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Films of Sergio Leone => Other Films => Topic started by: The Firecracker on May 20, 2007, 06:02:13 PM



Title: California (1977)
Post by: The Firecracker on May 20, 2007, 06:02:13 PM
(http://spaghettiwesterns.1g.fi/reviews/california.jpg)


A spaghetti western made late in the game. This nice installment to the genre was released one year after the brilliant "Keoma" and the same year as the decent "Mannaja". Strangely enough these three films are very similar in tone and style. Each of the trio contains a very dark story line filled with run down sets and pessimistic views towards the human race. The three also have their fair share of slow-mo violence (ala Peckinpah). Out of the these three (Mannaja, Keoma and California) "California" is the most unusual.

The Plot

It's the end of the American Civil War and confederate soldier California (Gemma) has been released from a Union prison camp. He begins to make trails to no where imperticular when suddenly a younger ex-confederate soldier named Willy Preston (played by singer Miguel Bosť) runs into him and wants to befriend him. At first California wants nothing to do with Willy  but they soon learn to bond after realizing Mercenaries are after the price on freed confederate prisoners' heads (that includes them!). After dodging a fearsome and sadisitic Bounty hunter by the name of Whitaker, the two companians reach a ghost town where they are ambushed by Confederate hating Northerners. The Vigilantes shoot and hang Willy leaving California no choice but to make trails to Willy's home in Georgia to tell the bad news to his folks and older sister.

After California tells of the grim news to the Preston Family he is welcomed to stay at the farm for as long as he likes. Willy's sister Helen (who is played by Miguel Bosť's real life sister Paola) predictably falls in love with California and the two share a budding romance.... that is until Helen is kidnapped by the mean, nasty, terrible, ghastly and all around bad bounty hunter Whitaker.

California must saddle up and search for Helen even if he must side with the enemy to do it.


my take:

The film very much feels like three movies in one. You have the half hour relationship between California and Willy(which feels like the first part of a buddy movie), you have the sappy romance segment in the middle of the film and then you have the search party (which consist only of one man) stuff for the thrid act. Needless to say the movie rambles here and there and perhaps it's a little too long for it's own good but it's a well crafted film with some very well done action sequences.

The fist fights are particularly excellent (Which is saying something in a genre that has some of the worst fist fights ever put to celluloid). During a scuffle you can be sure that wood planks, fences and even brick walls (!) will be destroyed to make way for the competitors to further duke it out without breaking a sweat or getting exhausted. It's all good fun until somebody is beaten to death or impaled by a stake, then it just becomes down right COOL.


The gunfights are equally nice, always taking place in some deserted ghost town with buildings that crumble at the firing of a bullet. I must point out that set designer Carlo Simi did his best work for this movie. All the ghost towns are especially spooky with muddy streets and ram shackled buildings. One set even includes craters on the town street formed by cannon fire during some recent battle.


Gemma is great as the loner known as California. He seems to have some sort of past that he wants to desperatly put behind him but we never quite find out what that past is (shades of his character in "and for a roof a skyful of stars") and we don't need to. It's not important. He tells us all we need to know about him through his performance.


William Berger has a small role as Willy Preston's father. For you Berger fans out there don't expect him to be shooting anybody or even take part in any action sequences. Fair warning.

The soundtrack is mostly mood music although there is an attempt to have some memorable score with the main title theme but it is an utter failure in the memorable department (shucks).

Director Michele Lupo made five other spaghetti westerns besides this one (three starring Gemma ). I have seen three of the five and so far this is his best effort. An enjoyable film, one of the last (if not THE last) good spaghetti westerns before the genre was buried on Boot Hill.


Title: Re: California (1977)
Post by: Banjo on May 26, 2007, 03:55:27 PM
Arizona Colts review:-

CALIFORNIA- 1977-Guiliano Gemma in his grittiest western about a soldier, who was once a bounty hunter, coming home from the war and finding things are no less violent. Some brutal hand to hand action (thatís well staged for a change) and some bloody shootouts enliven this rather depressing entry that along with a couple of other films, were an attempt to rekindle the spaghetti western genre which had been supplanted in Italy by the hundreds of Crime films that were flooding the theaters there at the time. The somber and depressing tone of this film signals the last gasps of the Italian western films.


Title: Re: California (1977)
Post by: titoli on December 28, 2008, 04:06:33 PM
This movie reminded me of Josey Wales, only it is much better. It has a better story, less embarassing characters (only one: BosŤ's sister: not as pretty as her brother and, unfortunately, not as her mother. and cannot play) and a very good villain (i had seen before that german actor only in an erotic version of Sigfried, with Sybil Danning). It leaves a bit to be desired to be desired only the scenery (which looks always the same, though the story unfolds on different states) and in Ferrio's score, not enough varied, though good. 8\10.


Title: Re: California (1977)
Post by: Arizona Colt on December 29, 2008, 11:03:30 PM
I picked up a German, English friendly DVD of this a few months back. Not sure if it's an improvement over the Franco Cleef "reconstruction" or not.


Title: Re: California (1977)
Post by: Banjo on December 30, 2008, 01:45:14 PM
I got quite a reasonable widescreen print off the uk movies4men channel. O0


Title: Re: California (1977)
Post by: stanton on December 30, 2008, 02:48:59 PM
Have re-watched California recently, and even if I see the film now more positive, it still remains a mixed quality work.

The unevenness of the film is obvious.

The 1st half is about the struggle for survival of the confederate soldiers in the aftermath of the civilwar, but similar to The Hellbenders it lacks an interesting enough perspective to catch my interest. Mud combined with washed out colors became long since cliches for showing the war. Also the Vilmos Zsigmond style lighting, which is overused by the photography, had long since become a visual cliche in the late 70s. And looks more pretentious than good.
At least if you watch California you'll understand easily why these last SWs are often called Twilight Spaghettis.

Then there is a bridging section with a bit farming (made by people who had not the slightest ideas about farming, which in this film disturbed me) and a quickly developed romance to set the basis for the search/revenge of the 2nd half. Too shortly developed to create an emotional involvement.

The 2nd half then suddenly turns the whole thing into a SW, and even if some elements of the 1st half are still present, most of what we had seen up to this point wasn't exactly necessary for the rest of California's runtime.

Now the film surprisingly turns the Raimund Harmstorff character into a tragic figure, who now himself became a victim of the new times, and suddenly there seems to be a not expected connection between Gemma and him. But again this new elements of the story are hardly established, when the film hastily ends in a usual way, instead of intensifying the relationship of the men.


A note about the music (by Gianni Ferrio).

Like in all of the last attempts to make again a "serious" SW after the heydays of the genre lay still behind, here we have again, instead of the typical Morricone like SW score, a 70s pop music influenced soundtrack. (Compare 4 of the Apocalypse, Keoma, Mannaja, Silver Saddle)

And this one sounds with it's synthesizer passages and it's overproduced drum sound terrible to my ears. And rather inappropriate to the movie.


At least California is like all of Lupo SWs often good to look at, with an affectionate production design, several nicely made scenes, but as an overall effect it also leaves me behind rather unsatisfied.

4/10


Title: Re: California (1977)
Post by: Banjo on December 31, 2008, 02:08:39 PM
I think it's one of the last classic sw's with an autumnal feel and some themes in common with THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES.I'd need to watch again to expand on this further but my rating would be 8/10 at the very least. O0


Title: Re: California (1977)
Post by: titoli on December 31, 2008, 03:29:18 PM
I think it's one of the last classic sw's with an autumnal feel and some themes in common with THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES.I'd need to watch again to expand on this further but my rating would be 8/10 at the very least. O0

Hey pard, are you really watching these movies or just copying my post?  8) 

Anyway, do you agree this is better than Eastwood's movie?(Not that it takes much)


Title: Re: California (1977)
Post by: stanton on January 01, 2009, 02:28:10 AM
By coincidence I had also re-watched Josey Wales last month without paying any attention to the similarities it has with California. By reading this thread I thought about it.

I'm not a great fan of Eastwood as director, and even if I would say that this film directed by Phillip Kaufman would have been more interesting, Josey Wales was very well done. Certainly one of Eastwood's best directing jobs and one of his best films outside his colaborations with Leone and Siegel.

The distance between Josey and California is so enormous, that the weakest scene of Josey is much better than anything in Lupo's muddled film. This goes for both, viewed as a mere action film or also as a film about the aftermath of the cicil war.



Title: Re: California (1977)
Post by: The Firecracker on January 01, 2009, 11:35:02 AM
I can't see much similarity between the Eastwood flick and the Lupo movie.

I like the Lupo movie much more as it is consistant in the entertainment department.
Eastwood's movie stumbles on its third act (the revenge plot is forgotten) and doesn't recover until the final moments.


Title: Re: California (1977)
Post by: Banjo on January 01, 2009, 05:42:01 PM
Hey pard, are you really watching these movies or just copying my post?  8) 



No Titoli i think you are copying my post from the 10th January 2007(reply number 80) 2 FUCKING YEARS AGO!!!  >:(

http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=3802.75

And i quote:-

" I'm pretty sure that Lupo must have seen Clint Eastwoods Outlaw Josey Wales because  of the tone of this post civil war setting  from the weary , downtrodden  , defeated Confederates perspective,the Rope Whittaker character and gang reminded me very much of the redlegs in Clints and very much the ending where the hero is let off by the authorities.Even the young sidekick is murdered early on in both movies."

Now who's ripping off who?  8)


Title: Re: California (1977)
Post by: titoli on January 01, 2009, 06:21:48 PM
No Titoli i think you are copying my post from the 10th January 2007(reply number 80) 2 FUCKING YEARS AGO!!!  >:(

http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=3802.75

And i quote:-

" I'm pretty sure that Lupo must have seen Clint Eastwoods Outlaw Josey Wales because  of the tone of this post civil war setting  from the weary , downtrodden  , defeated Confederates perspective,the Rope Whittaker character and gang reminded me very much of the redlegs in Clints and very much the ending where the hero is let off by the authorities.Even the young sidekick is murdered early on in both movies."


Now who's ripping off who?  8)

Happy Birthday!   


Title: Re: California (1977)
Post by: Banjo on January 01, 2009, 06:23:34 PM
Happy Birthday!   

Happy New Year!!! ;D



Title: Re: California (1977)
Post by: Banjo on January 01, 2009, 06:34:26 PM
P.S.

Yeah this movie reminded me of Josey Wales, only it is much better.  :D

The weakest scene of California is much better than anything in Eastwood's muddled film. This goes for both, viewed as a mere action film or also as a film about the aftermath of the civil war.  ^-^

 


Title: Re: California (1977)
Post by: stanton on January 02, 2009, 02:13:19 AM
P.S.

Yeah this movie reminded me of Josey Wales, only it is much better.  :D

The weakest scene of California is much better than anything in Eastwood's muddled film. This goes for both, viewed as a mere action film or also as a film about the aftermath of the civil war.  ^-^

 


Ha ha, great, I wrote yesterday nearly exactly the same in favor of Eastwood's film, but then erased it thinking "who cares?".
I don't remember anything I wrote, but I also used the words "weakest, much better than, muddled, goes for both, mere action film, aftermath.

I would say that the weakest scene in Eastwood's film is much more interesting than anything in Lupo's underdeveloped western.
This is not only due to technical aspects like the far superior camerawork and the from it resulting atmosphere, not only due to the far better acting and the from it resulting deeper characterizations, but merely due to Eastwood's more assured directing (none of Lupo's westerns is getting more than a 5/10 from me) and a much better concept, story and screenplay.



Title: Re: California (1977)
Post by: titoli on January 02, 2009, 01:25:38 PM
P.S.

Yeah this movie reminded me of Josey Wales, only it is much better.  :D

The weakest scene of California is much better than anything in Eastwood's muddled film. This goes for both, viewed as a mere action film or also as a film about the aftermath of the civil war.  ^-^

The first third of Josey Wales is probably the best Eastwood attained as a director or about. But the rest is...(we already discussed this in the JW thread). So, thank God, I can't quote you completely. California is better on the whole than JW.


Title: Re: California (1977)
Post by: Banjo on January 03, 2009, 06:07:20 AM
I also used the words "weakest, much better than, muddled, goes for both, mere action film, aftermath.

Pure co-incidence. :D

I was fooling around of course following Titoli's insinuation about me plagarising him (on the same page!! :o).Though it does look that way especially with the same 8/10 rating. ;D
I overlooked his post but very fortunately i remembered expressing similar views elsewhere. ;)

Seriously OUTLAW JOSEY WALES is far superior.