Monday, May 14, 2007

Italian Cinema

Over the weekend I watched 'A Fistful of Dollars' (1964) and 'For a Few Dollars More' (1965). Of course, they were two of the famous "Spaghetti Westerns," or the Italian made movies depicting the "Western" genre of American film. Probably the most famous of this sub-genre was 'The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly' (1966). Quite a number of these films were produced during that time period.

All three stared Clint Eastwood among others. They were filmed in Andalucia, Spain, which has similar terrain to the American southwest, and similar architecture to Mexico. The story lines and characters were basically simple, but refreshingly unpredictable. There was a surprising amount of good humor cleverly mixed in. Also, the music! Can't forget that mood setting music.

It's funny, but the Italians seemed to view Americans and Mexicans as basically Spaniards and Anglo-Saxons, which isn't the full truth, but that made little difference in terms of the quality of the movies. The "Mexicans" were portrayed by mostly Spanish and some Italian actors, and the "Americans" by American, Austrian, and Italian actors.

Recently, I also watched the Italian movies 'Crime Boss' (1972), 'L' Avventura' (1960), and 'Bay of Blood' (1971). 'Crime Boss' was a gangster genre movie staring Telly Savalas, probably copied after the American genre, but probably not copied from 'The Godfather,' which was released the same year. I didn't think that I would even like this movie, but I loved it! 'The Valchi Papers' was another Italian gangster movie released that same year. 'L' Avventura' was a movie that I found very enjoyable in it's simplicity, and was a romantic movie which featured a lot of "tough love!" lol 'Bay of Blood' was a horror movie that I was really enjoying, but I didn't get to finish it due to being "bugged." You know how that goes. It seems every Italian movie has at least one real Italian beauty.

The horror genre has always been popular in Italian cinema. When I say popular, I mean in the English speaking world as well. Anna Falchi has been perhaps the most famous Italian "scream queen." While I'm on the subject of horror films, I remember when I was a young child, watching all those English "Hammer films." They were really good. I remember I was about six or seven and I stayed up late one weekend to watch "Creature Features," a local weekly horror program. The movie was 'Twins of Evil' (1971), another Hammer film. I guess they forgot to cut out a nude scene. Well that was a totally different time in America, I had never even seen a nude female before, or even thought about one! So needless to say, I was shocked. I thought I was in big big trouble! lol I kept quiet and managed to avoid becoming the next victim of my mom's "wooden spoon."

Anyway, all of these films were well made and had a certain quality to them that I simply cannot explain in words. 'Il Postino' was okay, but I really like the older Italian movies. Most of them were produced in Rome, and also Torino. Many of the well known Italian actors seem to have been from the Rome area. I'm too lazy to look up the names, but the directors in all of these movies were well known in their genre, and the actors appeared in many films.

We are going to have to eventually just simply purchase several hundred of these films and allow them to be checked out. It's amazing the resources online about many genres. The Internet Movie Database is probably the best place to start, and also Wikipedia is superb as well. There's one "Spaghetti Western" site that has it all! Wikipedia has that link under that genre, and many others.