Friday, January 16, 2015

American Western's European Style


The first European American Western appears to be, 1917's silent, "Frank Hansen's Gluck (Frank Hansen's Fortune)", from Germany and the first "Spaghetti Western" was 1963's "Duello nel Texas", known in English as either "Gunfight at Red Sands", or "Gringo", starring Richard Harrison, but I start with an epic American Western about three generations of one family moving westward.

HOW THE WEST WAS WON released February 20, 1963

Poster - How the West Was Won.jpg

In 1962 a major film epic “How The West Was Won” was released and would cover several generations of the Prescott family while telling the story of the Westward movement across the country in five parts. These were 1840-The Rivers, 1850’s-The Plains, 1861-1865-The Civil War, 1868-The Railroad and 1880’s-The Outlaws. The movie was co-directed by John Ford, Henry Hathaway and George Marshall with uncredited assistance by director Richard Thorpe.
“How The West Was Won” has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Alfred Newman’s musical score was listed at #25 on AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores. In short this movie truly reflected the story of the American West and writer Louis L’Amour wrote a novelization of James R. Webb’s massive screenplay.
Ask a European, who Louie L’Amour and Zane Grey are? Outside of someone possibly associating L’Amour with John Wayne’s, 1953, film “Hondo”, you may just get a blank stare. On the other hand, ask the same European who is the best writer of American Western fiction? You will more than likely hear them reply Karl May.

Born February 25, 1842 and entering "The Happy Hunting Grounds" of his Western Fiction on March 30, 1912 at 70 years of age. Karl Friedrich May has gained immortality as the most prolific European Novelist of the American West. In 1908 the 66 year old May and his wife Klara spent six weeks in the United States. This was his first and only visit to the country he wrote Wild West adventures about. During that six week period the two stayed with friends in New York and Massachusetts, but Karl May never went farther west than Niagara Falls and returned home to Germany to write another of his American Western novels he was famous throughout Europe for.
All 54 of May's novels and other writings have been translated into almost every European language, but never into English until a few years ago. I've read his single English language translation to date “Winnetou 1” written in 1893 and learned that edition of the novel was highly abridged. All of May's books are still extremely popular today throughout Europe just as when he first imagined them and outsell American Western authors such as L'Amour greatly.
From 1962 through 1968 eleven motion pictures were made in Germany/Croatia. Although not released in the United States without a minimal two years delay. These very good “B” movies bring to life May’s Noble Apache Chief “Winnetou”. The main character of all his Western works, played by French actor Pierre Brice. Who to most European’s is still the personification of the Native American Indian! Winnetou’s two scout friends are either “Old Shatterhand” who was played by American actor Lex Barker, or “Old Surehand” who was played by British/American actor Stewart Granger. As of this writing Pierre Brice lives in Brest, France.
I first meet this group while in the Navy in 1967 with the English dub of the fifth film “Utere Geiern (Amongst Vultures”) known here as “Frontier Hellcat”. The film a co-production of Germany and Croatia was released throughout Europe in 1964 and not until 1966 in North America. Pierre Brice was of course Winnetou, Elke Sommer was Annie Dillman and Stewart Granger played “Old Surehand” in the film. Look closely at the credits and you will find Mario Girotti. For those familiar with the later Spaghetti Westerns “My Name is Nobody” with Henry Fonda, or “They Call Me Trinity” and its sequel “Trinity Is Still My Name.” Mario would become known as Terence Hill and resides in New York City.

In “Frontier Hellcat”:
Old Surehand and Winnetou investigate the murders of a mother and daughter. The surviving husband believes that his wife and daughter were murdered by Indians, but Old Surehand suspects that it is the work of a gang of robbers and bandits known as "The Vultures". Who are disguising themselves as Indians while committing their crimes.
 A classic "B" Western plot line.
Another filmed version of the series I have watched was just titled in English "Old Shatterhand". A West German, French, Italian and Yugoslavian co-production released in Europe and the UK in 1964. The UK title was “Apaches’ Last Battle”, in Italy the film was “Battaglia di Fort Apache” and the title in France was “Les Cavaliers rouges.” “Old Shatterhand” wasn't released in the United States until 1968. The film starred Lex Barker as the title character and Pierre Brice as Winnetou.The motion picture version of the novel cost approximately five million deutsche marks making it the most expensive Karl May based movie ever and was filmed in 70mm and color

The simple "B" movie plot was:.
Renegades trying to get the army to abandon their fort get the Indians addicted to whiskey, then convince them to attack and drive out the soldiers.
As you can tell by these two examples. All of Karl May’s Western novels predate, but contain the elements of what would be the standard Hollywood “B” Westerns of the silent era and 1930’s. Films that starred actors such as William S. Hart, Gilbert M. “Broncho Billy” Anderson, Tim McCoy, Bob Steele, Edmund Richard “Hoot” Gibson and some kid named John Wayne.
In 1908 showing on German and European television was a mini-series “Mein Freund Winnetou (My Friend Winnetou)” starring once more Pierre Brice in the title role. The series contained seven 52 minute episodes. A follow up two part mini-series in 1998 “Winnetous Ruckkekr (The Return of Winnetou)” ran 171 minutes and also starred Brice. Illustrating once more his association to the character in Germany and Europe and how 105 years after Karl May first wrote of him this fictional Apache chief is still beloved. QuentinTarantino fan's look for a reference to Winnetou in his 2009 “Inglorious Bastards”. Karl May's creation lives on.

Have you ever heard the term

The word translates as "Easterns". So if a Cowboy movie is a "Western". What then is an "Eastern"?
These are American Westerns made in the Soviet Union and what was once referred to as the Eastern Block. Two other names for this category of film making are either “Red Western”, or “Borscht Westerns.”

One such “Borscht Western” came from Czechoslovakia entitled:
“Limonadovy Joe aneb Konska opera (Lemonade Joe, or the Horse Opera”) in 1964. This film is a satirical musical parody of American “B” Westerns. Lemonade Joe is a clean-living gunfighter who drinks only Kolaloa, Lemonade, and takes on a town full whiskey-drinking cowboys.

While West Germany was turning Karl May's western novels into movies with American Actors. East German made 1966's
"Die Sohne Grossen Barlin (The Sons of the Great She-Bear)" aka: "The Sons of the Great Bear". The film was directed by Czechoslovak filmmaker Josef Mach and starred Yugoslav actor Gojiko Mitic as the Native American "Tokei-ihto" pictures on the above poster. The motion picture was based upon a series of American Westerns by another German novelist Liselotte Welskopf-Henirch. Who was born in Munich on September 15, 1901 and unlike Karl May actually spent time in the American West. She spent months among the Lakota Sioux living on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota researching the tribes history. This took place just after the end of World War 1.

The plot for “The Sons of Great Bear” takes place in 1874 South Dakota and is described as:

…the U.S. government encroaches on the lands of the Lakota people. Mattotaupa, an Oglala Lakota man, gambles with Red Fox, a White criminal, in a saloon. When seeing he has gold, Red Fox demands to know its origin. Mattotaupa refuses, and Red Fox murders him. Mattotaupa's son, the young and fierce warrior Tokei-ihto who mistrusts the Whites and never drinks their "Firewater", witnesses the murder.
Two years later, Tokei-ihto is the war chieftain of the Oglala's Bear Band and one of Crazy Horse's commanders in the Great Sioux War. He raids a resupply column sent to a U.S. Army fort, but brings the commander's daughter Katie Smith to her father unharmed, requesting to negotiate peace. Major Smith turns him down, and one of his officers tries to shoot the chieftain, who then surprises the soldiers and single-handedly destroys their munitions depot.
The book was started in 1918 and she stopped writing it due to the political climate in Germany after Liselotte Welskopf-Henrich returned there in the 1920’s, but finally completed her work in 1951. Welskopf-Henich's novels have been translated into 18 languages.
My last example of an “Osten” is also known as a “Goulash Western”, because it comes from Hungary in 1976 “ Talpuk alatt fütyül a szél (The Wind Blows Under Your Feet)" aka: "The Wind Is Whistling Under Their Feet"..

…set on the puszta, or Great Hungarian Plain, in 1837. Mixing Miklós Jancsó imagery and a Sergio Leone narrative, this ballad-like saga opens with image of a lone horseman on the empty plain, riding past a rude gallows. The film concerns the vengeful return of a legendary betyár (outlaw), briefly a hero to the local herdsmen who oppose the state building a canal across their grazing land.
During the mid-1960’s Italy changed from “Peplum”, refers to the togas or robes worn by ancient Romans, aka: “Sword and Sandal” films like “Romolo e Remo (Duel of the Titans”) starring Steve Reeves and Gordon Scott, or “David e Golia (David and Goliath”) with Orson Wells, Ivica Pajer and Eleonora Rossi Drago to what the Japanese would call “Macaroni” Westerns, better known by a term created by a Film Critic “Spaghetti Westerns.”
Although that term and the one’s mentioned above used to describe other countries Western films did not come into prominence until after 1964’s “A Fistful of Dollars.” Foreign Westerns go back as far as American Silent Films shot in the early 1900’s. So before we talk about Sergio Leone. How about mentioning one of his father’s films from 1913. Vincenzo Leone made “La Vampira Indiana. (The Vampire Indian).” All that I could find about the film is that it is about “A bloodthirsty Native American” who terrorizes the Old West and that doesn't tell us much about the action and plot. I also found a German silent version of James Fennimore Cooper’s “The Last of the Mohicans” which is interesting only in that one of the major Indian characters “Uncas” was played by Bela Ference Dezso Blasko aka: Bela Lugosi.
Italian Westerns made a resurgence in 1959 with two comedy Westerns made in Italy “La sceriffa (The Sheriff)" starring comedy star Ugo Tognazzi and “Il terrore dell’Oklahoma (Terror of Oklahoma)". These Italian comedies were inspired by the Bob Hope film of that year “Alias Jesse James.” Hope is insurance agent Milford Farnsworth who has been mistaken for Jesse James. James initially decides to kill him and then changes his mind by having Farnsworth become his double on robberies. The cast included Wendell Corey as Jesse, Jim Davis played Frank James and Rhonda Fleming was a detective chasing the James Gang.
August 28, 1960 saw the first of what could be called the real modern era of “Spaghetti Westerns” begin with “Un dollar di fifa (Dollar of Fear)”. One year later in August 1961 it was followed by the French/West German/Italian film “Taste of Violence.” Known as “Le gout del la violence” in France, “Haut fur Haut” in Germany and “Febbre di rviolta” in Italy. Actually before we reach “Fistful of Dollars” and the craze for “Spaghetti Westerns” it started in 1964. The film would be preceded by:
Seven Italian Westerns
Four Spanish Westerns
One French
One German which was “Winnetou 1.”

Obviously there were many different genre names and countries under the one heading “Spaghetti Western” depending upon the films origin. So I would ask my reader to indulge me by asking should we be calling the John Huston and John Wayne 1958
“Barbarian and the Geisha” and the Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe “The Last Samurai” from 2003 American movies set in Japan, or instead “Hot Dog Samurai” films? It does seem to fit the trend in Food named film genres of the period.

I’m sure my readers are very familiar with Sergio Leone’s “Per un pugno di dollari” and “Per quaichw dollar in piu” aka: “A Fistful of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More”. The story that the television series “Rawhide” was on hiatus and Clint Eastwood’s agent suggested he take a trip to Italy to be in some Italian Western after co-star Eric Fleming passed on it. How Eastwood brought his own small cigarette style cigars, cut them in half to make them last longer, and they became a trade mark of his “Man With No Name.”
There never was a “Man With No Name” in any of the three films. Except in the mind of a United Artists publicity department employee who obviously never viewed the movies even in his own companies English language dub, because Eastwood's character has a name. In “Fistful of Dollars” Clint Eastwood is called “Joe”. In “For a Few Dollars More” he is “Monco”in the original Italian and “Manco” in the English dub. In “Il buono , il brutto, il cattivo (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly)” Eastwood is referred to as “Blondie” by Tuco, but in the original scripts Sergio Leone has him called “Joe”. We may not know his last name, but "The Man with No Name" has always had a first name.
I saw the first two films when they were released as a double bill by United Artists. I saw “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” in France while on liberty from the Aircraft Carrier U.S.S. Shangri-la CVA-38 with some of my buddies. The movie was in English with French subtitles, but it is another classic by Sergio Leone which I want to go into a little more detail about before discussing two other producers of Italian Westerns that are of note.

While being stationed in Naples, Italy in 1967 I came across the
“C’era una volt ail West (Once Upon a Time in the West”) in its original Italian version with English subtitles with a running time of 166 minute. This was a year before it was released in English in the cut version of 145 minutes. I have the American restored version of 165 minutes on DVD, but in Italy there is a “Directors Cut” available of 175 minutes.

The film is considered the ultimate “Spaghetti Western” and is actually the first film in a trilogy by Sergio Leone. The second was originally titled
“Once Upon the Time in the Revolution” and progressed further in time. However, this 1971 epic “Zapata Western film” a subgenre of the “Spaghetti Western” was released even in Italian as “Giu la testa (Duck You Sucker”) aka: “A Fistful of Dynamite”. Starring Rod Steiger and James Coburn. For those who are unfamiliar with the term “Zapata Western.” This is a group of Westerns made during the mid-1960’s to early 1970’s set in and around Mexico and revolves around the 1913 Mexican Revolution and obviously named for Emiliano Zapata. The original United States release of the film was 121 minutes. In 1989 Image Entertainment released a laserdisc under the title: “Once Upon a Time in the Revolution” at 138 minutes, but the original Italian cut of the film runs 157 minutes and apparently has never been released in the United States.

The final film of the trilogy is 1984’s
“C’era una volta in America (Once Upon a Time in America).” Starring Robert De Niro, James Woods and Elizabeth McGovern. This film is Sergio Leone’s response to Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” with a film about Jewish Gangsters in New York City. The original European release of this excellent film was 229 minutes. When it was released in the United States the film was only 139 minutes and caused confusion with some of the storyline. It was obvious that something was missing. I have the “Directors Cut” on DVD at 251 minutes and this is truly a masterpiece.
Returning to “Once Upon a Time in the West” I need not go over the story, or cast as I am sure most of you are very familiar with those elements. What is obvious is that the film is a tribute to the American Western like no other and also to John Ford.

Some of the “Lifts with Respect” from Classic American Westerns include:

High Noon.
The opening sequence is similar to the opening High Noon, in which three bad guys (Lee Van Cleef, Sheb Wooley and Robert J. Wilke) wait at a station for the arrival of their gang leader (also named Frank, played by Ian MacDonald) on the noon train. In the opening of Once Upon a Time in the West, three bad guys (Jack Elam, who appeared in a small part in High Noon, Woody Strode, and Al Mulock) wait at a station. However, the period of waiting is depicted in a lengthy ten-minute sequence, the train arrives several hours after noon, and its passenger is the film's hero (Charles Bronson) rather than its villain. The scene is famous for its use of natural sounds: a squeaky windmill, knuckles cracking, and Jack Elam's character trying to shoo off a fly. According to rumor, Leone offered the parts of the three bad guys to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly stars Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach.
3:10 to Yuma.
This cult Western by Delmer Daves may have had considerable influence on the film. The most obvious reference is a brief exchange between Keenan Wynn's Sheriff and Cheyenne, in which they discuss sending the latter to Yuma prison. In addition, as in West, the main villain is played by an actor (Glenn Ford) who normally played good guys. The film also features diegetic music (Ford at one point whistles the film's theme song just as Harmonica provides music in West). And the scene in which Van Heflin's character escorts Ford to the railroad station while avoiding an ambush by his gang may have inspired the ambush of Frank by his own men in Leone's film.
The Comancheros.
The name McBain and the name of the town Sweetwater come from this film.
Johnny Guitar.
The character of Jill McBain is supposedly based on Joan Crawford's character Vienna, and Harmonica may be influenced by Sterling Hayden's title character. Some of the basic plot (settlers vs. the railroad) may be recycled from this film.
The Iron Horse.
West may contain several subtle references to this film, including a low angle shot of a shrieking train rushing towards the screen in the opening scene, and the shot of the train pulling into the Sweetwater station at the end of the film.

The massacre scene in West features young Timmy McBain hunting with his father, just as Joey hunts with his father in Shane. The funeral of the McBains is borrowed almost shot-for-shot from Shane.
Vera Cruz.
In both films, Bronson's character plays a harmonica and is only known by a nickname.
The Searchers.
Leone admitted that during the massacre of the McBain family, the rustling bushes, the stopping of the cicada chirps, and the fluttering pheasants to suggest a menace approaching the farmhouse, were all taken from The Searchers. The ending of the film — where Western nomads Harmonica and Cheyenne are forced to move on rather than join modern society — also echoes the famous ending of Ford's film.
At the end of this film, Henry Fonda's character wears clothing very similar to his costume throughout West. In addition, Warlock features a discussion about mothers between Fonda and Dorothy Malone that is similar to those between Cheyenne and Jill in West. Finally, Warlock contains a sequence in which Fonda's character kicks a crippled man off his crutches, as he does to Mr. Morton in West.
The Magnificent Seven.
In this film, Charles Bronson's character whittles a piece of wood. In West, he does the same, although in a different context. The Magnificent Seven was based on Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa whose Yojimbo (The Bodyguard) was the inspiration (and later, litigation) behind a Leone's A Fistful of Dollars.
Winchester '73.
It has been claimed that the scenes in West at the trading post are based on those in Winchester '73, but the resemblance is slight.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
The dusters (long coats) worn by Frank and his men in the opening massacre resemble those worn by Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) and his henchmen when they are introduced in this film. In addition, the auction scene in West was intended to recall the election scene in Liberty Valance.
The Last Sunset.
The final duel between Frank and Harmonica is shot almost identically to the duel between Kirk Douglas and Rock Hudson in this film.
Duel in the Sun.
The character of Morton, the crippled railroad baron in West, was based on the character played by Lionel Barrymore in this film.
Sergeant Rutledge (with Woody Strode as the title character).
In this John Ford Western, there is a scene in which Constance Towers' character falls asleep in a chair with a rifle in her lap, looking out for hostile Apache, just as Jill McBain does in Leone's film.
My Darling Clementine.
In the trading post scene, Cheyenne slides Harmonica's gun down the bar to him, challenging him to shoot – much like Morgan Earp (Ward Bond) sliding his weapon to brother Wyatt (Henry Fonda) in the Ford film when the Earps meet Doc Holliday (Victor Mature) for the first time. Also, a deleted scene in West featured Frank getting a shave with perfume in a barber's shop, much like Fonda's Wyatt.”

Interesting bits of information there which makes this classic Leone film even more classic as a homage to the Western movies in general.
I mentioned I wanted to discuss two other film makers. The first is a name you should know, if you’re a fan of Quentin Tarantino and he was Sergio Corbucci. Like Sergio Leone Sergio Corbucci started out in “Sword and Sandal” films. In 1962 I saw a Steve Reeves film he directed entitled “Il figlio di Spartacus (The Son of Spartacus)” aka: “The Slave”.
Corbucci’s first solo “Spaghetti Western” was in 1965 “Le Justicier du Minnesota (Minnesota Clay)” staring American actor Cameron Mitchell in an Italian/French/Spanish co-production. The story line is typical about a framed gunfighter attempting to prove his innocence to his daughter who plans to be married. Apparently Clay is suffering from some form of eye disease and is going blind. What is interesting here is the reverse occurs between the original Italian film, and the VHS and DVD releases of the movie.
From Wikipedia:
Various VHS and DVD versions end with Clay lying apparently dead in the street, with Nancy at his side…But in the Italian version, there is an afterword in which the Cavalry, having presumably dealt with any surviving malefactors, ride off, and Clay - now wearing glasses - bids goodbye to Nancy and her beau (who are to be wed). He then rides off. Corbucci lets Clay reach the horizon, then cuts to a medium shot of Clay taking off his glasses, throwing them in the air, and shooting holes in both lenses. His sight, miraculously, has been completely restored.
In 1966 Sergio Corbucci released a film starring Franco Nero that made the violence in the Sergio Leone trilogy with Clint Eastwood look like Disney films. The film took its name from its title character
“Django”. The film earned the reputation as being the most violent motion picture ever made anywhere up to that year. It would be three years later when Sam Peckinpah would take away that motion picture distinction with “The Wild Bunch”.

Examples of how this film was received. In the U.K. the film was refused a certificate to be shown until 1993 when it was issued an 18 certificate and finally shown. It would be 2004 before the film was downgraded to a 15 certificate. Sweden has never shown the film and banned it outright. Even in Italy it received an 18 certificate, because of its extreme violence. Apparently Corbucci forgot to cut out the ear-severing scene when the Italian censors reviewed the film. There is only one “official sequel” to the movie made by Sergio Corbucci and starring once more Franco Nero. However, the name “Django” has been referenced in over thirty films claiming to be sequels.
From the Wikipedia article on the movie:
In Quentin Tarantino's 2012 film Django Unchained, Nero plays a small role as Amerigo Vassepi, an owner of a slave engaged in Mandingo fighting with a slave owned by Leonardo DiCaprio's character. Upon the loss of that fight, Vassepi goes to the bar for a drink and encounters Django, played by Jamie Foxx. As a nod to Nero's film, Vassepi (dressed in a similar manner to the hero of the original film) asks Django his name, asks him to spell it, and, upon Django's informing him that the "D" is silent, says "I know." Both films use the title song from the film, by Rocky Roberts & Luis Bacalov.
The original movie has Django as a drifter hauling around a coffin with a closed lid who angers a group of bandits led by a Major Jackson who murdered his wife. The movie just follows Django as he kills off Jackson’s men and finally has a showdown with him in a cemetery.
Sergio Corbucci would direct Franco Nero in two “Zapata Westerns.” The first from 1968 was “Il mercenario (The Mercenary)” aka: “A Professional Gun” co-starring Jack Palance and Tony Musante. The sound track from this film was incorporated into Quentin Tarantino’s 2004 “Kill Bill: Volume 2”. In the film Nero plays a Polish mercenary named Sergei Kowalski who helps a Mexican peasant Paco Roman played by Musante. Palance is an outlaw gang leader who runs afoul of both men and the Mexican revolution that all three become involved in.

The second film from 1970 was “Vamos a matar, companeros (known just as “Companeros”). The film is considered one of the best of the “Zapata Westerns” and overall the “Spaghetti Western”. It stars Franco Nero, Tomas Milian, Jack Palance and Fernado Rey. “Companeros” has been compared to “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” from four years earlier, because it blends together the story of several characters but instead of being set during the American Civil War the film is during the 1913 Mexican Revolution. This is the only film where the two main Italian Stars of this genre Milian and Nero worked together. When thinking of “Spaghetti Westerns” one forgets how many of them starred American and other foreign actors rather than Italians in the lead roles.
“Il grande silenzio (The Great Silence”) aka: “The Big Silence” next to “Django” is probably the best known of Corbucci’s films outside of Italy. The film stars are not Italian, but the great French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant and the equally great German actor Klaus Kinski.

The film takes place in Utah during the Great Blizzard of 1899. The blizzard effects a small village in the mountains forcing the people there to rob and steal food to survive. They have become outlaws with a bounty on their head, because nobody would help them. A group of bounty hunters under the leadership of Loco, Kinski, is tormenting the villagers and just toying with them. One of the wives hires a mute gunfighter called “Silence” to help them.

The film has the bleak ending Sergio Corbucci is known for when every sympathetic character in the film is gunned down in one massive bloody scene by Loco and his bounty hunters. As Loco remarks: “all according to the law”. Carbucci was forced to shoot an alternative ending for distribution in the North African and Asian markets.

Born Roger Pettito on October 16, 1937 in Clarksburg, West Virginia and changing his name to Tony Anthony is the second filmmaker/actor I wanted to write about. The first film I saw him in was 1966’s
“Un dollaro tra I denti (A Stranger in Town”) aka: “A Dollar Between the Teeth” aka: “For a Dollar in the Teeth: and would surprisingly become the first of five Westerns featuring “The Stranger” Metro-Golden Mayers answer to United Artists’ “The Man With No Name”.
Director Luigi Vanzi described Anthony’s character as: "a bad guy but you do good in spite of yourself. You're not Gary Cooper. You're not John Wayne. You're not the 'tall in the saddle' cowboy. You're the street guy. The audience can identify with you because you look like the guy that goes into movie theaters and says 'Well I could be like him'."
I remember there was something sarcastic and comedic with the character that caught me and I had to agree I thought Tony Anthony far better than Clint Eastwood. Also he was sneaky as hell, but unlike Eastwood “The Stranger” was vulnerable and maybe a little too trusting.
In the first film we meet Anthony wearing Union Cavalry clothing and he helps a gang led by Aguilar, the ever present Frank Wolff (Walter Frank Herman Wolff who worked for Roger Corman and ended up seemingly in every “Spaghetti Western” ever made), rob a large shipment of gold. Aguilar of course double crosses Anthony and he then goes after the gang.
I will always remember one scene in that first picture that sticks in my mind and also illustrates the character of the never named “Stranger”. One of Aguilar’s gang chases a young women into a barn in order to rape her. She’s teasingly waiting laying on her back on a large hay stack. The gang member approaches the young women starting to remove his pants. He next gets on top of the young women when between her legs out comes “The Strangers” sawed off shot gun and you see the look of surprise on the man’s face followed by the blast of the shotgun. The young girl laughingly gets up and Tony Anthony’s character sits up covered with hay. Classic scene.
In the fifth and final installment called “Blind Man” in 1971 there was a twist to “The Stranger”. This movie was based in part on the real life 1860’s era Texas blind man Luis Alcante. However, tried as I might I could not find anything about the real Alcante. The film has achieved Cult Status because playing the second lead is Ringo Starr. The movie was written by Anthony and directed by Ferdinando Baldi.
Tony Anthony’s character is escorting 50 mail order brides to some miners. His best friend assists a Mexican Bandit in stealing the women and the blind man goes after them. In some respects the film reminded me of the Japanese Samurai series about the blind swordsman “Zatoichi”.
In the 1980’s Anthony would do a couple of films in 3-D that unlike today’s “Real 3-D” where in “Real 3-D” with even snakes jumping out into your laps. One of the films was 1983’s “Treasure of the Four Crowns” that he also wrote. Anthony knew he was doing an Indiana Jones rip off and went all out with his knock off. Should you find the film it’s worth the ride as long as you’re not looking for “Citizen Kane”.

1972’s “Red Sun” claimed to be “THE FIRST EAST-MEETS WEST WESTERN”. The film was not and that honor really goes to Tony Anthony’s third film “Lo straniero di silenzio (The Silent Stranger”) aka: “A Stranger in Japan” aka: “The Horseman and the Samurai” from four years earlier in 1968.
The Website “Cult Action” describes the film:
“The third film in Tony Anthony's Stranger series is a great one. The Stranger journeys to Japan intent on returning an ancient scroll to its rightful owner and collect 20-grand for his troubles. Plenty of great action including some cool samurai sword fights. Filmed in 1968 and not released stateside until '77, this was technically the first East-meets-West Spaghetti Western.”
While 1972’s “Red Sun” on the other hand actually comes under the title of a “Eurowestern” which are Westerns, such as the German "Winnetou" series, that are co-productions of multiple countries. The first “Eurowestern” was actually released in December 1958 in the UK and in the United States in March of 1959. The film was a British/American co-production and the first Western to be filmed in Spain where the large majority of both “Euro” and “Spaghetti” Westerns would be afterwards. It also is of note that the standing sets for this film were used by Sergio Leone for “A Fistful of Dollars”.

The movie was
“The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw” aka: “La Bionda e Lo Sceriffo (The Blonde and the Sheriff”) directed by "One-Eyed" Raul Walsh and starring British actor Kenneth More and Jayne Mansfield. It is also the first British Western ever made. The stories about a British gunsmith who comes to America and ends up as the Sheriff of a small Western town through a series of comic misunderstandings.

Starring American born Charles Bronson, Swiss born Ursula Andress, French born Alan Delon and Japanese born Toshiro Mifune. “Red Sun” was truly an International Western directed by British born Terence Young and filmed in Spain. The film was based upon the true incident of a ceremonial katana sword a gift from Japan for President Ulysses S. Grant being stolen. One of the outlaws involved in the robbery is played by Bronson and he's double crossed by Delon. He finds himself having to track down his ex-partner with a Japanese Samurai played by Mifune. It is their developing relationship which is the heart of the story and the real East meets West story line.
Speaking of Toshiro Mifune and three of his classic Japanese performances. We know that Sergio Leone changed Akira Kurosawa’s classic “Yojimbo” into “A Fistful of Dollars”. John Sturges turned Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai” into “The Magnificent Seven” and even Roger Corman reworked the film into his “Battle Beyond the Stars”. Kurosawa’s classic “Rashomon” became the American Western directed by Martin Ritt “The Outrage” starring Paul Newman, but what about a Japanese American Western?
I give you this description from the Website “Screen Junkies” about a movie that I have actually seen.

"Sukiyaki Western Django" - Takashi Miike's strange film is indebted to both samurai films and spaghetti westerns. It takes place in an alternate universe wild west populated with Japanese clans, warring over hidden treasure. As in "Yojimbo" and "A Fistful of Dollars," the anti-hero at the center of the film offers his services to both sides, playing them against the middle and counting the rewards as the bodies pile up around him. Any fan of strange movies in general and Japanese western movies in particular will love "Sukiyaki Western Django."

Not to be done South Korea in 2008 gave us “The Good, the Bad and the Weird.” I’ll let Wikipedia describe this film which I have to admit I also have seen.
In the desert wilderness of 1930s Manchuria, The Bad (Lee Byung-hun)—a bandit and hitman—is hired to acquire a treasure map from a Japanese official traveling by train. Before he can get it however, The Weird (Song Kang-ho)—a thief—steals the map and is caught up in The Bad's derailment of the train. This involves the slaughter of the Japanese and Manchurian guards, and various civilians. The Good (Jung Woo-sung)—an eagle-eyed bounty hunter—appears on the scene to claim the bounty on The Bad. Meanwhile The Weird escapes, eluding his Good and Bad pursuers. A fourth force—a group of Manchurian bandits—also want the map to sell to the Ghost Market. The Weird hopes to uncover the map's secrets and recover what he believes is gold and riches buried by the Qing Dynasty just before the collapse of their government. As the story continues, an escalating battle for the map occurs, with bounties placed on heads and the Imperial Japanese Army racing to reclaim its map as it can apparently 'save the Japanese Empire'.
It is interesting how our American Western has influenced the world and those films I have mentioned here are just a small amount.

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