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: AW's vs SW's - Frayling & "Sixguns & Society"  ( 6871 )
cigar joe
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« : December 11, 2005, 04:42:03 PM »

I happened to find a copy of Will Wright’s book "Sixguns & Society" (1975) that’s mentioned and criticized in Fraylings "Spaghetti Westerns" (from Carl May …) it details the three basic plots of AW’s according to the top money making US westerns, if you have Fraylings book you know he disagrees with a lot of his premises, basically he sticks all SW’s under the Professional Plot.

Wright’s traditional oppositions: good-bad, inside-outside society,
wilderness-civilization

But Frayling doesn’t actually mention the plots in AW’s so here they are:

Classical Plot

1.Hero enters a social group
2.Hero is unknown to society
3.Hero is revealed to have special ability.
4.Society recognizes the difference between themselves & the hero.
  The hero is given special status.
5.Society does not completely accept the hero.
6.There is a conflict of interests between the villain and society.
7.Villains stronger than society.
8.Strong friendship or respect between hero & villain.
9.Villians threaten society.
10.  Hero avoids involvement in conflict.
11.  Villains endanger a friend of the hero.
12.  Hero fights villains.
13.  Hero defeats villains.
14.  Society is safe.
15.  Society accepts hero.
16.  Hero looses or gives up special powers.

(Sample films reviewed as examples of - Shane, Dodge City, Canyon Passage, The Far Country, and Duel In The Sun)

Vengeance Variant Plot

1.Hero is or was a member of society.
2.Villains do harm to hero or society.
3.Society is unable to punish villains.
4.Hero seeks vengeance.
5.Hero goes outside of society.
6.Hero is revealed to have special ability.
7.The society recognizes a difference between themselves & the
  hero. The hero is given special status.
8.A representative of society asks hero to give up is revenge.
9.Hero gives up his revenge.
10.Hero fights villains.
11.Hero defeats villains.
12.Hero gives up his special status.
13.Hero enters society.

(Sample films representing this - Stagecoach, The Man From Laramie, One-Eyed Jacks and Nevada Smith)

Wright also mentions a Transition Plot in which the relation between the hero & society is significantly changed from the estrangement-acceptance pattern found in the classical plot and the vengeance variation. Wright only lists three top money making films that fit this plot.(Broken Arrow, High Noon, and Johnny Guitar)

Professional Plot

1.Heros are professionals.
2.Heros undertake a job.
3.Villains are very strong.
4.Society is ineffective.
5.The job involves the heroes in a fight.
6.The heroes all have special abilities.
7.The heroes form a group for the job.
8.The heroes as a group share respect, affection, and loyalty.
9.The heroes as a group are independent of society.
10.The heroes fight the villains.
11.The heroes defeat the villains.
12.The heroes stay or die together.

(Films cited in this plot are Rio Bravo, The Professionals, True Grit, The Wild Bunch, and Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid)

For those who do not have the Frayling book, Frayling lists the Italian Western Plots and gives the basic Italian oppositions as follows:

victim-executioner, gringo-mexican, inside the local community-outside the local community, pro faction-anti faction, family oriented-self oriented, amity-enmity, and money-commitment to a cause.

Here are the plots I’ve edited them a bit some are going to spill over into each other.

Spaghetti Western Foundation Plot

1.Hero rides into a fringe social group at the border of two
  cultures.
2.Hero is established as being from a different culture to that of
  the inhabitants.
3.Hero is revealed to have exceptional ability.
4.The social group is divided into two major factions divided by
  interests.
5.The hero sells his services first to one faction then the other.
6.A third societal group is revealed that is neutral and represents
  the family and acts as the moral guide to the hero.
7.The hero plays one clan off against the other.
8.The hero gets beaten by one clan but rises up again and defeats
  them.
9.Hero with no one left to exploit rides away, society is still not
  safe.

(FAFOD, Django)

Treasure Hunt Plot (my name for it)

1.Heroes live on the fringe of society.
2.Heroes are more or less the villains in an anarchy of a society
  in civil war .
3.Heroes have special abilities.
4.Heroes undertake a treasure hunt.
5.Heroes do not form a group but are competitors resorting to
  tricks and double cross to gain advantage.
6.The heroes do not stay together at the end nor spend money or
  join society .

(GBU, Run Man Run, Companeros)

Zapata Plot

1.There are two Heroes, one an American-European, the other a
  Mexican peasant-bandit.
2.The "cool" style of the Gringo is contrasted to the flamboyant
  style of the Mexican.
3.Gringo is specialist in some sort of armament-gunplay or
  explosives and offers to join the Mexican in hope of finding some
  gold or for getting paid (he is outside the values of the peons).
4.Society is an anarchy of corrupt government officials-brutal army
  officers-competing revolutionary factions-roving bandits, and
  oppressed illiterate peons.
5.Mexican peasant-bandit transforms into revolutionary through
  contact with cell of activists and becomes a hero to the bandits.
6.Gringo still operates with transformed bandit still in hope of
  finding some gold or for getting paid.
7.The Mexican tries to get the Gringo to join the revolution.
8.Gringo remains cynical but Mexican nevertheless begins to warn to
  him.

OPTIONAL

9a.Heroes teem up to briefly fight a larger than life villain who
   is trying to exploit the chaotic situation in Mexico.
9b.Heros defeat villain in elaborate showdown.

10.Mexican peasant-bandit leads a successful raid against corrupt
   Mexican authorities.
11.At end it is clear that another better equipped Counter-
   Revolutionary force will attack.

VARIANT ENDINGS

12a.Gringo remains cynical but two heroes go their own separate
    ways with mutual respect. (The Mercenary)
12b.Gringo remains cynical and is killed by Mexican bandit. (A
    Bullet For The General, Tepepa)
12c.Gringo joins the Mexican peasant-bandit in revolutionary cause
    in a final suicidal settling of accounts (Companeros, DYS)
So now that we have these plot samples let’s analyze what has happened since the Spaghetti Western days. We can see if some of the late 70’s-80’s-90’s westerns fit into any of these plots or if any new plots or variations have obviously emerged.

This could be interesting.

« : December 12, 2005, 05:20:21 AM cigar joe »

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« #1 : December 12, 2005, 04:06:04 AM »

Interesting stuff Cigar Joe,but i try not to analyse my beloved SW's too much-it takes out all the fun!!

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« #2 : December 12, 2005, 04:49:25 AM »

An interesting read, I love SW's but I also adore US Westerns also and its the differences between the two that makes me like them from the relatively tame and innocent "The Plainsman" to the magnificent Once Upon A Time In The West.


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« #3 : December 12, 2005, 05:27:56 AM »

I thought that with this format we could actually try and plot the last few westerns made recently and see if we have some kind of variation in the previous plots or can detect a new one.

I'm suspecting that slowly but surely we have gotten back to the AW plots, which may be why we are not getting any westerns made. "Open Range" for one that comes to mind I think is a throwback to the earlier AW plots.

It also may be a good way to try and create a new SW, lol.


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« #4 : December 12, 2005, 07:07:27 AM »

I think a lot of todays filmmakers (and I share their sentiments and have the same ambition) would like to revist the old west today, just like the ones they used to know. I think a spaghetti should be made (as long as it isn't a remake)


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« #5 : December 12, 2005, 08:21:27 PM »

Another key factor in Western Plots in general is (from Wright) the central significance of the landscape which is truely expressed and felt in cinematic imagery, the vast deserts and empty skies of John Ford and the noble mountians and forests of Henry Hathaway and Anthony Mann establish absolutely the vital relation of the western setting to the stories and actions of the myth.

I noticed the biggest initial failure for me of the film "The Quick & The Dead" was the lack of the western "landscape", it was off right at the get go.

I suspect that other directors of westerns that fail to use the land as a major component in their films are probably crippled right from the start when they ought to latch on to the myth with both hands and not let go.


(Back to Wright) Through out history, myth and epic have been told with the aid of rhythm, ritual, song, and verse. Music adds depth and significance to a story, and in myth it makes the imagined meanings clearer and more immediately felt. The mythical significance of the Western is reinforced in film by music.

Very True.

Spaghetti Westerns not only amplified the significance of the music but added the amplification of natural and manmade sounds, Winchesters cocked, cylinders spun, flies buzzing, steam locomotives breathing, etc., etc.


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« #6 : December 12, 2005, 08:21:48 PM »

Frayling's thesis is hooey. Spaghetti-Western plots are just variations on American Western plots with some distinctive details added. For example, the so-called SW Foundation plot fits the classical American Western pattern. Shane, FOD, and Django are all partakers of the Mysterious Stranger formula, which goes all the way back to the Odyssey.

The reason we value SWs is because the AW went flabby and the genre needed an ass-kicking. AWs are as good as SWs when they are true to themselves and not civics lessons got up in Western costumes.



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« #7 : December 12, 2005, 08:26:20 PM »


I noticed the biggest initial failure for me of the film "The Quick & The Dead" was the lack of the western "landscape", it was off right at the get go.

You are so right it's scary. TV Westerns ignored this fact to their peril. This is why Wanted: Dead or Alive was fairly entertaining, but Gunsmoke always sucked.

« : December 12, 2005, 08:28:06 PM dave jenkins »


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« #8 : December 13, 2005, 08:12:14 PM »

Quote
Frayling's thesis is hooey. Spaghetti-Western plots are just variations on American Western plots with some distinctive details added. For example, the so-called SW Foundation plot fits the classical American Western pattern. Shane, FOD, and Django are all partakers of the Mysterious Stranger formula, which goes all the way back to the Odyssey.

But the difference between Shane and FOD & Django is Shane is motivated to do good for sole reason of Good guy "white hat"  doing good. Django and Joe have other motives involved.  8)

If Shane were like FOD & Django the farmers/settlers would not be squeaky clean but a faction driven their own interests.


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« #9 : December 13, 2005, 08:32:45 PM »

"Shane, FOD, and Django are all partakers of the Mysterious Stranger formula"

But the difference between Shane and FOD & Django is Shane is motivated to do good for sole reason of Good guy "white hat"  doing good. Django and Joe have other motives involved.  8)

I see...at least..a couple of influences right here..the American Western Vera Cruz...in which everyone was motivated by greed...a stranger rides into the territory ready to fight for whichever side pays the most..& everybody's conning & doublecrossing  everybody else ....& Yojimbo, used/copied by Leone in FOD, the first Spaghetti Western to really blaze a new path, becoming somewhat of a blueprint for others to follow, based on its artistic & financial success.


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« #10 : December 14, 2005, 03:59:08 AM »

BA, I suppose you could also say that Shane had something for Starret's wife and vice versa as a motivation but its never much more than hinted at.

The big complaint that Frayling has with Wright's thesus is that he barely even mentions the SW's and when he does he lumps them all into the Professional Plot. With a film like GBU its hard to catagorize anyone as being a professional, and I'm not talking professionals as in "professional guns".

Also of note in case anybody was wondering, when Wright's didcussing Duel in the Sun the "hero" is a Jennifer Jones the woman.

« : December 14, 2005, 04:09:05 AM cigar joe »

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« #11 : December 14, 2005, 05:16:56 AM »

This thread reminds me, I must watch Yojimbo again, its been staring out at me from my Criterion shelf, I know I wont get round to watching it till Easter  ;D


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« #12 : December 14, 2005, 03:50:58 PM »

But the difference between Shane and FOD & Django is Shane is motivated to do good for sole reason of Good guy "white hat"  doing good. Django and Joe have other motives involved.  8)

If Shane were like FOD & Django the farmers/settlers would not be squeaky clean but a faction driven their own interests.

On that premise, its interesting how ABC on that 1979 TV premiere tried to make Fistful of Dollars like Shane. Adding the little intro prologue. Turning Joe into a criminal with a chance to reform himself by doing a 'mop up' job in San Miguel for the local authorities.

P.S. Really interesting original post Cigar Joe, thanks.


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« #13 : December 15, 2005, 03:59:28 AM »

Wright also was going by the biggest box office in the years 1935-70's on the films he plotted, his reasoning was that the public (society) reflected their approval with their vote (ie. tickets). So its also funny that he didn't review GBU since it was the biggest box office for its year, lol.

That is probably why Vera Cruz didn't come up under discussion either I think he's got it lumped into the Professional Plot too.  b-a

« : December 15, 2005, 05:30:15 AM cigar joe »

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