I have this habit of buying old Italian Westerns hoping that I'll find a good one. I know it's probably not ever going to happen. I've been looking for the past thirty plus years. It's been a big waste of time, yet something keeps driving me. I keep picking up movies in the discount bins ~ Italian Western titles I've never seen before. There have only been a handful (or should I say 'fistful) of Italian Westerns worth their salt (or should I say garlic). Last week I found a collection of ten movies for 3 dollars more and reached for it. As I try to watch them, I find myself falling to sleep about thirty minutes into them.
There was a time in the early sixties that the Italian movie industry was tanking. I guess their audiences were getting weary of watching gladiator movies. That seemed to be the majority of the movies exported. Sergio Leone made a Western that turned the heads of movie goers everywhere and so Italian producers wanted to get in on the action. Instead of churning out Sword and Sandal'movies, they started churning out what became known as Spaghetti Westerns. They'd make them until their audience everywhere got weary of watching them.
It was Sergio Leone that introduced the genre, catapulting American second string actors into international super-stardom. Unlike his rivals, Leone didn't just make Westerns, he made epic Westerns. He had a style of shooting that all the other directors emulated, but no one ever came close. I know, I've seen a lot of Italian Westerns. Other production companies tried to deliver Ennio Morriconesque scores, (some were pretty darn good scores) but their movies sucked nevertheless. The anti-hero, the tight close-ups, the extreme panoramic shots, the familiar gunfire were always in the mix. They tried to copy everything - but they never succeeded.
What they lacked was a good story and the ability to tell it. Only Leone could do it. He could tell the story. He knew how to use the lens. He was an artist of the same calibur of the directors he himself emulated - John Ford and Akira Kurosawa. His emulations were not mere copies of the works he admired. He told his own stories his own way. Leone didn't do cheap imitations - he did works of art.
I don't know why I do it. Maybe I'm doing it to see if there was another master at work back in the day. Wishful thinking I know. Why do I keep picking up these bargain movies hoping to find gold among the rubbish? If you happen to have a title of an old Spaghetti Western that you really liked ~ let me know. I'd be obliged.