Six degrees of Wild Bunch separation

wildbunch

Tomorrow, TCM puts a spotlight on Warren Oates, and as tempted as I am to write about The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969) I see that fellow Morlock Greg Ferrara has covered that epic western in five different posts. So I’m taking a different tack and, instead, will take this opportunity to dust-off my copy of Alex Cox’s 10,000 Ways to Die: A Director’s Take on the Spaghetti Western. The idea here is to share with TCM readers excerpts from the six Spaghetti Westerns that Alex cross-referenced to The Wild Bunch. It’s also fitting to remind readers about Alex Cox in regards to westerns because, not only did he direct a few (ie: Straight to Hell and Walker), but he is about to launch a Kickstarter campaign for his next film: Tombstone Rashomon, which will present five radically different stories of the OK Corral Gunfight.

For a Few Dollars More

The first time The Wild Bunch pops up in the index to Alex’s book it’s in reference to For a Few Dollars More (Sergio Leone, 1965), and it’s purely for comparative reasons. Alex states that For a Few Dollars More is “a great Western in its own right. It’s as good as Vera Cruz. It’s better than The Magnificent Seven. For me, it approaches the heights of The Searchers and The Wild Bunch.” No faint praise here, as elsewhere in his book Alex refers to Peckinpah’s masterpiece as a film so good that it “endures in its own right, on its own terms,” adding that despite the years that have rolled by, the film remains “extraordinary.”

Quien_sabe_67

Next up, we go off the beaten track with ¿Quien Sabe? (aka: A Bullet for the General. Damiano Damiani, 1966). Alex writes that “¿Quien Sabe? seems to have influenced The Wild Bunch: Peckinpah’s masterpiece, shot the following year. Both films share the same sympathy for the followers of Juarez versus the murderous crew who control the army …” Alex adds that Damiano’s approach was less idealistic, also noting that both films feature a performance by Jaime Fernandez and  feature a bandit leader followed by an entourage of peasant boys. “Peckinpah usually pretended ignorance in foreign films, or any influence upon his work… But I find it impossible to believe Sam didn’t see ¿Quien Sabe?

Navajo Joe

Use of the telephoto lens gets us the third Wild Bunch shout-out via Navajo Joe (aka Un dollar a testa. Sergio Corbucci, 1966). Alex is a huge Corbucci fan and has often cited The Great Silence (aka: Il grande silenzio, 1968) as a personal favorite. So has Quentin Tarantino, whose upcoming The Hateful Eight is sure to pay that film a variety of homages. Bringing focus back to Navajo Joe, Alex refers to the credit scene featuring a horde of outlaws riding towards the camera: “This image, of a gang of bandits riding straight towards a long lens, would become a staple of Corbucci movies, and every other Spaghetti Western which could afford an outlaw horde. Such telephoto shots are used by Peckinpah in The Wild Bunch and his later pictures; and by Valerii and Leone in My Name is Nobody. Yet this iconic shot was borrowed from another film: the introduction of the outlaws in A Pistol for Ringo.”

Tepepa

As a film programmer my job is to see a lot of movies, but I must admit to never having even heard of this next one, which surprises me because it includes Orson Welles as Colonel Cascorro in Tepepa (aka: Blood & Guns, Tepepa… Viva la revolucion! Guilio Petroni, 1969). According to Alex: “Tepepa is a fine film, well shot, well acted, well art-directed, original in its use of Andalucian locations, with great action and a splendid score. The first meeting between Price and Cascorro features the colonel drunk, surrounded by cronies and women; a revolutionary shoeshine boy attempts to kill him and is shot. It’s almost identical to the scene in The Wild Bunch (1969) where Angel sees General Mapache with his ex, and tries to kill him. As in The Wild Bunch, an automobile makes frequent appearances. One wonders whether Peckinpah saw Tepepa. Did it play in Mexico while Sam was shooting there?”

The Ruthless Four

Admittedly, Westerns are mostly sausage-fests ripe for all forms of prototypical bromances, so small wonder that Alex’s next citation of The Wild Bunch touches on this with Every Man for Himself (aka: Ognuno per se, Chacun pour soi, Sam Cooper’s Gold, The Ruthless Four. Giorgio Capitani, 1968). Alex has high praise for this “tightly constructed thriller” which he describes as a “Treasure of the Sierra Madre in reverse, in which the hero loses everything, except the gold.” He writes that the film is fueled “it seems, by several gay love affairs.” Klaus Kinski’s character dominates physically and psychologically, rooms are shared, there are open-handed slap beat-downs, tears shed on pillows, and a steam-bath. “Of course,” Alex points out, “not every steam-bath scene is an exclusively gay hang-out. A hetrosexist might point to the steam-bath scene in The Wild Bunch as evidence that hyper-heteros also frequent bath houses. But there’s a gay subtext to Peckinpah’s film, as well, and I think the comparison proves the point. Both pictures refer constantly to Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The end of The Wild Bunch, when, dying, Pike and Dutch share a few last words, is similar to the last scene of Every Man for Himself, where Mason and Sam – too badly shot up to move, unable to see each other – say their goodbyes.”

My Name Is Nobody

For the sixth and last Wild Bunch connection, we end with My Name is Nobody (aka: Il mio nome e nessuno, 1973), which stands out mainly for being “one film attempting to reconcile at least four different types of Western – the classic American, personified by Fonda; the modern, revisionist American, in the many references to Sam Peckinpah and The Wild Bunch; the Spaghetti alla Leone, with its soaring Morricone scores and classic showdowns; and the Spaghetti alla Barboni, with Hill and baked beans and ‘cute/funny’ jokes.” This one gets a mixed review by Alex, who says it’s both imperfect, full of long scenes that don’t work and jokes that fall flat, but also punctuated by moments of greatness.

For more information on Alex’s next film project,  Tombstone Rashomon please visit:
http://igg.me/at/tombstone

17 Responses Six degrees of Wild Bunch separation
Posted By Emgee : August 23, 2015 7:30 pm

“Peckinpah usually pretended ignorance in foreign films.”
He even denied that Leone’s westerns influenced him. That’s like Leone saying he never saw Yojimbo. Shame on you, Sam!

Posted By Alfredo : August 24, 2015 12:15 am

Sergio Leone is more than an influence In My Name Is Nobody

Posted By Emgee : August 24, 2015 8:54 am

I’m more looking forward to Tombstone Rashomon than The Hateful Eight. Tarantino plundering other movies once again? How exciting.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : August 24, 2015 9:38 am

Peckinpah usually pretended ignorance in foreign films ?
Really !
He had the greatest respect for Bergman, Clouzot, Renoir, Clement
Fellini. Yes, he may take some details from the italian westerns,
but his films are deeper, richer and better made, than all of
Leones work.

Posted By Emgee : August 24, 2015 9:53 am

“his films are deeper, richer and better made, than all of
Leones work. “That’s a matter of opinion (which i don’t share).

Posted By John S : August 24, 2015 4:36 pm

THE WILD BUNCH is one of the five or so greatest movies ever made. So as much as I dig Corbucci and Leone — and lesser, stupider Spaghetti westerns — there is no apt comparison beyond the fact that these movies are all westerns. I’m a great fan of A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL, and own Alex Cox’s terrific book, but Ghijath is correct. I’ve never seen a Spaghetti western that comes close to the cosmic depth of Peckipah at his best. Even the otherwise great KEOMA!

Posted By robbushblog : August 24, 2015 6:53 pm

I don’t even like spaghetti westerns all that much. I like Clint’s three alright, mainly because he’s in them. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is okay, but I think it is really overrated these days, usually by young hipsters who haven’t really watched a lot of old westerns or who deride them as being “too Hollywood”. Generalize much? Maybe, but that’s the impression I get from movie discussions on many different film pages.

Posted By Emgee : August 24, 2015 7:07 pm

Leone totally revolutionized not just the look but also the mood of the western; before a Fistful of Dollars westerns were always about Good vs Bad, with Good invariably the winner. Leone’s protagonists were never all good, a premise difficult to accept for traditional Hollywood directors, who mostly hated his work.
(until they began imitating him , that is)
Without Leone no Wild Bunch; some may say the pupil surpassed the master, but i’m certainly not one of them.

Posted By robbushblog : August 24, 2015 7:19 pm

Prior to Leone not all Hollywood westerns were about good vs. bad with good invariably the winner. Ethan Edwards was not a “good guy”. Audie Murphy in NO NAME ON THE BULLET was not a “good guy”. They were protagonists, but there were a lot of gray characters before Leone.

Posted By John S : August 24, 2015 7:37 pm

Spaghetti westerns are odd because they don’t have to be good to be watchable. If you’re inclined to like the visuals and bad dubbing nihilism and great music, you can enjoy, say, BLINDMAN or any SABATA movie. But I don’t get it when people say, for instance, THE BIG GUNDOWN is a great movie. Spaghetti westerns are not unlike Hammer movies: There are a few great ones, but I like nearly all of them.

Posted By robbushblog : August 24, 2015 7:54 pm

I would be content skipping the movies and just listening to the soundtrack score albums.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : August 25, 2015 10:00 am

@ Emgee

Watch Vera Cruz. It´s all there, even the machine gun.
Long before Leone and Corbucci.

Posted By Emgee : August 25, 2015 11:36 am

I’ve seen Vera Cruz, and yes it definitely had a great impact on Leone, but then also on Peckinpah.
Let’s say they both used elements and ideas from other westerns but gave it their own personal shape and flavour.
The difference between both men is that Leone was more outspoken about his influences, like indeed Vera Cruz, and Peckinpah much more reticent.

Posted By kjolseth : August 27, 2015 4:46 pm

Thanks for all the comments, folks! And I have an addendum to make to my post, as I just found out that Alex has decided to fund his next movie, TOMBSTONE RASHOMON, via Indiegogo (not Kickstarter). The link is now live at:
http://igg.me/at/tombstone

Posted By MikeD : August 28, 2015 10:17 pm

“Quien sabe?” sounds interesting; Gian Maria Volonte and Martine Beswick (woo haa)!!

Posted By CitizenKing : August 31, 2015 12:22 pm

Today on Pedant’s Corner, our hero corrects a minor error no one cares about.

In your first paragraph, you mean to say you are taking a different tack, not tact. In sailing, to tack is to sail into the wind by zig-zagging at oblique angles. So to tack is to approach something from a different direction.

Posted By Pablo Kjolseth : September 6, 2015 1:44 am

Now amended, thanks to your eagle eye. There’s no error ever so minor that I wouldn’t care about it, and I always appreciate having such things brought to my attention. Thanks for the correction!

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