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Author Topic: Missing the Leone "touch", fatal flaws in Clints American westerns  (Read 28538 times)
cigar joe
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« on: February 15, 2003, 06:20:29 AM »

I sort of picked up a ball and ran with this in the off topic section but I think it bears more looking into.
Maybe the correct place is here.

Like I said below I like all of Clint's westerns but they never quite matched up to any of Leones, "Unforgiven" was Clints best effort and is close to perfection,  for reasons that I'll get to later or if you can't wait jump down and see under Off Topic Discussions.

I'd really like to hear your thoughts, I'd always leave an early Eastwood western with the feeling that I was getting short changed. With a Leone western it was like getting a full meal. Maybe its that Clint's larger than life persona carries these vehicles over the rough spots and you tend to forget what we lost not having Leone direct them or Morricone score them.

Except for the newbies, I think we all know Leone pretty good, so lets all think like Leone and see if we could have made these movies better than they are.

That said I remember eagerly waiting the premier of "Hang 'em High" Clints first American western upon his leaving Leone.  A great story, Clint (intitially a drover reminicent of his "Rawhide" days) gets hanged by a lynch mob and survives to serve vengeance upon his hangers. It had a great historical back story, though for the life of me I don't know why they changed the names. In the movie the Hanging Judge was Judge Fenton and the town was Ft. Grant, in real life the Judge was Issac Parker and the town was Ft. Smith, Arkansas. The historical depictions of the multiple hangings were great.  The movie did have some ok camera camera angles. The scene where Clint confronts Reno is a classic but it goes down hill from there.

The vigilantes for the most part are lightweights, take the two captains, Captain Maddow,  and "The Captain" Alan Hale-Gilligan's Island, come on give me a break. Leone would have had distict memorable baddies maybe even top stars as baddies, each would have had some sort of unique confrontation with Clint. What happend to the Swede, most of that apparently was left on the cutting room floor, only Bruce Dern had a spark of some devious charater. It seems that a lot of the story was truncated,  Leone would have given it the full treatment.  That whole storyline with Inger Stevens was for the most part another melodramatic waste, she should have been played against type and should have been one of the whores. There was also no big shoot out ending, it sort of just fizzled out, Clint rides off to serve more warrents, hummm...  think of how great Leone's version might have been. And to top it all off the music was a joke, they could have used some serious Morricone.

I suppose you could say in fairness that they didn't want to make a carbon copy Leone (which they probably could not do any way being back in the Hollywood picture mill), but, I still think it could have been much better.



« Last Edit: February 15, 2003, 02:09:17 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2003, 01:00:17 AM »

greetings joe,
 I cant' get into specifics just now as  i  haven't done any research yet, but off the top of my head, i will say that  High Plains Drifter delivers a powerfull punch . I especially take note of the general mood of tension and dread sustained throughout and the exploration of the themes of responsibility and retribution. I am looking forward to your comments. Thanks
                                                       PL
 

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« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2003, 07:59:03 AM »

Welcome uno hombre,  

Ok lets look at High Plains Drifter. The opening mirage/ghost sequense was beautiful the music equally great, I would have thought it was Morricone, and Its a good story, the avenging gunfighter returns to punnish the townfolk and the released outlaws responsible for murdering the sheriff, framed by the same. This is definitely the most spahgetti like of Clints American westerns, I agree.  And it does have good story elements. But here is the flaw, aside from Geoffry Lewis (a very good character actor), Paul Brinegar "Whisbone" (from Rawhide) and Billy Curtis as Mordecai, who were great, it could have used some strong big name actor/s to play opposite Clint as the chief villian. Whats lacking in Clints American westerns is Leone's way of casting stars out of character that worked so well to keep audiences on edge.  Its all probably got something to do with lower budgets, and the fact that the movies were shot here in expensive America, Leone got more bang for the buck in Spain.

The movies location was definitely different, and it probably should have shown much more of it, in Leone's epics the sweeping landscapes had a lot to with the feel of the movies and were just as much a part of the film as Morricone's music.  Leones big landscapes were even bigger because he amplified the sounds to an un-natural volume, crows cawing, endless wind, mechanical creaks, steam hissing, hooves pounding.  The town setting seems just a tadd  too constrained, some of the story elements should have been moved to other locations. The mine owners storyline could have taken place at the mine which would have given the opportunity for another location. The town set itself seemed to be built on the cheap, look at the realistic mining boom towns in "Paint your Wagon" or "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" Also seemed to lack extras which would have given the town more of a boom atmosphere to go with its shinny new penny look.

Painting the town red was a great touch, and the burning down of most of it was good too, but again the climax should have been more Leonesque.  Again overall good with what seemed to me a fatal flaw that being too low a budget.


« Last Edit: February 16, 2003, 08:16:50 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2003, 08:17:06 AM »

there is not very much one can add to cigar joe´s perfect analysis. He even mentioned the wind, which is , besides the Morricone score, music on its own in Leone´s movies.
By the way, High plain dr..  had a predecessor in the spaghetti western series: Django the bastard, with Antony Steffen (Antonio de Teffe), who plays "the ghost" coming back for revenge. The movie was mediocre.
 Smiley

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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2003, 12:54:30 PM »

one thing that urked me was  back in america eastwood is still portraying a man w/ no name.  call me persnikity but he seems to be sporting , not that little perodi cigar, but a much bigger cigar. a cigar he let's a women slap out of his mouth. eegads!

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« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2003, 04:10:37 PM »

I'm guilty of pretty much the same thing, I cast my allegiance with Clint after the spagehetties and did not realize the genius of Leone, and now I lament the fact that we only have 7 Leone movies to comment on. Perhaps if in fact Leone had chosen another actor for Clints role the authorship of Leone would have been more apparent and not gotten eclipsed by Clints rise to stardom. But then again maybe the magic would not have all fallen into place, so it goes, who knows.

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« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2003, 06:13:03 AM »

Well,I think the reason Clint's westerns do not match those of Leone's is that Clint didn't put his heart and soul into them,as Leone did.Westerns were only one part of Clint's movie-making career,and he didn't probably even want to create anything larger than life.

Still,I personally like Unforgiven and that western where he was the priest (can't remember the name right now).

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« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2003, 11:17:29 AM »

Pale Rider.

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« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2003, 04:21:40 PM »

  Well, "Hang 'Em High" and "High Plains Drifter", in my opinion, frankly sucked.  Grin But his later Westerns, like "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and especially "Unforgiven" were great.

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« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2003, 06:55:36 AM »

I believe Clint succeeded in achieving the "touch" with his "Outlaw Josey Wales" (1976). Why? Because along with the great quiet moments of the film, the colorful characters, the effort to achieve period detail with the costumes and the art direction, he had with him the great Jerry Fielding whose music score of this film along with his scores of "The Wild Bunch"(1969) and"Straw Dogs" (1971) were all nominated for academy awards.  What makes a western as well as any film truly succeed is its atmosphere and Josey Wales certainly has it from start to finish.

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« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2003, 07:02:30 PM »

Josey Wales was good up until Sondra Locke, granny, one shanghi rooster and old yeller dog showed up in the story, they could have lost that thread. The other flaw was it had no very strong villan to play off Clint. I thought that Chife Dan George was great.

Unforgiven was great, got all the elements right and hit on all cylinders.

« Last Edit: May 18, 2003, 07:05:32 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2003, 04:55:52 PM »

Josey Wales was good up until Sondra Locke, granny, one shanghi rooster and old yeller dog showed up in the story, they could have lost that thread. The other flaw was it had no very strong villan to play off Clint. I thought that Chife Dan George was great.

Unforgiven was great, got all the elements right and hit on all cylinders.

I didn't mind Sondra Locke/etc., but I would've preferred they not be in, as you apparently would.  All of the action scenes were good though (esp. the massacre of the POWs of Eastwood's unit at the beginning), and Chief Dan George, John Vernon, and Bill McKinney all did a great job.  

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« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2003, 09:15:23 PM »

If you read the book TOJW you'll find an abrupt change in the feel of the story when the Locke segment begins.  There's more Lone Wate in the book than the movie. Its almost as if somebody made a decision to add the Locke story line it reads as if there were two different writers.

The major flaw was the low budget. You need a strong villian perhaps played by an actor of equal caliber to Clint, someone who ozed evil.

In Unforgiven we got pretty much that with Gene Hackman, and the movie was superior for it. John Vernon just didn't hack it.

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« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2003, 09:24:35 PM »

Bill McKinney played Terrill, the leader of the "red legs." I know McKinney still isn't quite the star magnitude as Clint, but he's the villain.

I love The Outlaw Josey Wales. I would say definately one of the best of it's kind.

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« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2003, 05:09:37 PM »

Find the book and read it if you can, and tell me if you get the same impression. The Terrill character didn't seem to have much screen time and niether did Vernon.

« Last Edit: May 20, 2003, 05:10:25 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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