Western All'italiana

   Film genre. The Western Italian style, more commonly known outside Italy as the "spaghetti Western," was a prolific genre that flourished in the mid-1960s, largely replacing the peplum, which had held the field in the previous decade. Some 450 such Westerns were made in Italy between 1964 and 1978, mostly as low-budget European or American coproductions and shot, for the most part, at the Cinecitta studios in Rome and on external locations in southern Italy and Spain.
   Although quite a number of B-grade Westerns had been made in Italy in the early 1960s — and indeed something of a forerunner of the genre had already appeared 20 years earlier in Giorgio Ferroni's II fanciullo del West (The Boy in the West, 1943)—the film that definitively launched the genre and defined its general characteristics was Sergio Leone's Per un pugno di dollari (A Fistful of Dollars, 1964). Stylishly filmed and dramatically punctuated by a stirring musical score composed by Ennio Morricone, the film was made on a shoestring budget but soon broke all box office records. Its enormous and unexpected commercial success led Leone to make four more of what came to be regarded as classics of the genre: Per qualche dollaro in piu (For a Few Dollars More, 1965), Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, 1966), Cera una volta il west (Once upon a Time in the West, 1968), and Giu la testa (Duck, You Sucker, 1971, also known as A Fistful of Dynamite). Departing conspicuously from the formula of the classic American Western, which clearly distinguished good and evil and ultimately reasserted the values of society and civilization, in these films Leone delighted in creating a more cynical and self-serving anti-hero who inhabited a violent and amoral universe in which only the clever and the ruthless survived. The new formula was immediately embraced by a host of other directors, often using Anglo-Saxon pseudonyms for themselves and their actors in an effort to make the films appear more genuinely American. Directors such as Sergio Corbucci, Enzo Barboni, Duccio Tessari, and Gianfranco Parolini created new but recognizable versions of Leone's gunslinger with no name who, under the guise of Django, Ringo, Sabata, and Sartana, reappeared in so many films as to create subgenres of their own.
   Although generally regarded as popular escapist fantasy, and in some of its later versions drawing the ire of the censors for its indulgence in extreme and explicit violence, the genre also developed a more politically conscious strand as in Sergio Sollima's La resa dei conti (The Big Gundown, 1966); Damiano Damiani's Quien sabe? (A Bullet for the General, 1967), written by Marxist screenwriter Franco Solinas; and Carlo Lizzani's Requiescant (Kill and Pray, 1966), in which director Pier Paolo Pasolini appears in a supporting role as a revolutionary Mexican priest. After dominating the popular film market for a decade, the genre faded away in the later 1970s, although the slapstick My Name Is Trinity version, starring the comic duo Terence Hill and Bud Spencer, continued to reappear sporadically into the late 1980s.
   Historical Dictionary of Italian Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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