Film Review: The White, The Yellow, and The Black (1975)

Also known as: Il bianco il giallo il nero (original Italian title), Samurai (Canada), Ring Around the Horse’s Tail (US dubbed version), Shoot First… Ask Questions Later (US alternative title)
Release Date: January 17th, 1975 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
Written by: Amendola & Corbucci, Santiago Moncada, Renee Asseo, Antonio Troisio, Marcello Coscia, Sergio Spina
Music by: Guido & Maurizio De Angelis
Cast: Giuliano Gemma, Tomas Milian, Eli Wallach

Filmel, Mundial Film, Tritone Cinematografica, 112 Minutes

Review:

“[about to be hanged by a gang] I’ll never die without my boots on, and a star on my chest.” – Sheriff Edward Gideon

I’ve seen and reviewed about a half dozen Sergio Corbucci spaghetti westerns in recent years. I didn’t know about this one, however, until I stumbled across it while looking for something else. But I’m glad I did, even if it’s one of Corbucci’s weaker westerns.

Still, it’s a well cast film with three cool characters that had nice chemistry and provided solid performances that required dramatic and comedic acting with a little pinch of badassness sprinkled in.

People today would probably find the fact that Italian actor Tomas Milian plays a samurai in the Old West to be “problematic” and while the character is written mostly for laughs by tapping into cultural stereotypes, Milian still gives his character a certain panache and coolness when push comes to shove.

Spaghetti western legends Eli Wallach and Giuliano Gemma also add some fun to the proceedings, with Wallach playing a Sheriff and Gemma playing a typical western cowboy.

The plot sees this unlikely trio come together to track down a stolen Japanese horse that was intended to be a gift for the US government. The three men end up embroiled in a rivalry with a band of desperadoes that are made up of former Confederate soldiers.

Side note: this film was actually made as a loose parody of the Charles Bronson starring Red Sun. Milian’s samurai character would also reappear in the film Crime at the Chinese Restaurant in 1981, directed by Sergio’s younger brother, Bruno Corbucci.

Out of the Corbucci westerns I’ve seen, this one is, unfortunately, the weakest. But I can’t fault the director for trying to do something different for his last picture in the genre. While the characters are amusing and work fairly well together, the movie does kind of miss its mark and pales in comparison to Django, The Great Silence, Compañeros and The Mercenary. I’d also rank it behind Navajo Joe, which wasn’t anywhere near as goofy and borderline slapstick-y despite having more humorous bits than Corbucci’s other spaghetti westerns.

This also lacks the gravitas of those earlier films. Not that that’s a bad thing, per se, but Corbucci sort of had a particular style with his westerns and this plays more like a generic western comedy than the great action flicks one could expect from Corbucci.

Overall, I like the casting and I enjoyed their characters but apart from that, this is almost forgettable and probably only stayed afloat in a sea of spaghetti flicks due to who made it.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Sergio Corbucci spaghetti westerns.

Film Review: Navajo Joe (1966)

Also known as: A Dollar a Head (US working title), Navajo’s Land, Red Fighter, Savage Run (alternate titles)
Release Date: November 26th, 1966 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
Written by: Dean Craig, Fernando Di Leo, Ugo Pirro
Music by: Ennio Morricone (credited as Leo Nichols)
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Aldo Sanbrell, Nicoletta Machiavelli, Tanya Lopert, Fernando Rey, Franca Polesello, Lucia Modugno

Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica, C.B. Films, Dear Film, United Artists, 93 Minutes

Review:

“My father was born here, in the mountains. His father before him and his father before him and his father before him. Where was your father born?” – Joe

I have never seen Navajo Joe, which is probably a crime, as I love spaghetti westerns and consider myself an aficionado of them. I especially love the western films of Sergio Corbucci and I have always been a big fan of Burt Reynolds, a man too cool for just about anyone they put him in a movie with. Also, this has one of the greatest scores that Ennio Morricone ever did. In fact, some of this songs here have been reused in other films.

Burt Reynolds plays Joe, a Navajo badass that wants to avenge the slaughter of some of his people and his woman. He tracks the killers and finds that they are taking advantage of a desert town and that someone in the town is working with them. He offers his services to the citizens at one dollar a head, to be paid by each person in town. The town is reluctant to pay Joe and realistically, if Joe is just planning on getting revenge, he should just go for it. But I guess making some money isn’t a bad thing. He gets mixed up with a local woman of Navajo decent but ultimately, only cares about his dead love. Navajo Joe is a true drifter with revenge in his heart. He’s got no time for love, only time for justice served with a hearty helping of lead.

Corbucci, one of the three Sergios of Spaghetti Westerns, made this film just after Ringo and His Golden Pistol and his most famous classic Django. This is a film that carries on the quality that Corbucci westerns were known for. While it isn’t quite the masterpiece that Django was, it is still a balls-to-the-wall violent action epic that will leave you satisfied. Revenge stories are great and adding in Burt Reynolds was a pretty cool touch, even if Corbucci didn’t know how great the man would become, as this is very early in his acting career.

The action sequences were well shot and very fluid. I liked the fighting style of Reynolds’ Joe as he slithered around the dirt and in and out of the train, killing off scumbags in the process. The film’s action was well choreographed, unique and interesting.

Navajo Joe is a good western and after seeing it, it would have been cool if Reynolds and Corbucci did a few more. I liked Reynolds in this role a lot and this played really well, mainly because the script was good and Corbucci is just a great director that probably deserves more credit outside of his preferred genre.

Rating: 7.25/10

Retro Relapse: Top 50 Spaghetti Westerns of All-Time

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Originally written in 2015.

Spaghetti westerns are better than westerns, at least in my opinion. Sure, there are fantastic American-made westerns but as a whole, the Italian-Spanish (sometimes German) films are superior. There is more grit, more bad ass shit and a level of violence that adds realism and authenticity to a genre that has typically been family friendly in the U.S.

The greatest film of all-time is a spaghetti western. And many of the other greatest films ever also fall into this genre.

I have spent the last several months watching a lot of these films. I have always been familiar with the greats but I had to delve deeper into the more obscure reaches of the genre. A special shout out goes to the Spaghetti Western Database for the hours of research I was able to accomplish in mostly one place. Also, thanks to Amazon, Hulu and YouTube for providing several of these films. The rest were an adventure to track down.

This list is the result of my hundreds of hours of film watching.

1. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
2. Once Upon A Time In the West
3. The Great Silence
4. The Big Gundown
5. For A Few Dollars More
6. Django
7. A Fistful of Dollars
8. The Mercenary
9. Face to Face
10. Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!
11. A Bullet For the General
12. Compañeros
13. Duck, You Sucker! (A Fistful of Dynamite)
14. Day of Anger
15. Keoma
16. Sabata
17. Return of Ringo
18. Death Rides A Horse
19. Cemetery Without Crosses
20. My Name Is Nobody
21. The Grand Duel
22. A Genius, Two Partners and A Dupe
23. A Pistol for Ringo
24. If You Meet Sartana, Pray For Your Death
25. The Dirty Outlaws
26. Django, Prepare a Coffin (Viva Django)
27. Run Man Run
28. Tepepa
29. Navajo Joe
30. Four of the Apocalypse
31. Massacre Time
32. Shoot the Living, Pray for the Dead
33. Mannaja
34. Django Strikes Again
35. The Return of Sabata
36. A Few Dollars For Django
37. Light the Fuse… Sartana Is Coming
38. Machine Gun Killers
39. Beyond the Law
40. Ace High
41. The Bounty Killer (The Ugly Ones)
42. Trinity Is Still My Name
43. Hellbenders
44. Django the Bastard
45. God Forgives, I Don’t
46. Minnesota Clay
47. God’s Gun
48. They Call Me Trinity
49. Ringo and His Golden Pistol (Johnny Oro)
50. Arizona Colt

Film Review: The Mercenary (1968)

Also known as: Il mercenario (Italy)
Release Date: August 29th, 1968 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
Written by: Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Spina, Adriano Bolzoni, Segio Corbucci, Franco Solinas, Giorgio Arlorio
Music by: Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai
Cast: Franco Nero, Tony Musante, Jack Palance, Giovanna Ralli

Produzioni Europee Associati (P.E.A.), Produzioni Associate Delphos S.p.A., Profilms 21, United Artists, 107 Minutes

themercenaryReview:

Sergio Corbucci’s The Mercenary is a very refined and well-executed spaghetti western affair. Then again, I have yet to see a Corbucci film that didn’t cut the mustard.

Corbucci once again uses his go-to guy, Franco Nero. Nero plays Sergei “Polack” Kowalski, a finely dressed mercenary who fights in the Mexican Revolution alongside Paco Ramon (played by Tony Musante).

Both of them make an enemy out of the villainous Curly – played by Jack Palance, who once played a more famous character also named “Curly”. It’s probably worth noting that Palance wears one of the greatest wigs I have ever seen in a film. Plus, Palance is perfectly evil and dastardly in this movie.

Giovanna Ralli plays the female lead in this film and she is otherworldly gorgeous.

The Mercenary is high energy through and through. It is a pretty straight forward Zapata western in style and tone. It isn’t as dark as Corbucci’s The Great Silence and it is more fleshed out than Django.

It is well-balanced between the action and the story. The action sequences also get really insane. The big shootout with the big guns towards the end is spectacular. The battle against the Mexican Army and the biplane is also great. There are a lot of stellar action sequences to behold in this picture.

The Mercenary has a lot of layers, which shows a maturing filmmaker in Corbucci. It also widened his already proud stance in the western genre. The Mercenary is anything but basic or generic. It has heart, spirit and a lot of testosterone.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Compañeros (1970)

Also known as: Vamos a matar, compañeros, lit. Let’s Go and Kill, Companions (Spain)
Release Date: December 18th, 1970 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
Written by: Dino Maiuri, Massimo De Rita, Fritz Ebert, Sergio Corbucci
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Franco Nero, Tomas Milian, Jack Palance, Fernando Rey, Iris Berben, Francisco Bodalo, Edoardo Fajardo

Tritone Filmindustria Roma S.r.l., Atlantida Film S.A., Terra-Filmkunst, Titanus Distribuzione, GSF Productions , 119 Minutes (Italy), 115 Minutes (US)

companerosReview:

Sergio Corbucci made a spiritual successor to The Mercenary with Compañeros. And like that film, it is a Zapata western starring Franco Nero and Jack Palance. The one main difference is that this film adds in Tomas Milian. It is also the only time that spaghetti western greats Nero and Milian acted together.

It follows Nero, a Swedish arms dealer into Mexico. He develops a rivalry quickly with Milian, a peasant rebel. Both are then forced together for political means and sent to capture a professor from the enemy. They then cross paths with Jack Palance, who is a sinister character with a wooden hand and a pet hawk he uses to track people in the wilderness. They capture the professor and get caught up with the true revolutionaries, which alters the course of the main characters’ lives.

The film is one of the best spaghetti westerns out there but Corbucci was a master only surpassed by Sergio Leone. Now this isn’t Corbucci’s best but it is great, nonetheless.

The only issue I have with the film, is that it is too similar to The Mercenary, which Corbucci did two years prior. It looks the same, features almost the same cast in almost the same roles and treads the same political territory. It is a very romanticized tale about revolution, influenced by the story of Che Guevara, who Corbucci was greatly affected by.

But in regards to Jack Palance’s character John, it is one of my absolute favorite Palance roles of all-time. Between the wooden hand, the weirdly dubbed voice and his relationship with his bird, it was a performance for the ages.

Additionally, this film features one of my favorite theme songs ever, which was done by Ennio Morricone.

And a Corbucci-Nero team up isn’t complete without Franco Nero blasting dozens of enemies with a giant machine gun. Luckily for us, that happens twice in this movie.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: The Great Silence (1968)

Also known as: Il grande silenzio (Italy), The Big Silence (UK)
Release Date: November 19th, 1968 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
Written by: Vittoriano Petrilli, Mario Amendola, Bruno Corbucci, Sergio Corbucci, John Davis Hart, Lewis E. Ciannelli
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Jean Louis Trintignant, Klaus Kinski, Frank Wolff, Luigi Pistilli, Mario Brega, Marisa Merlini, Vonetta Mc Gee

Adelphia Compagnia, Cinematografica, Les Films Corona, 20th Century Fox, 105 Minutes

the-great-silenceReview:

Sergio Corbucci is the lesser known Sergio between himself and Leone but he was also an accomplished spaghetti western director. I’ve been a huge fan of his film Django for years. I haven’t ventured too far into his catalog outside of that though. Not until recently anyway.

I’ve wanted to watch The Great Silence for quite some time. It is hard to track down and actually wasn’t even released in the United States until ten years ago on DVD. No store I have ever been to has sold it. I was able to find it on Amazon but my previous attempts at buying it always showed it as “out of stock”. In any event, I finally got my hand on it.

The Great Silence is epic. And that isn’t an overstatement, as I hate casually throwing the word “epic” around. From what I’ve seen from Corbucci, this is his magnum opus – even more so than the near perfect Django.

The film takes place in Utah but was filmed in the Italian Dolemites, giving it a distinct look in comparison to the typical spaghetti westerns of the era. The landscape is lush with forests, mountains and snow. It is a complete departure from the desolate and barren wastelands of Leone’s films.

The film stars French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant in his only western role. He plays the silent hero simply called “Silent”. A man who, as a boy, had his throat slit – rendering him permanently speechless. He seeks revenge over the corrupt officials and bounty killers who murdered his father and took his voice.

The always sinister German actor Klaus Kinski plays the head bounty killer Loco (Tigrero in the original Italian language version). Kinski is chilling in this film and I would put this in the upper echelon of his superb performances.

The film also features a slew of other well-known spaghetti western actors and it is also the debut of Vonetta McGee, who would become more famous for being featured in several well-known blaxploitation films a few years later.

The Great Silence is actually an anti-western, as it establishes several common tropes in the genre and then turns them all on their head. It takes social and political risks unlike any other film of its time. The film in certain respects was inspired by the deaths of Malcolm X and Che Guevara, as noted by the director himself.

Stylistically, it has gone on to inspire several films after it. It is hard to see this film and not notice the environmental and tonal influences that helped to give life to Quentin Tarantino’s most recent film The Hateful Eight. In fact, between this film and Django, Corbucci has been a huge influence on Tarantino’s critically acclaimed work over the last few years.

The Great Silence isn’t perfect but it is damned good. It is probably the best spaghetti western not directed by Leone and is as good as some of his work. In fact, it makes me want to explore Corbucci’s catalog even deeper.

Also, the score by Ennio Morricone is great and adds a level of authenticity and a superb musical quality to the movie.

If you are a fan of the spaghetti western genre and haven’t seen this or added it to your collection, you really need to.

Rating: 9.25/10

Film Review: Django (1966)

Release Date: April 6th, 1966 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
Written by: Sergio Corbucci, Bruno Corbucci
Based on: Yojimbo by Akira Kurosawa, Ryuzo Kikushima
Music by: Luis Enriquez Bacalov
Cast: Franco Nero, Loredana Nusciak, José Bodalo, Angel Alvarez, Eduardo Fajardo

B.R.C. Produzione S.r.l., Tecisa, Euro International Film, 92 Minutes

django-1966-posterReview:

For those who don’t know, there was a Django before Jamie Foxx took up that moniker. Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained was its own film and not a remake of the 1966 Italian spaghetti western Django. It was, however, a bit of an homage to the original and other films like it and even featured a cameo by Franco Nero, the original Django.

This review is about that original film.

This is one of the most “balls to the wall” films ever made. It features an immense amount of violence, which kind of became a trend amongst Italian spaghetti westerns of the 60s and 70s. The film’s style also spawned a sequel, dozens of unofficial sequels and copycats.

None are as good as the original film starring Franco Nero. Although he did play the character again, this was the best outing.

The film feels a lot more low budget than the Sergio Leone films of the time but it is a lot more colorful visually and tonally. The color palette used in this film is vibrant and full of life. Django’s intense dark blue duds and the dresses of the prostitutes, in the brothel where he spends most of his time, are in stark contrast to the drab and dirty town they inhabit and the very plain uniforms of the militia they oppose.

Django incorporates a level of violence that is over the top but not blatantly offensive. This film had to have had the highest kill count of any western I’ve ever seen. One scene alone pits Django against an army of 48 soldiers. All of them are mowed down by his heavy firepower.

The climactic final battle sees Django have to battle six gunmen in a graveyard while his hands are smashed to bits, making the task of holding a pistol damn near impossible. Of course the hero overcomes, that shouldn’t be a spoiler considering all the sequels (official and unofficial) that were pumped out for decades after this.

Django is one of the greatest spaghetti westerns ever made. It is definitely a film for the man’s man. I mean, what is cooler than a film starting with a lone gunman walking into a dangerous town dragging a coffin behind him? What’s in the coffin? What’s this mysterious stranger’s business in town?

This movie set a trend in creating ultraviolent westerns. It would be nice to see more westerns go back to this “no holds bar” style. Tarantino went all out with his Django Unchained and his Hateful Eight walked the same territory but we need more westerns with gigantic gunfights and ultraviolence than long drawn out narratives. Those films are great to a point but sometimes you want the unrelenting intensity of Mad Max: Fury Road, as opposed to action-less Driving Miss Daisy.

It also has one of the best movie themes of all-time. Seriously, just watch the trailer.

Rating: 10/10