There’s no question that America is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world when it comes to cinema.
Sure, there are other great movies made throughout the world over the last hundred-plus years of filmmaking but it’s sporadic and random. Genius can come from anywhere.
One of those times was the revolution of Spaghetti Westerns that came out of Europe during the end of the Golden Age era in Hollywood and there are some incredibly understated ones.
Spaghetti Westerns are defined as subgenre of American Westerns that emerged in the 1960s that were largely made by Italian filmmakers. Get it? Spaghetti.
Between 1960 and 1978, over six hundred European Westerns were made and the most notable of them was the “Dollars Trilogy” or “For a Few Dollars More,” “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and “Once Upon a Time in the West” – all of which were directed by Sergio Leone.
Those three are amongst the greatest of the subgenre ever made so for the purpose of this article, they were left out.
Here are three of the most understated Spaghetti Westerns ever made.
The Great Silence
In Quentin Tarantino’s ninth feature film “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood,” at the end of the second act Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) asks washed up television actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) how would he like to star in a Spaghetti Western called “Nebraska Jim” directed by Sergio Corbucci. Dalton responds “Sergio who? Nebraska what?” Schwarz says “he’s the second-best director of Spaghetti Westerns.”
“The Great Silence” was directed by the real-life Sergio Corbucci, who is affectionately referred to as the “other Sergio.” And it’s a fantastic film featuring a wintery setting and a gloomy score. Starring Klaus Kinski as the villain and Jean-Louis Trintignant as the anti-hero. It tells the story of a mute gunfighter (Trintignant) who defends a young widow from a group of outlaws and a gang of bounty hunters in the Utah mountains in the winter of 1898.
No, not Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” with Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Christoph Waltz – although, this film was absolutely the inspiration for it. Clearly, Tarantino has an unhealthy obsession paying homage to Spaghetti Westerns.
1966’s “Django” is also directed and written by Sergio Corbucci and is about a drifter gunslinger dragging a coffin with him everywhere he goes – who ends up protecting a mixed-race prostitute from a Klan of racists and a band of Mexican Revolutionaries in the year 1866.
Franco Nero’s portrayal of Django is a classic thanks to his astounding performance.
The Big Gundown
You’re going to laugh at this but Sergio Sollima directed “The Big Gundown.” You read that right. He is commonly referred to as the “third Sergio,” which also means the best Spaghetti Westerns’ directors of all time are all named Sergio. It must be a name as common in Italy as John or Chris.
“The Big Gundown” stars Lee Van Cleef who is mostly famous for playing Angel Eyes in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and Col. Douglas Mortimer in “For a Few Dollars More.”
Jonathan Corbett is a gunman so brave to have eliminated all the bandits of Texas. For this, he is proposed for the candidacy to the Senate of the United States. In exchange he has only to support the construction of one railway line. Only after he accepts does he come to know that the Mexican Cuchillo has raped and killed a 12-year-old girl. Corbett goes on a long manhunt during which he gets to know his adversary better and discovers a variation on the crime for which the accused Cuchillo may not be as guilty as he first thought.
Sergio Leone is absolutely the best of the three Sergios, but the other Sergios are dang good too.