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A Fistful of Leone Trip

By Cenk Kiral

The main purpose of this article is to guide those who want to have a trip dedicated to Sergio Leone theme. A journey which includes locations one way or the other relevant with the western films of Sergio Leone. Being one of the long time Leone advocates, I had been looking for an opportunity of this kind for many years, and finally this year I managed to create one.

Maybe one can ask "why should I spend such money and go through all this for Leone?" Well, the answer is mainly related with your hobbies and subjects you find close interest to. To me, Sergio Leone is one of the world's most creative and talented film director I have ever known. He was not just a western and gangster film director. Although the films that he worked on were the known types, he redescribed all the values and aspects of these film types and created a "new genre" all over again. And he started doing all these in mid sixties, when he had a very limited budget, and merely a low degree of support. The films he creates in 1964 and 1965 with the technical capabilities of the time, still being imitated by many contemporary directors. He did not have the giant Hollywood crew and monetary funding behind him. That is why, in my humble opinion, he was more than just a film director. He can easily be categorized within the boundaries of a real art-man. He was more then just a fistful of films. Sergio Leone has brought his own philosophy and values. To me, Leone is among the most underrated directors. That is partly due to his sudden death before he was about to come out with his more contemporary masterpieces. Only those who somehow got stuck with the Leone world by one way or the other, after spending years of watching and reading, can appreciate his qualities truly. And these type of people, like myself, will probably find this article very informative and useful.

The trip can be divided into two main categories: First is information intensive and second is more visual sight-seeing intensive.

Before you plan such a Leone theme trip, I strongly suggest everyone to make a bit of homework by reading two major books written on Leone. First one is called as "The Spaghetti Westerns - Cowboys and Europeans - from Karl May to Sergio Leone" by Prof. Christopher Frayling. Prof. Frayling has written a very detailed book on all the aspects of Spaghetti Westerns.

One can learn many details about Leone's stylish western world, like how he decided to work on the genre, what his motivations were and so on. The book goes beyond just providing an insight about various details, and guides the reader about the roots of the values of Leone's west from academic standpoint. Marvelous book, and, highly recommended as the "first book to read" to indulge into the world of Leone and spaghetti westerns. I have acquired the book back in 1986, and still am reading. Every time I read it, I feel like I am learning new points.

The second book is called "Once Upon a Time - The Films of Sergio Leone" by Robert C. Cumbow. A heavy book on Leone's philosophy as interpreted by Cumbow. Unlike the first one, Cumbow does not go into details like how Leone discovered Eastwood, or any backstage related details. When I spoke with Mr.Cumbow over the phone, he told me that the book is purely based on how he felt about Leone's films. He used quite literary language by describing his opinions. I found his interpretation quite similar to mine in many ways. Cumbow's book is focused just on Leone and can be considered as another very good source for learning more on Leone's world. Another good part of this book is that it also includes Cumbow's views on Master's last film "Once Upon a Time in America", which is not included in Prof.Frayling's book. Robert Cumbow has recently informed me that his book is having a new release. For those who didn't read it yet, look for it at the bookstores soon.

First: Information intensive trip - LONDON

BFI (British Film Institute)

I strongly suggest that a part of the trip should be dedicated to London. London is truly a Mecca of such cultural interests. I had the chance of attending a business course in London and I extended the trip for this purpose. Upon Prof. Frayling's advise, I paid a visit to The British Film Institute (BFI). BFI is a very good source on collecting the copies of the old articles, finding out the books ever written on any matter in the cinema world. In order to get to BFI, you get the metro to Tottenham Court Road station. The BFI is at the Stephen Street, off the Tottenham Court Road.

Good part to begin in BFI is its library. You can find the articles that were written about Leone in late 60s, 70s up to today appeared in many cinema related magazines. I preferred to find the ones that appeared in the select bibliography listing of Prof.Frayling's book.

I found all of them that are in English. The photocopy facility right inside the library is very convenient for making copies of those articles from the original sources. You simply pay some fee at the self-service kiosk and get a card, which operates the copy machines. I found more than I was searching. When going through some of these film related magazines, I came across to articles of Prof. Frayling that extend his opinions on Leone's western films. I strongly recommend that you make a reservation beforehand. Otherwise, it is quite likely that you may not be allowed to get in if the seats were taken by early comers on the day you visit. Normally, BFI doesn't hold a reservation for the library, but they have an exception for those coming from at least 500 miles distance. A kind attitude to travelers like me coming all the way from Istanbul. Just make sure you call them a day or so earlier. The library has certain hours for public entrance. If you are not a regular member of BFI, you get yourself enrolled for a single-day membership for 5 Pounds.

Then, after you get through with the library, go up to the third floor of the same building, dedicated to the Stills and Slides. Again, make sure to make a reservation at least a week earlier. This is the department of BFI dedicated to collecting various stills, slides and film posters. They currently have a huge collection of about 5 million black and white images and 500,000 colour transparencies from about more than 60,000 films. Once you step in, you write the names of the films that you want collect the stills. Few minutes later the servicing person comes back with boxes of pictures, each dedicated to one particular movie. You must select the ones that you want to acquire. The list is made per your request. Each 8 x 10 still costs you about 6 Pounds, and BFI later sends you via mail. I chose about 35 of them, and it took about 6 weeks to get them in Istanbul. They also have the capability to re-print the original movie posters (even coloured ones possible) from slides. A very good source to collect visual parts.


A good coincidence is the ability to hop into a very profound Cinema Bookshop right across the street. After you get out from BFI, the street across, called as Great Russel Street, you can find the Cinema Bookshop. The owner, named Fred, is a very knowledgeable person and in a flash of moment he can come back to you with books, pictures and posters dedicated to Leone. For example, he has the original Spanish version film poster of The Good The Bad and The Ugly, which he is selling for a high amount of money. Last time I visited him was back in 1989, and he had the same poster too. It looks like not very many people show a great interest to the Spanish version of Leone's film posters.


If one wants to buy the English language video-tapes of the Leone films and the other spaghetti westerns, London is probably the best source in the whole Europe. But, I suggest you don't grow big hopes for the aim of collecting all you want. Although London is the best source, the collections were scattered around the retail stores, and there is no organized single source that has "all of them". When I opened the cover of some of these tapes, I saw a circle shape sticker saying "Spaghetti Western Collection" and thought that I can call the company up to get the whole list of their inventory, and buy the ones I want. That just doesn't happen. I couldn't find any of those companies listed in the phone directory. You have to visit the video sections of the mega music stores like HMV, Tower Records, and Virgin. All of them have sections around the Oxford Street and Piccadilly. After many years of search, I finally have found the famous Django (the very first one of Corbucci released in 1966) and some others, but never been able to find "Duck You Sucker" or "Once Upon A Time in America". But, Leone's other westerns are quite easy to buy. Try to buy the wide-screen versions to enjoy with the full cinematography values of Leone. Among all, HMV seemed to me the best of all in terms of the size of western collections. But, on the other hand, as each day passes these old spaghetti westerns are getting more and more difficult to find along with the western section of the stores getting smaller and smaller. So, the final suggestion of mine for the film collectors, grab whatever you see on the shelves today because soon you may not find any of them at all.


A part of Leone culture can be devoted to the soundtracks of the movies. Then we get into the Ennio Morricone boundary. These two men (Leone and Morricone) are highly interrelated with each other. You may make cross-cultural jumps from one another. One who likes Leone must listen to the tunes of Morricone, and, once you listen Morricone and get addicted to his typical western tunes, you realize that he also has many more tunes composed for non-Leone pictures as well. I haven't seen many Leone advocates who is not interested in Morricone. Although Morricone has gained his typical spaghetti western style of composition with the great helps of Leone, he just didn't stop where Leone did for the world of spaghettis. There are numerous spaghettis where Morricone's name alone is enough to watch them. Like Leone, Morricone had followers and imitators as well. He helped the musical aspect of the spaghettis flourish to its climax. He is also the main contributor for us meet with relatively new composers like Luis Bacalov (the composer of the major films like Django, A Bullet for the General a.k.a. Quien Sabe, Sugar Colt and many others). So, a part of your London visit can be dedicated to collect various Morricone CDs or tapes. There are probably several dozens of Morricone pieces out. Some for specific films, most are collections. I personally choose to buy those dedicated to a particular movie in order to listen all the tunes done for a film. Because, sometimes you bump into a specific tune, just play 30 seconds of a movie and therefore can not be seen in any of the collection CDs. A good example is like the Fur Elise based tune of Morricone done for the final duel scene of "The Big Gundown", where Beethoven's famous piano concerto is extended with Spanish guitar and castanets for a gun down scene. You can only listen this 1 minute long tune in one particular CD where all of the tunes of that film is gathered. Speaking of Spaghettis, those specific film dedicated CDs are getting difficult to get. You may check the same music stores I mentioned above.

But, if you have time to make small train trip the outside of London, then you will surely find a superb resource. This is the home office of Lionel G. Woodman, whose company is called as "Soundtrack Deletions". I met Lionel just by a sheer luck when I was looking for a soundtrack, and the owner of the Ennio Morricone Web Site recommended him. Lionel Woodman lives at a small town called Kent, just about an hour from the London downtown via train. When I went to see him he picked me up from the station. He lives in a historical house which has been visited several times by a famous author Charles Dickens, who also lived few hundred yards away during 1860s. Lionel Woodman's specialty is the soundtrack albums, particularly the ones deleted from the music stores' lists long time ago. He probably has the largest collection of Ennio Morricone soundtracks. Not only Morricone but also almost all spaghetti western composers' scores can be found at Soundtrack Deletions. Before I met Lionel, I was searching for some very specific Morricone tunes from various non-Leone movies, and I found them all at Soundtrack Deletions. Actually, Soundtrack Deletions is more or less like a one man company, run by Lionel at their house at Kent. Lionel separated one room of his house as his inventory of CDs, LPs and singles. At another room, which he uses as an office, he keeps records of his customers and makes regular distribution of his inventory. His customers, naturally, are people of special interests who like to collect rarely found old soundtracks of any kind. If you want to get into his distribution list, write to him or call him up from the number I mention at the end of this article. Lionel is more than just the supplier of the soundtracks. He has some production efforts as well. If you recall the famous Morricone tunes from the Leone's "Dollars" films, you may clearly distinguish the inevitable whistle that goes into every of the three films' main theme. Well, the man who whistled in those soundtracks was Allessandro Allesandroni, who is a very good friend of Lionel. Together they just came up with a new CD, called as EL PURO. The CD is a collection of music from the spaghetti westerns. Alessandroni plays his version of "A Fistful of Dollars twice in the CD, one recorded live in one of his stage performances. Also featuring in the CD is one of Allessandroni's never before disclosed tune, called El Puro and a minute long of his voice talking about a brief story of himself and his dedication to spaghetti westerns. I personally have the number 447 of this limited quantity CD. According to Lionel, Morricone had intelligently capitalized many of Allessandroni's ideas during the days of composing the main theme of "A Fistful of Dollars" before they came up with the final version. It sounds like Alessandroni has been underrated just being a mere whistler. When listening Prof. Frayling, it looks like there is another side of the story related to Morricone, but before I write anything on the matter I prefer to watch the Prof. Frayling's documentary on Morricone, put out by BBC. Actually I am probably a bit luckier than anybody for the reason that Lionel is married with a Turkish lady and he comes to Turkey every summer for his vacations, which gives me chance to see him at least once in every year. So, I recommend to those who are found of the musical part of Leone culture to get in touch with Lionel to enhance the inventory of CDs.


The last part of my London trip was separated for a very special visit. The visit to Professor Christopher Frayling, who wrote the famous book on spaghetti westerns and Leone. Prof. Frayling is currently the Rector and Provost of Royal College of Art at London, the department of Cultural History. I was lucky enough to get an appointment from him while I was in London. He separated about 45 minutes of his precious time, in which I had the chance of learning many details about my upcoming trip to Spain. When you read his book you realize that he tries to keep somewhat of an impartial view on Leone's works from an academic point of view. But actually, when I talked with him personally I realized that he also has a lot of enjoyment from Leone's films. He had various interviews with Leone at his house in Rome and had the chance of listening The Master's upcoming projects, which he couldn't due to his very untimely demise.

Listening to the Professor, I realize that he has the huge mountain of information about the Leone world, which is impossible to explain in a 45 minutes interview. I wish that I had hours of time to sit together with him to share his knowledge. Apart from his profound academic analysis of Leone world, one thing that I personally am fond of hearing is the behind the scene type details of how Leone company works, like he came up with various ideas, how Leone discovered various stars and things of this nature. One good example I can convey here is how Leone found out Lee Van Cleef for the role of The Colonel in the "For A few Dollars More".

According to Prof.Frayling, Leone had only a week to go before he started the "For A few Dollars More" shootings. When Lee Marvin's agent told him that Marvin had just signed the contract for the "Cat Ballou", Leone had to find the actor to play the Colonel and get him on the set in about a week period. He searched one of the film encyclopedia and found out Lee Van Cleef as being one of the second rate actors of the time who appeared as baddie in various Hollywood pictures like High Noon, The Man who shot Liberty Valance. He immediately got in touch with Van Cleef's agent but the agent didn't even know what Van Cleef was doing since he had been away from the film world for quite sometime. Finally they found out that he was working as a freelance interior home designer at California. Leone and his crew flew to the USA (first time in Leone's life) to meet with him with a bag full of cash Dollars. When Van Cleef came to see them at a hotel room they stayed, Leone saw him at the door of the hotel room some distance away. Van Cleef was wearing a black overcoat and exposing a strange silhouette. As soon as Leone saw Van Cleef first time at the doorway, he ordered his men to make the deal without going through any further discussions. Van Cleef was offered a cash money right at the spot, which surprised him a great deal. Van Cleef was about to start decorating the house of one of his customers in the coming weekend. In order to get Van Cleef at the film set, Leone had to pay extra $5,000 to cover for Van Cleef's commitment to his client, and found another interior decorator to do his job. According to Minty Clinch in his book called Clint Eastwood, Van Cleef was having difficult times financially and had been away from the movie world. The next day Van Cleef was in plane to Almeria, southeast Spain, reading the script in the plane for the first time. The scene of "For A few Dollars More", where Van Cleef was looking out the El Paso streets via binocular from his hotel window, was the first shot of Van Cleef and marks the beginning of the career of a world-wide famous star, "The Man with Angeleyes". He was probably in a great cultural shock by being carried away from his low profile life in the US to a multi-cultural production run by a then unknown Italian director. Prof. Frayling has many anecdotes of this kind. How lovely would that be if the Professor comes out with a new work containing all these never-before-unreleased set of information.

According to the Professor again, right before he died Leone had already managed to raise about $100 million for his upcoming project on the Siege of Leningrad, half of which was to be paid by the Russian government. According to him, no other director has been able to raise such a sum of money for a project without any tangible scenario. The only thing that lived in Leone's mind was the 6 minutes long continuous opening scene to be concluded by a mark that says " A Sergio Leone Film". I would pay whatever I can just to see the opening itself. What a glorious enjoyment would that be for the fans like me. The Master with his new masterpiece. I'll always remember my meeting with the Professor as one of the most unforgettable moment of my life.

This part of the trip can of course be extended to some other locations as well, or to some other countries. I only had certain opportunities with limited time. If one happens to be around the same locations mentioned above, he/she can use this information as a useful guide without loosing time to finding out where to go.

Second: Visual intensive sightseeing trip - SPAIN

This part of the trip, as the name suggest, is more towards seeing the actual locations that Leone and many other spaghetti westerns were shot. This was something that I had been looking forward to for many years. I guess that the part of the excitement is partly due to watching those films several dozens of times. I was more towards the search of the feeling of being on the same locations as Sergio and his crew were when shooting those masterpieces.

I work for a computer company, a highly competitive business, as a sales coordinator. Whenever we make our quotes at a certain percentage our company gathers all the successful sales people around the world at one of the exiting part of the world to celebrate the past year's success. This year it was going to be at Barcelona. As soon as I heard it was announced, I was terribly excited to earn for it. I was after more of a Leone theme trip on top of the Barcelona success trip. I really worked hard during 1996 to be qualified for it. When I got the opportunity to attend the trip, I started wondering if those locations were still at visitable conditions. I knew from Prof. Frayling's book that many of the exteriors were shot at Almeria, southeastern part of Spain. When thinking about how to learn if there is still anything to see there, I realized that the best source would be to ask to the Prof. Frayling himself. Actually, this became an excuse for to meet him. I have obtained many of the information from him as to where to go and look for. I and my wife were more than ready to breath the "spaghetti western " atmosphere. Actually, I was training my wife to be my camerawoman when we got there. After watching for so many years, I had to play in for some Leone-imitated shots. All the equipments, camera, video camera, costumes, pancho were all ready. I even bought a Colt Piecemaker .45 calibre replica pistol and its leather holster in Barcelona to complete the entire set of costumes.

Actually, Leone has been in various parts of Spain during 1964 through 69. The street scenes of "A Fistful of Dollars" were shot at a small town called Colmenar near Madrid. The famous cemetary scene with threesome duel at the end of "The Good The Bad and The Ugly" were shot at Burgos, north of Spain, much greener area than the previous scenes. But none of these locations remained today. All that was available to see were at Almeria. The destination was surely set: Almeria.


Almeria is relatively small city down at the southeast of Spain, in the area called as Andalucia. As the tourist guide says "Almeria is a city of light open to the Mediterranean, whose recent growth has not taken anything away from the local colour of its older quarters nor from that flavour of nearby Africa which sets it apart from other Andalusian towns". There is touristic activity but compared to other parts of Spain, this is relatively less of touristic attraction. On the other hand, these lands were the home to several powerful civilizations during prehistory.

There are several hotels to stay but I recommend Gran Hotel Almeria, where Sergio Leone, his crew and all the stars stayed during several years of film shootings. It is a four star hotel kept in the same style as in the 60s. A fairly good room for double with TV, air-conditioning and mini-bar facilities cost about 13,000 pesetas (equal to about $95 US). According to the hotel staff, Leone always stayed in the room number 532. As in many parts of Spain, finding an English language spoken person is difficult. Although the hotel receptionists all speak English, and many of them personally remember the times of Leone, it would have been much more fun if I spoke Spanish myself. With my terribly broken Spanish, and their half English, I obtained some interesting information. One is related with Lee Van Cleef. According to one of the old-timer hotel clerks, who also run the hotel's garage, Lee Van Cleef had always been a heavy drinker during the days he spent at Almeria. This guy, who is over his 60s today, clearly remembers the days when he helped Van Cleef find his way back to his room after several of his heavy drinking sessions. What is more interesting here is that there is literally nothing, not even a single picture of any of stars, Leone or anybody, in the lobby. I was amazed to see such a place that hosted many great stars, like Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale and many others for so many years never show any indication that they were all there once. That humbleness really shocked me. We checked in a late afternoon, and spend the rest of the day trying to walk around the town since it was a bit late for going around the outside city. Actually, just a couple of hours is enough to see around the downtown of Almeria. The greatest tourist attraction in the city is the Alcazabar Fortress, one of the largest of its kind on the peninsula, dominates the urban landscape. If the time remains, you may visit the Cathedral as well. When the night came, I was getting more and more excited thinking that the next day I shall be at the great locations of the Leone's Westerns.

Now the real vista begins. That's the turn for visiting the actual film set locations. There are three known places, set for filming during 60s, but still, although much less frequent than the past, being used by some films. I recommend that you rent a car since the locations are not living locations and you have to drive around the mountains. The first place can be, what is officially known as "Mini Hollywood". We took the N-340 highway towards the north of the city. The roads are in very good conditions and the signs are properly warning you for directions. We took the road towards Murcia and Granada. On the way, there is big highway, a short cut to Murcia. Don't take it, and, continue along the normal road. Along driving the as we got closer to the deserts of Tabernas, the magnificent nature of Almeria starts appearing reminding you the scenes of Leone's movies. The more we went, the more I started to remember the beginning part of "For A few Dollars More", where a lonely gunman riding far in the distance and the man behind the camera (said as Leone himself) singing a tune. We couldn't stop ourselves pulling over and getting a view of those mountains. You can probably recall several scenes in that huge landscape.


Just about 30 kms from the hotel, you will come to a two way split. One towards Guadix and Granada, second towards Tabernas and Murcia. Take the second towards Tabernas. Just about a kilometer you arrive to the Mini Hollywood. This is a western town built specifically for the spaghetti westerns. There is very neatly organised car park. On the entrance we paid 995 pesetas (about a bit more than USD $7) per person and got a ticket in the form of a Dollar bill. No wonder why they did it that way after Leone's Dollar triology. Even though it wasn't a tourist season, there several buses of older Spanish senior citizens visiting the location. This location is the most commercialised and well protected film set. As soon as we walked in, the bank used as the El Paso bank in the "For A few Dollars More" strikes with its white and stand alone position. This is clearly the "El Paso" city of Leone's For A Few Dollars More, where Indio and his gang robbed. In the course of several years, the administrating staff painted some parts of the bank building to green, but I still remembered it. I can also realise the two hotels that Eastwood and Van Cleef stayed right across each other. Also can be remembered the street that two men shot at their hats at a night time showdown. There is a large crew of people taking care of the premise. There is even a horse riding facility and a show that lasts about 45 minutes. The show has a mini scenario of robbery and brave marshall gunning down all of the outlaws. The show is presented along with various Morricone tunes playing. There is also meal facility and souvenir shops as well as a large photoshop that takes your picture with real old western costumes.

I enjoyed great deal seeing the actual locations where Leone actually walked and directed his masterpieces. The location immediately takes you back to those days into the wilderness of the Leone's west and the excitement of the filming days. The days where Leone had to shout in Italian, translated into English for American actors, Massimo Dalamano and Tonino Delli Colli trying to get his best framing under the Master's supervision. I couldn't help my self thinking the atmosphere of these days when they were shooting the films.

What really surprised me are some inevitable points missing in this location: Why on earth no body puts signs to each of those buildings, where a scene of a famous film was shot along with a picture taken from the actual scene? Going through the buildings, I forced my memory to remember which part of which film was shot where.

In the leaflet type brochure they give out to the people, there are names of several films, although some of them were terribly misspelled (Leone's The Good --- being one of them) they did not go any further explaining a bit of details. Probably the people like myself, heavily involved in these films, can also remember the actual value of the locations.

Although Mini Hollywood is the best maintained location among the three, there are still obvious signs of mismanagement that is causing a gradual erosion of spaghetti western and Leone culture. Souvenir shops are just not well enough equipped to flourish the culture of those days. I couldn't hold my self from thinking what would the American way of approach could do in such locations. If Leone was an American director and if Almeria was at the US, we probably would see Clint Eastwood's famous green pancho hanging on the wall with a blown-up picture, along with the replicas of Colonel Mortimer's special semi-rifle/semi-pistol weapon. But, you must accept the fact that this is Spain and this is the most they can do. What a pity that the world's highest calibre and most talented western director's name isn't even pronounced in the locations which became world-famous because of him. How can one culture be ignorantly and carelessly treated like that. Mini Hollywood is nothing more than a sort of playground or a sort of amusement park for those who doesn't know much about the spaghetti westerns. I am not after the monetary side of it at all whether they make good money out of the souvenir shops or not. My main point is the lack of essential approach to the root cause of the culture. I was expecting tour guides making explanation on where a particular scene of Leone movie was shot and so on. But my disappointment began at Mini Hollywood, and, got deepen as we got to the other locations.


After seeing what we had to see, and, getting some shots of pictures at the so called Mini Hollywood, we were headed to the second location, known as "Texas Hollywood". This place is about 2 km away from the Mini Hollywood. As you get closer to the premise, we were not sure if the place is open or not. It truly had an abandoned feeling with empty and dusty streets. As got to the main gate, we realised that the door keeper was there for the tickets. We paid about 950 pesetas per person. The entrance leads you to a large fortress called Fort Bravo, probably built for a specific film only. According to the brochure we have obtained, some scenes of The Good -- , El Condor, The Red Sun, The Laurence of Arabia were shot here. Like all of them we saw, this brochure also contains a lot of crucial spelling mistakes as well as fake movie names (such as a film called "The Head" is written as if directed by Sergio Leone). Interesting part is that this location had been used for film shootings even until few years ago, and even by the Hollywood industry. According to the brochure, in 1985 Steven Spielberg was here with Harrison Ford and Sean Connory to shoot "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". Even George Lucas used this location for "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles". The lady who runs the restaurant keeps a photo album which there are pictures of the film crews while working. Some of them are even showing one of Mad-Max series. At the backyard of the Saloon, I have seen the remittance of one of the futuristic cars used in those films. The last visitor was the famous Italian director Enzo Barboni shooting "They'll always call him Trinity". I think that this place could have been used in For A Few Dollars More as well for the Santa Cruz scene, in which Eastwood arrives to send a fake telegraph message to El Paso in order to draw the attention of the law enforcement people.

What I liked most about this place was its emptiness, like an abandoned look of a ghost town. There was a slight wind making a sort of film effect type noise. I shot some nice picture, and, with the help of my wife we even took some stylish Leone like video shots, me playing the role of all I knew - Indio, The Man with No Name and Angeleyes. It was quite a fun. If only we had another friend with me, we could have shot a mini-Leone showdown scene.

I also like the Mexican town part of the set. They built a small but complete town looking very much like a Tex-Mex border town of the 1860s. The emptiness can be of a superb advantage for those who likes to get his own shots.

The landlady prepared us some sandwiches and, eventhough she didn't speak English, she was kind enough to show us a lot of her personal photo albums taken during the shooting of various films in the last couple of years. She also let me have a picture with one her husband's real old rifle. In terms of the closeness to authenticity, the real aficionados can take the most pleasure in this location. During our visit, I have only seen 4 or 5 more people in the course of couple of hours while we were there.


The third and last place is called "Western Leone". May be you also, like me, felt quite excited when you hear the name. That is why I kept it to the last, like the desert of a fine meal. To get to this location you need to drive back to the two way road split. This time, you need to take the road towards the direction of Guadix and Granada. Just about a kilometer along the way you reach to "Western Leone". This is the location named after the Master Leone, probably due to reason that his one of his masterpiece, called Once Upon A Time in the West, caused this place to be built. This is the location, called in the film as "Sweetwater". The land of stubborn Irish man, McBain. This is the location that appears right after the initial station scene. This is the place where Leone's lifelong dream came to reality. The killing of the McBain family and the men with long dusters appearing out of bushes and starts walking towards the house. The camera of Tonino Delli Colli follows the leader of the gang from behind. They pause and the camera creeps behind the leader of the gang towards his face with baby blue eyes. My god !! that's Henry Fonda. Leone waited for 5 years to give this exclamation to the audience.

You can easily recognise the house of McBain from the film. This location doesn't possess the elements of a complete western town like the previous two places. According to the quasi-true brochure of the place, there have been few other films shot here, The Good hu Urhy and Bad (no spelling mistake by me - that's exactly the way the brochure writes). I personally didn't recall the any scenes from The Good ... . Again, according to the brochure, El Condor, Wild Horse and Catwlon were also shot here, if you take it seriously.

This is a typical family-run ranch. The mom takes care of the kitchen, the sons with the horses, the grandma running the souvenir shop. Just with the last hope of finding something related with Leone, we asked the shop to be opened. Since we were the only visitors they opened the door right away but the contents of the store were like the supermarkets of the countries under a rigid communist regime back in 1970s. Few dusty T-Shirts and lighters with "Western Leone" sign on them.

The town had some additions of few building after the Once Upon A Time in the West for an attempt to make it look like a town. But it looks more like a temporary town serving the passengers to the west. The house keeps its glorious monumental look from outside, except the saloon sign. If you concentrate a bit deeper, you can feel Leone's footsteps around. Back of the house is the water well and the famous area where Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson had the last settling of accounts "only at the point of dying". You can feel that this was the place for the men who had "something to do with death" . Right in front of the house is the ruins of the oven that Jason Roberts kept asking Claudia Cardinale for a fresh coffee by saying "did you make the coffee?"

The rest is just few sceneries you may recall from other films. When you get to the back of the house you see a sort of alley where many horse chasing scenes were shot, one that I clearly remember is from Texas Adios where Franco Nero featured. You can easily see the mountain backing the house as if it was cut off by a knife.

I am not even sure if the family knows who really Leone is. Even the logo of the ranch that appears on the ticket, brochure and the souvenir like items is quite funny. It is a man on a rear horse with a whip. Does anybody remember any of Leone's men with a whip in his hand? I don't for sure.

Inside the house I was hoping to see at least few photos from the "Once Upon A Time in the West". Some few film posters, pictures of Van Cleef, Eastwood, even John Wayne but not even a single picture of Leone was hung. I was hoping that someone to wake me up from this nightmare. We were in the middle of the place where the Master shot best of its kind but not even a single sign denotes any remarks on Leone. What a shame.

Leaving my desires of seeing Leone related items, I tried to enjoy the bare location and the nature. In the course of the time we spent in those three set locations I probably smoked about 20 cigarillos to feel the same effect. Eventhough I am personally a heavy cigar smoker, smoking so much in one day my mouth turned into a gas chamber. I truly understood the difficulties that Eastwood had as being a non-smoker who had to smoke all the time during the film shooting sessions.

We left the location after getting some few more shots of picture. We wanted to get to the typical Spanish villages along the Sierra Nevada to see the La resa de Conti locations. The location which Indio and his gang hid out after the robbery of El Paso bank. My particular dream was to find the circular arena where Lee Van Cleef had the duel with Gian Maria Volonte under Clint Eastwood's referee. Prof.Frayling didn't know where that was taken specifically, but suggested me that it should be in one of those villages around. The same locations can also be the places where Leone shot the scene where Van Cleef visits the farmhouse of the man to get the fake name of Jackson and asks cynically "is that your family ? - nice family" in "The Good...". We returned back to N.340 back towards Almeria and took the road towards Gador. Along the way we came across some small villages with typical small white houses. But, unfortunately, we couldn't locate those specific locations. Almost no one speaks English around there, and almost no one remembers those films. Either those places had been replaced with new buildings or at they are currently out of our reach. May be it is normal that we couldn't find them after more than 30 years. It probably should be considered as normal not to locate civilian locations where you can't even find some of the places in the original film sets. May be they were the private properties of people who redecorated them to a different style. That was the saddest part of the trip for me. Before the trip I had the dreams of finding that location where Lee Van Cleef gave its best poses of his entire career. The inevitable "arena of destiny" where he had to shoot Indio after the pocket watch's theme stops playing its chime tune. In my opinion, Leone and Massimo Dallamano shot one of the best pictures of the entire western genre. I refer to the scene when Van Cleef comes back to the Indio's hideout after killing his men in the town with Eastwood towards the end of "For a Few..." . Van Cleef enters the frame next to the camera with his wide and flat brim hat cutting the blue sky and small white house wide angle shot. The anger is reflected to his face with the deepened sadness of his inability to reach down his gun down on the dusty ground. Leone artfully demonstrated the contrast of Van Cleef's satanic facial features in black costume with his good paternal role he was playing. I still get the best of vista out of watching that La Resa De Conti scene even after my hundredth time of reviewing. I think that scene can be thought as a visual lesson to the cinema students as well as many others that Leone created. Unfortunately, my dreams didn't come true and I couldn't locate that particular location. Later next day the hotel clerk told me that he knows a guy who was the one of the drivers of the film crew back in 1965. May be he could have remembered those locations. But I didn't have any time left to pursue that opportunity. May be the best way is to learn the exact location from those who are still alive from the Leone crew and go next time, if there will ever be a next time for me.

That was the end of my Almeria trip. The next day we were headed to Guadix where Leone had some scenes of Once Upon... and Duck You Sucker (a.k.a. "A Fistful of Dynamite")


Upon Prof.Frayling's advise, we wanted to find out the Flagstone town of Once Upon... near Guadix as well as the old train station and the old Cathedral where many scenes of Duck You Sucker were shot. We took the same N.340 which gave me another chance to enjoy the beautiful Almeria's dessert-like nature and mountains. It takes about 110 km from Almeria to drive to Guadix by car. As we got closer to Guadix, the nature gets greener and mountains leave way to wide plains. Then I started remembering the railroad scenes in Leone's films. It is a wide open and flat surface landscape highly appropriate for railway establishments.

Prof.Frayling's book talks about a film set location of "Flagstone" built for quite high amount of money around Guadix. We asked a lot people and some of them barely remember a location near a small town, called Lacalahorra, just about 14 km before Guadix. When we reached there, we hardly located some ruins like rock caves. I am pretty sure that it wasn't the "Flagstone" town of "Once Upon... " We proceeded to Guadix to find the old train station. The only place we were shown is relatively new but demonstrate the locomotive used in many of Leone's westerns.

Remember the train at the beginning of For A Few Dollars More when colonel Mortimer stops at Tucumcari. It is the very same locomotive you can as see being demonstrated. The chief of the station did not allow us to take any photos but we used some paparazzi techniques to get some secret pictures. But the station doesn't reflect anything closer to the 1860s American town station view. The locomotive was authentic but the station wasn't. They probably used some other locations as the station.

Down in Guadix, the old Cathedral is very easy to find in such a small town. You can easily remember the scenes of Duck You Sucker and can get good shots of photos. The sightseeing related part of Leone's western trip ends here. If I had some more time may be there could be some other locations seen as well. Especially some extra time can be spent on the villages of Sierra Nevada, along the Natural Park of Almeria.


This is more of a cultural part of the trip. Madrid is a very beautiful city. I have never seen such metropolitan city where the history is kept such profoundly. Among hundreds of places to see, if we narrow the angle down to the Leone theme, you can begin with the Prado Museum. A museum that contains the paintings of several artists. It is a huge museum that can take two full days of continuous walking if you are determined to see all the pieces. According to Prof. Frayling, Leone visited this museum everytime he came to Spain and tried to convey the same effect to the frames of his upcoming films. Among the ones that influenced him most are Rembrandt and Goya. There aren't many Rembrandt paintings in El Prado museum, but there are several Goya pieces. Especially the Executions of May 3rd can be seen. As you may remember, he tried to create the same frame in "Duck You Sucker". I purchased a re-print of that picture from one of the gift shops of the museum. You can literally spend a fortune in those gift shops in the museum on re-prints, books, CDs and things of this nature.

Watching his films carefully, you can realise the effort of Leone trying to create the same artistic feeling of some of the known paintings with all the lighting effects and camera work, particularly in Once Upon A Time in the West. The scenes where Jill McBain's driver stops at a tabern and the laundry scene where The Man with Harmonica beats the man for not keeping his promise on the appointment. That monochrome darkness effect well-lit faces were surely the signs of an artistic approach.

Another interesting place that relates to the Leone theme can be the Museum of the Army (Museo Del Ejercito) very close to El Prado museum. I found this museum very interesting. It has all the war related pieces, arms, cannons, swords, war costumes and many others remaining from all the way back to 16th century. The most interesting part of this museum for us is the arms room. The arms room is full of pistols of any kind and rifles of different varieties. According to Prof. Frayling, some of the pistols in this room have been borrowed by Leone to be used in his westerns. There is one that anyone can recognise, which is the semi-rifle looking pistol of Colonel Mortimer with the detachable shoulder stock. The man with no name calls it as a "contraption" but it was almost going to send him to his grave. In this room you can also see the other interesting guns that you may easily recall from many of the spaghettis that focuses on guns in the films. One clear example to this is the famous Sabata, in which Lee Van Cleef was continuously using out of his sleeve. A short and compact pistol that has the first letter of Sabata engraved on the wooden handle. I really enjoyed a lot going through many pieces. Apart from the cinematic value, it always seemed to that Leone had liked guns himself. According to Prof.Frayling he always used to come to the film sets with westerns guns is holster like one of the actors. After talking with Prof.Frayling my assumption was confirmed that guns are one of his hobbies of Leone in real life.

Talking about guns, as I mentioned before, I myself bought a good replica of Colt Army Piecemaker. You can find them in almost all of the big souvenir shops in Spain for about 3,500 pesetas (about US $25). But, that didn't whet my appetite. I was always on a relentless pursuit of a replica of a Colt Navy throughout the trip. I have searched for almost several shops in Spain but I couldn't find any until the last shop I found in Madrid. That was a real weapon shop selling real pieces. As soon as I stepped in, the counter facing the entrance struck me with several Colt Navy pistols. This time they were real guns, not replicas and an ordinary customer like me can not buy them easily . Although I spend great deal of energy in convincing the owner of the shop, he was as stubborn as me not selling it to me. I had to have a gun possession permit to begin with. There are also some formalities that the store had to do like informing the police which can take about at least two days. Furthermore, if you are a foreign person, your return ticket must be directly to your country of origin. Even if you make a transfer in another country in the same day, it is enough for them not selling the gun to you. According to the shop owner, the guns he was selling were the real ones once used in those spaghetti films back in 70s. The one that I had my eye on was very similar (may be the same) to the gun that The Angeleyes in "The Good ..." carried. If you have Cumbow's book, pay special attention to the Angeleye's stylish picture that he posed right in front of the saloon leaning on a post with his pipe in his mouth.

That was the last memory that I can carry to you from my Spanish Leone trip. In all means, Spain is one of the most original and beautiful countries that I have ever been. I would have loved it even more if they kept the Leone culture more carefully. If it goes like this, very soon there will be a only fistful of people like me who would remember that once upon a time, there was a man called Sergio Leone. People like Leone always have something to do with death. Lets not forget him and the culture he created. Because eventhough he didn't make many films, he caused a whole big culture to flourish and kept us enjoy for many years.

Adios Amigos,

May 97 - Istanbul / Turkey

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