Sergio Leone Web Board

Films of Sergio Leone => A Fistful of Dollars => Topic started by: cigar joe on November 22, 2007, 09:45:31 AM

Title: Red Harvest
Post by: cigar joe on November 22, 2007, 09:45:31 AM
Reading this now I will report upon it as it relates to A Fistful Of Dollars soon.
Title: Re: Red Harvest
Post by: Jill on November 22, 2007, 02:14:08 PM
I have read it, it's a good book. I don't understand why they didn't made a movie from it with Bogart, Lorre and the other typical noir faces...
Title: Re: Red Harvest
Post by: cigar joe on November 22, 2007, 06:52:14 PM
yea the book definitely reads like a gangster/detective story. I'll go into it more.
Title: Re: Red Harvest
Post by: cigar joe on November 28, 2007, 12:05:29 AM
My biggest complaint about Hammett is that he's all dialog and scant on description. If I have a choice I always grab Chandler or Cain before I choose Hammett. Now wether or not this is due to his editor I can't say but someday some way I'd like to get a look at the original manuscript for Red Harvest.

Red Harvest is set in fictional Personville, Montana which is actually a stand in for Anaconda, Butte, and Walkerville, all equally ugly towns sitting on the high wide barren valley floor about 5,000 plus feet in elevation at the final up slope to the top of the Continental Divide . Gold is what originally started the town of Butte called at one time "the Richest Hill on Earth" but copper became the mainstay. It was one of those mining cities with old headframes sticking up haphazardly in every concievable nook and cranny. Most of the original town has been swallowed up by the open pit copper mine but today there are remnants of old town clining to the rim. Butte still is Montana's most cosmopolitan city with every concievable nationality represented and a huge Chinatown, but like most of Montana it still has a strong Western flavor. Butte is the definitive "Honkey Tonk" Montana city. Walkerville sat atop the geophysical "butte" that gave Butte is name. Anaconda to Butte's West was home at one time to the "worlds largest stack" the smelter stack that created a poison moonscape downwind of it.

You wont get any Western flavor at all from Red Harvest, it reads like a typical gangster/hard boiled dectective novel, set in LA, Chicago or New York City, which to me is strange knowing the area. Even today there is a strong Western feel to every town in Montana so it seems strange in a novel set in a "wide open" Butte in the 20's there isn't any mention of cowboys, indians, horses, saloons, honkey tonks, falsefronts, mines, tailing piles, stampmills, smelters, whorehouses, etc., etc., nada. Even the characters populating the novel have not one iota of a Western feel, clothing or nicknames, Pete the Fin, Whisper, Blackie , only Reno Starkey has a Western sound to it.

There are barely any descriptive passages in the novel at all and those that are there are sparce. When the slightly cubby hero of Red Harvest (the man with no name, the Continental OP) arrives at a pool hall we get generic pool hall, no name, no description, nada. Whispers headquaters is described in this fashion:

"Whisper's joint  was a three story brick building in the middle of the block between two two-story buildings. The ground floor of his joint was occupied by a cigar store that served as entrance and cover for the gambling establishment upstairs."

That's it, no name of the cigar store, no wooden indian, or description of the interior or of the adjacent establishments, no description of what kind of gambling or the layout , never a mention of brand of or type of guns used nothing. The entire novel is equally sparce except for "gangster slang" dialog.

The basic storyline is this.  Elihu Willsson the mining town boss has a problem. After hiring thugs & strike breakers during labor/mining strikes in the early 1900's to break the heads of the miners unions the thugs didn't leave &  have taken over the town. One faction, Noonan's runs the police force. Whisper runs the gambling, Pete The Finn is a bootlegger, Lew Yard was the fence, Reno Starkey a hoolum. Dinah Brand is a full figured hooker. Willsson not only controls the mines but the newspaper, his son is the cliche editor who comes in from back East and starts a crusade trying to clean up the town . He calls in the Continental Detective Agency to investigate. Before our "Man with No Name, Continental Op" gets to first meet him he is murdered. Elihu Willsson retains the Op with $10,000 to clean up the town. So the Op gets a free hand to clean out the town, this is the origin of "the both ends against the middle" in AFOD, but in Red Harvest its more than two factions the Op has to deal with.

So through deception the Op begins to play each faction against the other. You'll read things that will remind you of some things in the film, there is the climactic shootout with dynamite & fire at Pete The Finn's wharehouse (The Baxters fiery destruction) (there are numerous corpses that are used in similar ways to the way the two dead soldiers were used in the cemetery by the Op).

The film is a distillation of all of the characters & their gangs in the novel into the two gangs Rojo & Baxter.

I've never really watched "Last Man Standing", so I don't know how close it followed the novel by comparison.
Title: Re: Red Harvest
Post by: dave jenkins on November 28, 2007, 01:55:29 AM
Thanks, CJ, I don't know when I was ever gonna get around to checking the novel out. You've saved me some time. O0
Title: Re: Red Harvest
Post by: cigar joe on November 28, 2007, 05:32:58 AM
Its interesting but yet dissapointing at the same time. In looks of the characters Last Man Standing is the correct time period.
Title: Re: Red Harvest
Post by: Jill on November 28, 2007, 11:35:59 AM
Imagine how great Elihu could have been Charles Laughton or Orson Welles...

Reno is a great character, yeah. Perhaps he is the origin of Unosuke/Ramon, but only a little.

The greedy girl just rocks! She's not that stupid bitch and not a femme fatale. She's an individual.  ;)

I liked the dark humor of the book. Last Man Standing had no humor...

But: how did the "stolen wife" theme come? In the book it isn't there.
Title: Re: Red Harvest
Post by: cigar joe on November 28, 2007, 04:41:09 PM
The stolen wife is the Italian contribution I suppose, but she could be represented in the book by "information" the Op has about who actually killed Tim Noonan its a bit more complicated in the novel, lol . The final shootout also would be an Italian addition also.
Title: Re: Red Harvest
Post by: Tuco the ugly on November 28, 2007, 04:56:29 PM
Sounds interesting.  O0
Title: Re: Red Harvest
Post by: cigar joe on December 01, 2007, 05:12:34 AM
I found "Last Man Standing" for $2.00 and ordered it, I'll report on this version of Red Harvest asap.  8)
Title: Re: Red Harvest
Post by: dave jenkins on December 01, 2007, 12:35:18 PM
The stolen wife is the Italian contribution I suppose....
No, no, it's in Yojimbo, so part of the Japanese contribution.
Title: Re: Red Harvest
Post by: cigar joe on December 01, 2007, 02:11:52 PM
No, no, it's in Yojimbo, so part of the Japanese contribution.

That could be I haven't seen the Japanese version in quite a while.
Title: Re: Red Harvest
Post by: cigar joe on December 11, 2007, 05:42:02 AM
Ok received "Last Man Standing" last night and watched it. Watching this film through for the first time I can give my initial impressions you can see both the "Yohimbo" and the "A Fistful Of Dollars" influence combined with the source material "Red Harvest". This films biggest missing element is STYLE.

Walter Hill directed with

Bruce Willis ...  John Smith
Bruce Dern ...  Sheriff Ed Galt
William Sanderson ...  Joe Monday
Christopher Walken ...  Hickey
David Patrick Kelly ...  Doyle
Karina Lombard ...  Felina
Ned Eisenberg ...  Fredo Strozzi
Alexandra Powers ...  Lucy Kolinski
Michael Imperioli ...  Giorgio Carmonte

Bruce Willis plays the "samurai NWNN" character "John Smith". You see him first in what looks like a model A driving across the Texas desert its a short sequence, too short. From his narrative he is a man on the run possibly an ex gangster, not the Continental Op. Not a whole lot of Western Landscape featured in this film (if it had and opening sequence like the Cohen Bros. "No Country For Old Men" it would have definitely given it a more Western feel).

There are a few shots of the desert but they are not stunningly beautiful. It comes off as a result more like a gangster flick which is truer to Hammett's "Red Harvest" than both previous film adaptations. So Willis arrives in a town 50 miles from the Mexican border where most of the action takes place. This time around the two rival bootlegging gangs are Italian headed by Fredo Strozzi & Irish led by Doyle. Willis has an opening confrontation with the Irish led gang then meets the owner of a bar Joe Monday (William Sanderson the actor from the "Bob Newhart Show" and recently "Deadwood" who has basically the Silvanito part.

Willis arms himself with two Colt Automatics and goes out & does what approximates a "apologize to my mule" riff that comes off flat, there is no "get three coffins ready" line, nada, its not cool in the least. In fact the only reference to a coffin maker is a shot of bodies in the window of a funeral home and a smiling undertaker. Afterwards he offers his services to the Italians one of whom is played by Michael Imperioli from "The Sopranos".

It has almost all the major elements of AFOD & Yojimbo with extras added from Red Harvest, but it doesn't have the picaresque use dead bodies in AFOD. It does have the "Baxter Massacre" a burning road house sequence whose victims are the Italian gang (this is from two sequences in Red Harvest the first is a road house massacre the second is a bootleggers wearhouse. It does have an over use of a lot of automatic weapons which becomes redundant in every shootout and  there impact which should have been empathised becomes wastered down. Another missing in action element is the buildup tension before each showdown, Hill homages Peckinpah rather than Leone.

This film does have the Marisol character here called Felina minus her family, and adds two more "floozies" for good measure one is a love interest for Willis. It also has Bruce Dern as a crooked sheriff Ed Gault (which is loosely based on police chief Noonan in Red Harvest) but his character becomes a fusion of the Piperio & Sivanito parts in AFOD rather than the crook he is in Red Harvest. So we have almost two Silvanitos in "Last Man Standing.  Christoffer Walken plays "Hickey" a bad ass gangster/hitman aligned with the Irish gang who speaks in a harsh whisper and this character is actually based on "Whisper" from Red Harvest.

There is a scene where Smith (Willis) is beaten by the gang and left in a wearhouse with a ramp (just like in AFOD) but for some strange reason the ramp goes down from the dooway and its not used by Willis who simply just grabs one of the gangmen and uses his gun to shoot the other before making his escape.

You'd think they would have at least tried to make something as good as either Yojimbo Or AFOD but they don't even come close.

Again how can you make a film taking place in the Southwest or a film based on Red Harvest in Montana and populate it soley with Chicago/New York style gangsters all "talkin like dis" ? There should be much more Western dressed characters, more Mexicans and Native Americans. It should look more like a Zapata Western than a gangster film.

Title: Re: Red Harvest
Post by: BeauButabi on December 11, 2007, 08:46:24 PM
I recall renting Last Man Standing sometime within the last year or so, watching about a half hour of it, then turning it off. Terrible piece of shit that movie was.
Title: Re: Red Harvest
Post by: cigar joe on December 12, 2007, 04:21:25 AM
That was my initial reaction when I saw it a few years ago on TV.