Archive for One-Eyed Jacks

Cox’s Orange Pippins: A Fistful of Nails

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2022 by dcairns

There are a surprising number of crucifixions in spaghetti westerns: here are some of them.

I wanted to start with teenage Jesus Jeffrey Hunter because his Calvary was in Spain, like so many of the crucified cowpokes and such pictured here, but Hunter doesn’t say the line I needed him to say, so I resorted to Max Von Sydow for the second bit. Max’s Golgotha is a Hollywood sound stage, but his Holy Land generally was Utah, an acceptable western landscape.

Alex Cox, in his study 10,000 Ways to Die, traces the injury to the hand motif, first scene in the Italian west in DJANGO, to THE MAN FROM LARAMIE and ONE-EYED JACKS, which seems bang-on. OEJ is probably the more direct influence, and as Cox points out, it also introduces the dilatory, Hamlet-like hero who hangs about for unclear reasons until his opponents can get him. Which is one of the few things the hero of JOHNNY HAMLET shares with his Shakespearean namesake.

This observation is one of my favourite bits of Cox criticism. Brando’s revisionist western, coloured by his streak of sadomasochism, seems like an ur-text for the Italian west, with its amoral hero and generalized corruption, almost as much as YOJIMBO.

But the crushed or perforated gun-hand also calls to mind the biblical cross, perhaps the one big ur-text of Italian cinema. (Cox also points out that Terence Stamp in TOBY DAMMIT is in Rome to star in “the first catholic western”; and that his payment, a Cadillac Ferrari, is also what Pasolini got for appearing in Lizzani’s western REQUIESCANT: he doesn’t draw the obvious inference that TD is in part a swipe at Pasolini, a former script collaborator of Fellini’s. Fellini we know often resented members of his team when they went to work elsewhere. But Toby is also based on Edgar Poe himself, and on Broderick Crawford, alcoholic movie star who came to Rome for Fellini’s IL BIDONE.)

The Italian gothic cinema, surprisingly, isn’t so crucifixion-heavy, and nor is the peplum, despite the obvious possibilities (but there’s plenty of sadism with the attendant homoerotic element); for all its violence, the giallo doesn’t evoke Christ overmuch; why not? You have to go to the spate of seventies EXORCIST knock-offs to find such an orgy of crosswork.

Happy Actorday!

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on April 4, 2018 by dcairns


It’s Brando’s birthday! In celebration, Criterion are boosting an extract from my ONE-EYED JACKS video essay here.

Meanwhile, Daniel Riccuito, over at The Notebook, sings the praises of a MUCH more significant thespian — Dead End Kid Frankie Darro. I have contributed a few words, and as usual, readers are invited to see if they can separate my wheat from Danny’s other wheat.

Vista Visions

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on December 29, 2016 by dcairns


You can read more about Criterion’s ONE-EYED JACKS here.

And Criterion have uploaded a clip from my video essay —

ONE-EYED JACKS – An Excerpt from Video Essay “I Ain’t Hung Yet” from Criterion Collection on Vimeo.

Next up, more pieces for Criterion’s online outlets, The Current and Filmstruck. If you’re a Filmstruck patron you should already be able to access a piece Stephen Horne and I made about the late, great Pierre Etaix. More on him soon!