Today in Brand History: Spaghetti Westerns
In 1964, the film that popularized the "Spaghetti Western" genre, "A Fistful of Dollars" premiered. It was directed by Sergio Leone and featured Clint Eastwood in his first leading role.
European Westerns were filmed long before the era of the "Spaghetti Westerns." The Lumière brothers made their first films in 1895 and Joe Hamman starred as Arizona Bill in films made in the French country of Camargue in 1912.
The first Western movie made in Italy was "La voce del Sangue" produced by the Itala Film Studio in Turin in 1910. In 1913, "La Vampira Indiana" - a combination of Western and vampire film was produced. It was directed by Vincenzo Leone, father of Sergio Leone, and starred his mother Bice Waleran in the title role as Indian princess Fatale.
As for the "Spaghetti Westerns" themselves, these films were typically shot on low budgets, lowering the costs of shooting in the U.S. by shooting in Italy. Typically, these films featured anti-heroes with hidden agendas, revenge plots, and plenty of blood. In "A Fistful of Dollars", Leone used a distinct visual style to tell the story of a hero, The Man with No Name played by Clint Eastwood, entering a town ruled by two outlaw gangs. The hero betrays and plays the gangs against one another in order to make money, then manipulates the situation to save a family in the process. His treachery is exposed and he is severely beaten, but in the end, he defeats the remaining gang. Eastwood's own portrayal, an unshaven, sarcastic, insolent Western antihero set on his own gain, with the squint, the cigarillo, and the poncho helped to distinguish the look and feel of this new genre.
By the 1970s, the Spaghetti Western had fallen out of popularity. Not only were way less of these films being made, but the follow ups tried to be light-hearted comedies that paled in comparison to their gritty predecessors.