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Classic Westerns vs. Spaghetti Westerns [TALKING IMAGES]

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St. Gloede
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Classic Westerns vs. Spaghetti Westerns [TALKING IMAGES]

#1

Post by St. Gloede » September 13th, 2020, 9:16 am

Warning: In this episode I will compare Shane to Funny Games ...

Hi all,

In this episode Blocho, Filmbantha and I pull out our guns and join one of the Internets (and pre-Internets) longest standing shoot-outs - the battle between classic westerns and spaghetti westerns.

Which side are you on?

You may also end up reaching for your guns and aiming them at us actually ...

Why?

Because we have picked two films to compare and contrast and neither are by John Ford or Sergio Leone.

We will center today's episode on the most common western tropes of all: the stranger!

Our focus will be on Shane and The Great Silence, two films that would seem made for a perfect double feature.

We will compare these two films, not just to each other, but to the rest of classic of spaghetti westerns - and explore their relationships, their differences and similarities.

Worried about spoilers? Don't worry, each film has their own spoiler section you can easily skip. (There will also be a spoiler for Django in the Spoiler section for The Great Silence).

So, let's get this started!

You can listen here:

Intro: 00:00
Spaghetti Westerns vs. Classic Westerns: 01:53
Shane: 10:45
The Great Silence: 37:00
Outro: 1:07:36

Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/3GhRXnb6OzOnfae2Uvkvus
Sounder - https://talking-images.sounder.fm/episo ... i-westerns

Oh, and for your listeners:

Which do you prefer, classic westerns or spaghetti westerns? (and why)

Also, bonus question, what are your favourite spaghetti westerns not made by any of the 3 Sergios?

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#2

Post by St. Gloede » September 13th, 2020, 9:17 am

Oh, and if you really want to start firing hot takes:

Are classic westerns mostly old fashioned, idolized versions of the west?

vs.

Are spaghetti westerns usually little more than mindless violent b-movies?

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#3

Post by Onderhond » September 13th, 2020, 9:51 am

My hot take is that westerns suck. Both classic ones as well as spaghetti ones :whistling:
It's the one genre that never appealed to me.

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#4

Post by Lonewolf2003 » September 13th, 2020, 11:40 am

Onderhond wrote:
September 13th, 2020, 9:51 am
My hot take is that westerns suck. Both classic ones as well as spaghetti ones :whistling:
It's the one genre that never appealed to me.
This kind of surprises me always, since it has many similarities to other genre you do like.

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#5

Post by Lonewolf2003 » September 13th, 2020, 11:44 am

My answer to the bonus question;
Giancarlo Santi‘s The Grand Duel and Tonino Valerii‘s Day of Anger

I like spaghetti Western slightly more than classic westerns, but fan of both.

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#6

Post by mightysparks » September 13th, 2020, 12:03 pm

I like around 10-20 westerns but mostly agree with Onderhond. Just find them dull and repetitive for the most part. Classic ones are mostly bad, but the occasional spaghetti is ok.
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#7

Post by St. Gloede » September 13th, 2020, 2:52 pm

Lonewolf2003 wrote:
September 13th, 2020, 11:44 am
My answer to the bonus question;
Giancarlo Santi‘s The Grand Duel and Tonino Valerii‘s Day of Anger

I like spaghetti Western slightly more than classic westerns, but fan of both.
Interesting. Don't remember either well, but have a 4/10 on the former and 8/10 for the latter - perhaps I just wasn't in the mood that first day.

My favourite Western not be the 3 Sergio is difinitely A Bullet for the General, also starring Kinski - and with the incredible Gian Maria Volonte. It looks great, and is completely badass. Remember loving the intense cinematography where you can really feel the heat.

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#8

Post by Onderhond » September 13th, 2020, 8:23 pm

Lonewolf2003 wrote:
September 13th, 2020, 11:40 am
This kind of surprises me always, since it has many similarities to other genre you do like.
Maybe certain individual elements, but certainly not the combination.

Westerns tend to be very serious. Also quite slow, not very dynamic. Most of them do pay attention to atmosphere, but I dislike the settings and I'm not really impressed by the soundtracks either. I don't really see how that corresponds to genres I like :)

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#9

Post by St. Gloede » September 13th, 2020, 8:34 pm

I think it is the style and atmosphere heavy elements. Westerns (like noirs) were often the playground for filmmakers wanting to get creative, as they kept greenlighting them - leading to a lot of unusual shots, and more playing around with the medium than elsewhere in Hollywood - similarly, with Spaghetti westerns, they were often so cheap that people could do whatever they wanted. I'm not a massive fan of Johnny Hamlet, but I do respect it for playing around with upside down shots. I think westerns really are a fundamentally visual, often often style first, genre - in part due to the landscapes being prone to contrasts and dramatic shots in themselves, in part because of the tropes they catered to, and in part because of the freedom.

It is also something just very basic and cinematic of just needing a person (not necessarily a girl) and a gun.

But obviously, if you don't like the setting itself - which is what fuels the visuals and atmosphere - they are a bit out of luck - and yes, if you want more non-stop action, westerns are also not the best fit - as they tend to build tension instead (so bloody easy and natural for the genre).

(Also, Ennio Morricone weeps)

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#10

Post by St. Gloede » September 13th, 2020, 8:37 pm

In terms of films being dynamic, I would strongly disagree - at least in the cases of Shane and The Great Silence (the focus of the podcast) these are films you can read so much into and talk about for a long, long time, simply because they have so much within them (and I'm not even a massive Shane fan). I can understand that a lot of westerns may simply be cool, atmospheric but with not that much under the hood - but there are plenty of films you can pick apart for a long, long time.

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#11

Post by Onderhond » September 15th, 2020, 10:17 am

St. Gloede wrote:
September 13th, 2020, 8:34 pm
I think it is the style and atmosphere heavy elements. Westerns (like noirs) were often the playground for filmmakers wanting to get creative, as they kept greenlighting them - leading to a lot of unusual shots, and more playing around with the medium than elsewhere in Hollywood - similarly, with Spaghetti westerns, they were often so cheap that people could do whatever they wanted. I'm not a massive fan of Johnny Hamlet, but I do respect it for playing around with upside down shots. I think westerns really are a fundamentally visual, often often style first, genre - in part due to the landscapes being prone to contrasts and dramatic shots in themselves, in part because of the tropes they catered to, and in part because of the freedom.
Well yeah, this goes for most genre films of course. Because the basics are often already there and most projects are considered "shelf filler", directors get more creative freedom. The same goes for horror cinema (or even pinku films). You have to really love a genre though to notice all the (often subtle) differences and tweaks a director makes to subvert the standard clichés.

St. Gloede wrote:
September 13th, 2020, 8:37 pm
In terms of films being dynamic, I would strongly disagree - at least in the cases of Shane and The Great Silence (the focus of the podcast) these are films you can read so much into and talk about for a long, long time, simply because they have so much within them (and I'm not even a massive Shane fan). I can understand that a lot of westerns may simply be cool, atmospheric but with not that much under the hood - but there are plenty of films you can pick apart for a long, long time.
I think we're talking about different things here. I was mostly referring to the visceral elements of the genre. Cuts are very functional, the camera tends to be quite slow/static. I understand it's meant to build up the tension, but it's not like the outcome of most fights is a big surprise and when the atmosphere doesn't do its job, it's just very dull and sluggish. I also don't find basic gunfights very exciting.

As for picking films apart, I think it often says more about the fans than it says about a film. Find the right film and the right people and there will always be the potential for endless discussion, interpretation and conversation, no matter how basic a film is.

St. Gloede wrote:
September 13th, 2020, 8:34 pm
(Also, Ennio Morricone weeps)
Myeah, after sitting through some of his more famous scores I can't say I feel sorry for him :P

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#12

Post by Teproc » September 15th, 2020, 10:33 am

I enjoyed this one a lot, even though I'm not the biggest fan of Shane and I lke The Great Silence just fine, but its nihilism coupled with a bit hero worship wears on me a bit. Re your "hot takes" question, I'd say spaghetti westerns are sometimes worse than classic westerns in how they treat their heroes. They're more violent but they're still often glorified, which is why I love, love The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, because I feel Leone and Eastwood are very purposeful in how they portray the "Good" part of that, ie just as greedy and treacherous as everyone else, just a little bit more polished.

The Funny Games comparison was quite interesting, though the kid mostly made me think of Unforgiven, which also has that idea of the character obsessed with the legend of the West and the guy who's actually lived through it having to deal with that, though I would say Shane's treatment of that issue pales in comparison.

By the way, when I saw Shane I thought it was a revisionist Western, in part because of that "commentary on the legend of the West" element. Is it really a classic western?

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#13

Post by St. Gloede » September 15th, 2020, 12:30 pm

Really happy you enjoyed it! And while I do like The Great Silence more than you I am also in the "not the biggest fan of Shane" category, though I definitely ggained even more respect from it from the podcast.

I think what made the conversation so interesting, regardless of how you feel about them, is the relationship between them, and how they are both simutaneously similar and different to both each other and their respected periods (classic western vs. spaghetti western).

You are spot on that Shane exhibits so many proto-revisionist traits, and that is another reason why it is so interesting to talk about - and we touched upon it a few places in the episode too. Of course, it is a "classic era" western produced by a big studio, but while it questions the west and urges progress, Shane is still the great heroic figure and symbol of justice and the ethics are clear. There is more nuance, but the lines are not blurred.

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#14

Post by Ivan0716 » September 15th, 2020, 8:09 pm

I loved westerns when I first got into film, but It's been a while since I've seen a decent one. Most "classic" ones are corny, outdated and often cringe-worthy.

Spaghettis are too samey, I've seen over 100 of them and I'd struggle to tell you a single thing about 80% of them. They're rarely bad, just utterly unmemorable.

I don't think there are any westerns left that I want to see but still haven't, would welcome some recommendations to help me dive back in though. :cowbow:

https://letterboxd.com/ivan0716/list/sp ... ns-ranked/
https://letterboxd.com/ivan0716/list/am ... ns-ranked/

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#15

Post by St. Gloede » September 15th, 2020, 8:26 pm

Ivan0716 wrote:
September 15th, 2020, 8:09 pm
I loved westerns when I first got into film, but It's been a while since I've seen a decent one. Most "classic" ones are corny, outdated and often cringe-worthy.

Spaghettis are too samey, I've seen over 100 of them and I'd struggle to tell you a single thing about 80% of them. They're rarely bad, just utterly unmemorable.

I don't think there are any westerns left that I want to see but still haven't, would welcome some recommendations to help me dive back in though. :cowbow:

https://letterboxd.com/ivan0716/list/sp ... ns-ranked/
https://letterboxd.com/ivan0716/list/am ... ns-ranked/
I'm definitely in the same boat, and I think so many are - the fact that they are so easily cinematic, have such a high popularity/visibility make them instant etry points for a lot of young budding film buffs - but while I do disagree with the "corny" statement (very true for many though) I may agree with the second; though there are essentially 2-3 kinds - you have the bleak ultra-violent spaghetti - and then you have the semi-comedies (or full on comedies), there's obviously the middle ground, and the more exploitative ones - and some that try to be action films - but I can see why they would start to blend together.

You wouldn't happen to rate on IMDb? If you send me the code for your ratings - I think you can still exclude them so I see my top ratings - love the challenge. Only seen around 50-60 spaghetti, so won't be of that much help there, but would surprise if I couldn't find 1 great (or at least good) American western you haven't seen.

Btw, to just jump ship completely, did you see Klick's German western: Deadlock. It is pretty damn impressive.

I'll have a look at your lists now, and see if I can find something obvious missing.

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#16

Post by Ivan0716 » September 15th, 2020, 9:01 pm

I've stopped using imdb a few months back, but should have all my ratings for westerns on there: https://www.imdb.com/user/ur19366277/ratings

I haven't seen Deadlock, it's on my watchlist now. Non-American/Italian/Spanish western does sound like a very interesting area to explore, even though it can come across a bit dismissive at times when I see someone call a film "A [insert country name] western". :lol: The Greek Bullets Don't Come Back was one that I really liked.

I haven't seen The Wind Is Whistling Under Their Feet yet, but I'll probably get around to it very soon. The idea of a Hungarian western definitely intrigues me.

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#17

Post by St. Gloede » September 15th, 2020, 9:07 pm

Haha, ok, I definitely can't tell you anything about Spaghettis ... but for American Westerns you have some pretty nice blindspots. I suppose if you find them corny it is understandable, but I would definitely invite you to try some western noirs, like:

Blood on the Moon (1948, Robert Wise)
Pursued (1947, Raoul Walsh)

Some other great films not on your list:

They Died with Their Boots On (1941, Raoul Walsh) - Ok, you may find it corny but how did you miss it? (You most likely won't like it)
Stars in My Crown (1950, Jacques Tourneur) - Tourner's best film, and this one may just surprise you, including a priest as the lead character and bringing the KKK into the western setting - Touner also did other great, but smaller westerns like Witchita and Stranger on Horseback)
Viva Zapata! (1952, Elia Kazan) - Proper Kazan mastery + Brando + Mexican revolution pre-spaghetti westerns
The Big Sky (1952, Howard Hawks) - Honestly, almost a little expressionistic for Hawks, it feels very different from his other westerns
Bend of the River (1952, Anthony Mann) - Not as harsh as Naked Spur, not sure if that is a + or a -
Vera Cruz (1954, Robert Aldrich) - Cold proto-revisionism
The Big Country (1958, William Wyler) - Ok, this one you'll find corny
Warlock (1959, Edward Dmytryk ) - A pretty tough, tough and beautifully shot flick - Richard Widmark is great!
Ulzana's Raid (1972, Robert Aldrich) - A lot more mellow than Aldrich' earlier westerns
Bad Company (1972, Robert Benton) - A fun, slightly off-beat and still oddly melancholic film starring Jeff Bridges
Buffalo Bill and the Indians or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976, Robert Altman) - Proper off-beat Altman treatment
Tombstone (1993, George P. Cosmatos, Kevin Jarre) - Just surprised you haven't caught this one - not sure how you'd feel, but used to be held up as the last great western before the mini-revival

There's also a lot of cool smaller films from the 50s, like André de Toth's Springfield Rifle and Riding Shotgun, or Joseph H. Lewis' Terror in a Texas Town.

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#18

Post by St. Gloede » September 15th, 2020, 9:16 pm

Ivan0716 wrote:
September 15th, 2020, 9:01 pm
I've stopped using imdb a few months back, but should have all my ratings for westerns on there: https://www.imdb.com/user/ur19366277/ratings

I haven't seen Deadlock, it's on my watchlist now. Non-American/Italian/Spanish western does sound like a very interesting area to explore, even though it can come across a bit dismissive at times when I see someone call a film "A [insert country name] western". :lol: The Greek Bullets Don't Come Back was one that I really liked.

I haven't seen The Wind Is Whistling Under Their Feet yet, but I'll probably get around to it very soon. The idea of a Hungarian western definitely intrigues me.
Not seen Bullets Don't Come Back yet, though it is on my watchlist - should really prioritise it. Klick's film is pretty irreverent, which is to be expected - and really grabs onto the most repugnant elements of the spaghettis - while really making it something of his own - however while he is playing with the genre, and presenting some trippy visuals at times - it is still a western story in every way - and of course, soaked in greed, lust and violence.

I really can't recommend The Wind Is Whistling Under Their Feet enough btw, it is cold, harsh and wonderful - and as a great bonus it is not actually set in the US - i.e. it is a western like The Proposition is a western film i.e. Australian film set in Australia. It takes many western elements, and really feels and looks the part, but it is its own thing entirely. It was only the film that put György Szomjas on the map for me, and his next film, Bad Guys, while not as great, also works within the western aesthetic as is a great ride.

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#19

Post by blocho » September 18th, 2020, 4:40 am

St. Gloede wrote:
September 13th, 2020, 2:52 pm
My favourite Western not be the 3 Sergio is difinitely A Bullet for the General, also starring Kinski - and with the incredible Gian Maria Volonte. It looks great, and is completely badass. Remember loving the intense cinematography where you can really feel the heat.
Completely agree. A great western, with a dynamite ending.

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#20

Post by blocho » September 18th, 2020, 4:46 am

Teproc wrote:
September 15th, 2020, 10:33 am
By the way, when I saw Shane I thought it was a revisionist Western, in part because of that "commentary on the legend of the West" element. Is it really a classic western?
Indeed, it does have some revisionist elements. The classic Western meta-narrative presents the settlement of the West by Euro-Americans as a civilizing project wrought against the opposition of some antagonists, often Indians or the harsh environment, sometimes both. It is a story deeply embedded in American culture and historiography - a glorification of expansion through the propagation of Manifest Destiny ideology.

Shane is a bit revisionist by depicting antagonists who are part of this settlement mission -- ranchers. By placing ranchers in opposition to homesteaders, and by further taking pains to reveal the ranchers as not one-dimensional villains, the movie traduces the simplistic tensions and the nationalistic self-regard of classic westerns. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a revisionist western. Perhaps it's best to call Shane a movie that wanted to complicate a simple formula.

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#21

Post by blocho » September 18th, 2020, 4:50 am

Ivan0716 wrote:
September 15th, 2020, 9:01 pm
I haven't seen Deadlock, it's on my watchlist now. Non-American/Italian/Spanish western does sound like a very interesting area to explore, even though it can come across a bit dismissive at times when I see someone call a film "A [insert country name] western". :lol: The Greek Bullets Don't Come Back was one that I really liked.

I haven't seen The Wind Is Whistling Under Their Feet yet, but I'll probably get around to it very soon. The idea of a Hungarian western definitely intrigues me.
If anyone has any of these three movies, I'd love to see them ...

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