "For a Few Dollars More". These films starred Clint Eastwood who gave such a powerful and gritty performance that these films have influenced virtually every Western made since. In addition of Eastwood's anti-hero, Joe, who though he kills the really bad guys, never really redeems himself or improves his character like most anti-heroes of earlier Westerns (a relatively new feature in Westerns at the time), there were other unique features introduced. Lee Van Cleef, who played the villian Setenza, also gave a powerful performance and brought a new intensity and ferocity from his earlier work in martial arts films to the role.
The director of the trilogy, Sergio Leone, brought a new perspective to a movie genre that was beginning to stagnate in Hollywood. His use of bright, harsh light gave the films a bleak and desolate look. It also enhanced the effects of the hot Italian sun and made the characters sweat profusely which made them look all the more scared and/or angry. I most previous films, care had been taken to keep the actors from sweating too much, a hold over from film's roots in stage plays. All the actors, even men, had to wear powder to keep their skin from shining and washing out under the bright stage lights. This problem carried over into early films where they even had to wear eye shadow and blush so that their expressions wouldn't be lost in the too bright and uneven lighting. A pale face in front of a light background virtually disappeared on the black and white films.
Leone also pushed the graphic violence envelope with his use of blood and especially of showing close-ups of people being shot. In the past, most gun shots were shown from a distance or the camera would cut to the one doing the shooting so you didn't see the victim fall.
The music was also unique and has proven to be one of the most recognized themes in Western movies. Many movies have used it since in homages to or spoofs of the trilogy.
There have been many Spaghetti Westerns made, most of which never made it onto the big screen in America, but Sergio Leone's trilogy defines the genre.
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