Archive for Sergio Leone

The Sunday Intertitle: Bloomer Wants to Kill Himself

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2022 by dcairns

Firstly — I’ve been remiss in not announcing that The Chiseler is back, at a new address, here. Add it to your bookmarks. Scroll down and you’ll find my piece on Segundo de Chomon.

Raymond François Émile Marie Pierre Frau AKA Raymond Dandy AKA AKA Kri Kri AKA Patachon AKA Bloomer — remarkable how many names these minor European silent clowns have — one for each territory, sometimes more — thwarted in love, wishes to make away with himself. Being a good citizen, he informs the police.

Originally from Senegal, Frau made his name(s) in Italy, a nation thronging with tumblers in the teens.

Luckily for us, this is not only a suicide comedy, it’s a behind-the-scenes movie, offering us yet another glimpse of the film industry in its baby-steps phase. “Bloomer is expected to work in the theatre. Potbelly goes to meet him.”

In reality, suicide has caused considerable trouble for filmmakers, particularly, it seems, in Italy, and the filmmakers have not always responded with sympathy. The first instinct is to worry about how to finish the movie. When gaunt-featured Canadian character player Al Muloch, one of the three hitmen at the start of THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY *and* ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, fatally defenestrated himself on location for the latter movie, Sergio Leone was heard yelling “Get his costume!” as the mortally injured actor was ambulanced away, still in his movie gear. On CITY OF WOMEN, Fellini’s slightly baffled response to feminism, former peplum idol Ettore Manni, playing the hypermacho Dr. Xavier Katzone, shot himself in the groin with his .44 Magnum one evening and bled to death. “At least it proves the film works,” mused Fellini, and rewrote the film’s ending to exclude his deceased thesp. Admittedly, we don’t know that Manni’s death was intentional. Maybe the gun went off while he was cleaning it. With his dick.

Bloomer/Patachon/Dandy/etc is discovered apparently dead from poisoning (this is hilarious so far) but then there’s some “he’s behind you!” panto poignancy as he filches a swig of booze while his friend Potbelly is setting up a long candle. The film looks set to play out mostly as a single set-up. Then he starts pranking his friend, which is oddly antic behaviour for a man bent on self-destruction.

It seems this is all a ploy to get revenge on Bloomer/Dandy/etc’s prospective father-in-law who’s refusing his daughter’s hand. Potbelly is persuaded to take the place of the corpse, though how this can be expected to convince given his physical mountainousness is anybody’s guess. Such are the ways of farce. “Bloomer is unrecognizable,” remarks a hopeful intertitle, as our man dons false pornstache and eyebrows. This development seems to be the only reason for the movie-making subplot. Frau/Dandy’s mastery of disguise must be alibied, or the whole thing will be unbelievable. We can’t have that.

GOOD ACTING from the boss of the Keystone Karabinieri and the unyielding Mr Pepper: their gestures are expressively Italianate without lapsing into the purely rhetorical or explanatory. At this time, Mack Sennett’s comics were still trying to illustrate the plot to the audience using hand-gestures and exaggerated lip movements. This favourable impression is slightly marred when Patachon/Dandy’s sweetheart throws a full-on fit of hysterics, but that seems to be what the plot requires. So far, our hero’s scheme is causing widespread distress and alarm. It must be working.

Looking somewhat like Fawlty Towers’ Manuel, Dandy/Bloomer arrives at the grieving household, personating his own (presumably non-existent) brother, and threatens to murder Mr Pepper. But, being a good sport, he’ll settle for twenty thousand lire/gilders/bucks — exactly the sum Pepper told him he needed to marry his daughter (do pay attention). There seem to be a number of crimes involved here — threats of violence, extortion, armed robbery, fraud — so it’s a good job the police are already involved.

However, under Italian comedy law, Mr. Pepper is now compelled to allow the marriage to go forth, as Kri Kri/Dandy/Frau/Patachon/Bloomer/Lazarus celebrates his resurrection by kissing his sweetheart and leaping into the arms of his mother-in-law-to-be with Harpo-ish enthusiasm.

Sagebrushamon

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2021 by dcairns

Retrospectively THE OUTRAGE, Martin Ritt’s western version of RASHOMON, is so nakedly a bad idea it’s hard to imagine intelligent adults not seeing it, but they didn’t have the benefit of hindsight until after they’d made it, when it was too late, and anyway, it’s kind of amazing as an example of what John Waters might call a failed art movie. The amazingness is mostly to do with James Wong Howe but the film didn’t direct itself.

Claire Bloom as “the wife” throws herself off a cliff and her underwater experience looks like this —

–and furthermore the soundtrack is a whistling wind with a trace of coyote howl. Absolutely mad, and even more extreme than anything in Kurosawa’s original, which is already a stylistic tour de force with only a few equals in all of cinema.

There’s something weirdly academic about it all, maybe because I know the original so well, so there’s a “Well, here’s this bit,” feeling about it all. Much of it is even more shot-for-shot faithful than Leone’s take on Kurosawa, even with extreme widescreen and a lot of really interesting shallow focus stuff added to the mix. The story gimmick is so dominant that I began to suspect that Kurosawa was walking a precipice with a rather dry film threatening to result if he lost his footing. But he had Mifune.

Ritt has Newman, wearing a William Tuttle nose and trying very hard to be a Mexican bandit. Mifune was theatrical as hell but he did it all physically, there was no disguise. It’s interesting to see Newman attempt this, but it’s bad for the movie and the obvious answer — hire a Mexican — is in this case the correct one. Hell, Martin Ritt had friends who weren’t Mexican but wouldn’t have been embarrassing — Yul Brynner, Anthony Quinn… It’s not meant to be a racist caricature but how would you feel watching it with a Mexican?

Still, it is an unreasonably gorgeous-looking thing. Was William Shatner’s mother startled by Laurence Olivier or something? What’s with his strange faltering, rising pitch delivery? His Captain Kirk did all that without making me think he was about to burst into song, but here…

Edward G. Robinson has all the best lines. Shatner has the best closeups.

THE OUTRAGE stars Fast Eddie Felson; Raymond Shaw; The Lady Anne; Dr. Clitterhouse; James Tiberius Kirk; Chickamaw; Smerdjakov; and Teeler Yacey.

Sabata resubmitted

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2020 by dcairns

If you wanna get money / And if you wanna be rich / If you want a good life / You’ve gotta be a son of a – / Bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom / Bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom…

The inanity of the title song of RETURN OF SABATA is hard to beat, and if you happen to be looking for a non-Leone comedy western with Lee Van Cleef, so is RETURN OF SABATA. It might even have the edge on the original. It is not an important film, I stress. But it’s rather jolly. Even Van Cleef seems determined to show he’s not just a cold-eyed stone-face.

Sabata! / Sabata! / The fastest gun in the west! / I said the fastest gun in the west! / Nine-fingered man! / Four-barrelled Derringer! / Sabata is the only invincible man in the countryside…

Yes, you see, Van Cleef was missing the tip of his right index finger, something Leone was very enthusiastic about. In this film, the finger is mentioned and has a backstory (something about Sabata chewing it off to get out of the Southern army). And at the end he shoots a semi-bad guy in the finger, so it’s a motif. And the trick Derringer with extra barrels hidden in the handle (impossible to aim, one would have thought, but Sabata can use it with amazing skill) is a Bondian gadget established in the first film and reintroduced in the opening scene here, a bloody shoot-out that turns out to be part of a traveling wild west show. So Sabata invented the blood capsule, if anyone asks you.

Later, he produces a miniature squeeze-gun, cupped in the hand and fired by clenching the fingers — and this turns out to have been a real weapon, though very uncommon.

Ignazio Spalla, AKA “Pedro Sanchez” returns too, but as a different character, just to keep things confusing.

(Say, we know that Van Cleef and Gian Maria Volonte are playing different characters in their two entries in the DOLLAR trilogy, but can we be sure Clint Eastwood is playing the same guy in all three? Sure, he has the poncho and cheroot in all three (though he only dons it neat the end of TGTBATU, but he has different names.)

Reiner Schöne is really entertaining, although he’s more of an out-and-out swine than the loveable scamp the movie seems to imagine him as. Similarly, both films in the series seem less sympathetic to the female characters then is warranted…

Both Sabata films are fairly boys-only, sexist affairs, with women as decorative murderees — they look forward to the gialli, in a way, with little moments of murder mystery amid the massacring, and director Gianfranco Parolini’s “circus western” atmosphere introduces some visual elements that would have fitted right in with later genre developments. Sabata acquires a kind of girlfriend, though he was sexless in the first film like a lot of spaghetti western heroes — “only interested in killing,” suggested Alex Cox, though money serves as a convenient universally-understood MacGuffin.

The weirdly asexual he-man mythos connects pretty directly to the peplum, where desire is expressed mainly through flexing and fighting — and Parolini was a veteran of that genre. It also goes back to Leone (FOR A FEW DOLLARS is an extended flirtation between two gunfighters), another graduate of the sword-and-sandal school, and I guess you can find some of its origins in YOJIMBO and SANJURO.

Van Cleef is by now more used to the idea of doing comedy, and his facial expressions get surprisingly varied. I didn’t want to see him camp it up TOO much — playing it straight is often a good policy in this kind of thing — but he manages to avoid embarrassing himself.