This Saturday in Montreal (starting at 7 PM) the Cinemathèque Interdite hosts (within the walls of Cinemathéque Québécoise) a double bill of French versions for two 60’s landmark Westerns all’italiana (commonly referred to as Spaghetti Westerns).
The evening kicks off with a 35mm print presentation of Enzo G. Castellari’s 1968 film Django Porte Sa Croix (original Italian title: Quella Sporca Storia nel West – english title: Johnny Hamlet). Castellari would go on to direct, ten years after, the original Inglorious Bastards (1978).
The French title (as it was also the case in Germany) is due to the success, two years earlier, of Sergio Corbucci’s original Django. It actually does not feature any Django character but at the time this title name was often used as a marketing tool.
Written by Castellari and Tito Carpi, from a story by Corbucci (loosely based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet), it tells the story of Johnny, back from the American civil war, carrying the haunting voices of his late father’s ghost longing for vengeance upon those who betrayed him.
Starring regular Spaghetti Western Andrea Giordana, Gilbert Roland and Horst Frank, Quella Sporca was one of three westerns shot by the director in 1968 alone, featuring some other regulars, along Carpi, headed by editor Tatiana Casini Morigi (from Pasolini’s team) and composer Francesco De Masi providing some of his trademark bass line and rhythm Al’Dente.
Although it is uneven, due to an international casting posing as a family that barely looks like one, it is nonetheless a seducing oddity as it is one in a cycle of baroque Westerns that borrowed elements from Gothic and horror, a sub-genre initiated a year earlier with Giulio Questi’s Sei Vivo Spara. Some interesting works would follow, including Antonio Margheriti’s Joko invoca Dio… e muori (aka Vengeance, 1968) and E Dio Disse a Caino…(God Said to Cain, 1970), Sergio Garrone’s Django il bastardo (1969), Cesare Canevari’s Matalo! (1970) as well as Castellari’s own Keoma (1976).
The evening continues with a 16mm presentation of Sergio Sollima’s Corri Uomo Corri (still dubbed in French), in which the director teamed up with Cuban born actor Tomas Milian for his second portrayal of the Manuel ‘Cuchillo’ Sanchez character that was very popular in Europe after they both made The Big Gun Down (La resa dei conti, 1966) with Lee Van Cleef. An early Zapata Spag (because of its Mexican revolution settings), Run man Run present a ‘Cuchillo’ who’s always on the run, with a lot of people chasing him, one major reason being a hidden treasure.
Leftist director Sollima plays with all codes of the genre to deliver a message that is in no way moralist or didactic but rather entertaining. And if there is just one actor who can get away with overplaying then it is got to be Tomas Millian. He is simply fun to watch delivering one mimic after another. He is splendid.
There is again a monumental score signed by Ennio Morricone’s long time orchestrator, the great Bruno Nicolai, to compete Guglielmo Mancori inspired cinematography. Tatiana Casini Morigi is the featured editor for the evening as she is also on work duty here.