Revenge is a dish best served with hot lead.
Above is a poster for the French-Italian western Une corde un Colt..., which in Italy was titled Cimitero senza croci and in English was known as Cemetery without Crosses. It premiered in France in January 1969, then opened in Italy today the same year. This falls into the spaghetti western category, with a mostly Italian crew shooting in Spain with actors from France, Spain, and Italy. But before we get too deep into the movie, we want to note that there's a brilliant title song performed by Scott Walker. If you don't know this musical legend, we highly suggest you familiarize yourself with his work. He was a genius who specialized in downbeat pop music that had a cinematic scope. We have all his albums, and they're all great.
The movie is a revenge tale in which French hottie Michèle Mercier seeks to punish the scoundrels who double-crossed and hanged her man. She appeals to her hubby's pal Robert Hossein—also the director and co-writer of this epic—who refuses until it becomes clear Mercier will take on the difficult task herself if she must. So Hossien agrees, and opts for the direct route to revenge by signing on with the enemy, then double-crossing the clan leader by kidnapping his daughter. This turns out to have unexpected consequences, but then that's the thing about revenge—it rarely goes as smoothly as hoped. Just ask Dick Powell. As westerns go, this one has all the required elements—rickety old frontier town, unshaven steely-eyed villains, frilly saloon girls, and so forth. The genre also tends to feature repetitive visual gimmicks, and in this one Hossein always slips on a single black glove when he's about to ventilate someone. He's sort of a reverse Michael Jackson that way, except when he puts on the glove it's everyone else who starts to walk backwards. Ultimately, we suppose Cimitero senza croci asks whether it's better to move on from injustice, or risk one's figurative soul by seeking to personally balance the cosmic scales. It's not quite an Eastwood calibre western, but then again how could it be? For fans of the genre it'll go down like a smooth barroom whisky.
The one on the grassy knoll got away, so let's tell everyone the only assassin was this guy.
Above is a poster for the spaghetti western Il prezzo del potere, aka The Price of Power, which opened in Italy today in 1969 and deals with real life events—the assassination of U.S. president James Garfield, who was shot in July 1881 and died eleven weeks later. In real life Garfield was shot in a train station, but in the movie the shooting is set up exactly like JFK's killing, with the exception that Garfield takes a single bullet in the side of the neck. Interesting flick, with Norma Jordan in a bit role, though not one we can call good, precisely. But as a curiosity, you may find it worth your time. The promo poster was painted by Aller, aka Carlo Alessandrini. As we mentioned last month, someone wrote a book that finally identified the guy and we're happy to funnel that info into the online universe. Now that we know more about Alessandrini we plan to post more of his work, and today is yet another great example.
Famed movie cemetery rises from the dead.
Spaghetti westerns earned their name because they generally premiered in Italy and the studios that financed them were usually Italian, but the films were often predominantly shot in Spain. The climax of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, with its unforgettable three-way gunfight between Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef, was shot outside the town of Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain, in the province of Burgos, in a unique circular cemetery put together by set builders. In the script it was called the Sad Hill Cemetery. After the shoot Sad Hill was abandoned, and soon nature began to overtake the set.
That would have been the end of the story, but a group of film fans calling themselves the Sad Hill Cultural Association decided Sad Hill was a historic film treasure deserving of resurrection, and pledged to rescue it from oblivion. Toiling in their spare time, they labored with pick, hoe, and shovel to clear the site. They needed money to accomplish the work, so they set up a crowdfunding campaign with a unique enticement—those who contributed would have their names inscribed on the restored grave markers. The restoration efforts are finally complete, and the famous graveyard has been returned to its former state.
Spanish filmmaker Guillermo de Oliveira shot a documentary about the salvation efforts, and hopes to release a film titled Sad Hill Unearthed. He's now trying to raise money to pay for the rights to clips and music from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, with the plan to premiere thefinished product at film festivals and share the restorer's unique dedication with the world. Meanwhile Sad Hill will become not only a tourist attraction for people passing through the province of Burgos, but a destination for those who contributed to its renewal. As Oliveira commented, “It’s the only cemetery in the world where you can visit your own grave.”
Been through the desert on a horse with no name.
It isn't the horse that has no name in the spaghetti western Ciakmull—L'uomo della vendetta, but the man. Probably that's true in the song too, though we've never given it serious thought. In any case, above you see a beautiful Rodolfo Gasparri promotional poster for the movie, which premiered in Italy today in 1970. The title means “Ciakmull—Man of Revenge,” but it was changed to The Unholy Four for the movie's English language release.
And what's unholy about the four characters referenced by the title? They're all lunatics to one degree or another, freed from a mental asylum when it was burned down by robbers as a diversion during a gold heist. The four nutjobs band together and what follows is formless Cormac McCarthyesque wandering until Ciakmull, who's amnesiac hence nameless, collides with his former life.
He learns he's actually Chuck Mool, a real bad hombre, and he has some scores to settle. You're thinking, Mool? Like from the Reno Mools? The Abilene Mools? What the hell kind of last name is that? Well, it isn't his last name. But he has one of those, and when it's revealed everything finally becomes clear. Or at least it's clear only if he's been told the truth. But what if somebody has lied to him about his identity? Well then all bets are off.
On the whole Ciakmull—L'uomo della vendetta is a pretty good spaghetti western, but maybe not a good movie. That's okay, though. Spaghetti westerns aren't supposed to be good. If they were, they'd have called them strangozzi al tartufo nero westerns. The movie slots into the genre perfectly—which is to say it's filled with gunplay, dust, horses, hard sun, five o'clock shadows, and lots of steely eyed glares. Give it a watch with cheesiness foremost in your mind and you may like it.
Does anyone here know my name? I'm hoping it's something insanely cool, like Beardy McMustache.
Ciakmull? That's horrendous. My hair is way too good for me to have a name like that.
I ain't fuckin' around here, buddy. Stop calling me that.
Wait. What? You're my sister? Holy shitballs, girl—you fine!
I know you haven't touched a woman in years, so I'm just gonna rub up on you a little. There. Isn't that nice?
This amnesia thing has its advantages, because I feel totally fine about what's happening in my Wranglers right now.
Did you see that? That was not a brother-sister type greeting. You saw that, right?
Yeah, we all saw it. Hey, Ciakmull? Buddy? Those chaps ain't doing a good job hiding that pup tent you got going.
In the land of the blind the painter is king.
Above, two more posters for the spaghetti western Blindman, starring Tony Anthony and Ringo Starr. We talked about the movie last month on the day of its 1972 Japanese premiere. Its Italian premiere was a year earlier, today in 1971. These two great pieces were painted by Rodolfo Gasparri, yet another top notch Italian poster artist, whose work you've seen before on his nice promo for Klute. We'll have more from him later.
Justice is blind, but it can still shoot straight.
This nice poster was made for the 1971 spaghetti western Blindman, a forgotten classic in an inherently cheesy genre. Tony Anthony plays a nameless blind gunman out to rescue fifty European women promised as brides to a group of miners in Lost Creek, Texas, but who were instead kidnapped to Mexico by a gang of bandits. Anthony channels Clint Eastwood, but we don’t mind because he does determined menace passably well, helped in his portrayal by a pair of creepy blind guy contact lenses from the prop department. How he can successfully aim at his quarries in order to aerate them is never addressed, but really, why bother to question it? It’s all good fun, especially because one of the main villians is Ringo Starr, and some of the fifty brides include Agneta Eckemyr, Krista Nell, Janine Reynaud, and Solvi Stubing, who’s certainly worth killing for. Shootouts, fistfights, explosions, and a double-cross or two equal spaghetti western gold. Blindman premiered in Japan today in 1971.
Who needs a name when none of your enemies survive to remember it anyway?
There are precious few movies that truly age well, and far fewer series. But like the Clint Eastwood spaghetti western series colloquially known as the Man with No Name Trilogy, these Japanese posters have stood the test of time. From top to bottom they are for A Fistful of Dollars, aka Koya no yojimbo, For a Few Dollars More, aka Yuuhi no ganman, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, aka Zoku yuuhi no ganman. There are some who say Eastwood’s character actually has a name in these films, but we beg to differ. In the first he’s referred to once as Joe, which is a name, yes, but more likely is a tag, like calling him “hotshot,” or “buddy.” In the second he’s referred to as Manco, which colloquially means “one armed” in Spanish. And in the third film he’s referred to as Blondie. But whatever his real name was, probably everyone thought of him the same way—as trouble.
It isn’t an easy thing to forgive, and it’s even harder to forget.
When we saw this great poster for Chiedi perdono a Dio... non a me, aka May God Forgive You… But I Won’t, we just had to check out the film. As you might guess, it’s a spaghetti western. It features an all-Italian cast led by George Ardisson playing a character with the unlikely name Cjamango MacDonald. Cjamango and the rest of the MacDonald family reside on a ranch, but they don’t own it. They’re sort of leasing to buy from the evil Smart family and they’re behind on the payments. Eventually the Smarts and a few henchmen raid the MacDonald homestead, shooting everyone dead except Cjamango, who isn’t there at the time. That of course means he’s around to seek bloody revenge, which he does with much mayhem and cruelty. During the course of the rampage Ardisson at first seems to be as expressionless in his role as a Madame Tussaud’s wax mask, but soon we learn to read him and, beneath the gilstening sheen of 40-weight motor oil that coats his face, we begin to recognize such varied emotions as anger:
Possible sexual panic:
Deep existential confusion:
Doubt, but a little less vague this time since someone is shooting at him. Also some possible disappointment and hurt mixed in there:
Just trying to keep a straight face really:
Pleasure at how cool he looks in a hat:
Utter denial over the loss of his hat:
Acceptance that his hat is gone and just isn't coming back:
After seventy minutes or so of Ardisson's emotional rollercoaster we barely had enough breath remaining in our bodies for a climax, but hearts be still, we got it in the form of a machine gun massacre designed to decimate the Smart clan and their hired goons. When the smoke clears, Cjamango then demonstrates the basic principles of non-forgiveness to the most evil Smart of all in a grunting, dirt-throwing, whatever-weapons-happen-to-be-handy mano a mano. Did we mention the guy’s name is Dick Smart? So really, there’s another reason to watch the movie right there—assuming Ardisson’s acting clinic isn’t enticement enough. Final note: in case you’re wondering about the title of the movie, it comes from a snippet of dialogue, although the line as delivered actually goes, “God may forgive you… not me.” We echo that sentiment to Ardisson and director Vincenzo Musolino regarding the making of this film.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1905—Las Vegas Is Founded
Las Vegas, Nevada is founded when 110 acres of barren desert land in what had once been part of Mexico are auctioned off to various buyers. The area sold is located in what later would become the downtown section of the city. From these humble beginnings Vegas becomes the most populous city in Nevada, an internationally renowned resort for gambling, shopping, fine dining and sporting events, as well as a symbol of American excess. Today Las Vegas remains one of the fastest growing municipalities in the United States.
1928—Mickey Mouse Premieres
The animated character Mickey Mouse, along with the female mouse Minnie, premiere in the cartoon Plane Crazy, a short co-directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. This first cartoon was poorly received, however Mickey would eventually go on to become a smash success, as well as the most recognized symbol of the Disney empire.
1939—Five-Year Old Girl Gives Birth
In Peru, five-year old Lina Medina becomes the world's youngest confirmed mother at the age of five when she gives birth to a boy via a caesarean section necessitated by her small pelvis. Six weeks earlier, Medina had been brought to the hospital because her parents were concerned about her increasing abdominal size. Doctors originally thought she had a tumor, but soon determined she was in her seventh month of pregnancy. Her son is born underweight but healthy, however the identity of the father and the circumstances of Medina's impregnation never become public.
1987—Rita Hayworth Dies
American film actress and dancer Margarita Carmen Cansino, aka Rita Hayworth, who became her era's greatest sex symbol and appeared in sixty-one films, including the iconic Gilda
, dies of Alzheimer's disease in her Manhattan apartment. Naturally shy, Hayworth was the antithesis of the characters she played. She married five times, but none lasted. In the end, she lived alone, cared for by her daughter who lived next door.
1960—Gary Cooper Dies
American film actor Gary Cooper, who harnessed an understated, often stoic style in numerous adventure films and westerns, including Sergeant York, For Whom the Bell Tolls, High Noon, and Alias Jesse James, dies of prostate, intestinal, lung and bone cancer. For his contributions to American cinema Cooper received a plaque on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is considered one of top movie stars of all time.
1981—The Pope Is Shot
In Rome, Italy, in St. Peter's Square, Pope John Paul II is shot four times by would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Agca. The Pope is rushed to the Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic to undergo emergency surgery and survives. Agca serves nineteen years in an Italian prison, after which he is deported to his homeland of Turkey, and serves another sentence for the 1979 murder of journalist Abdi Ipekçi. Agca is eventually paroled on January 18, 2010.
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