Just getting into the Clint Eastwood Westerns!


Having completed my collection of Sergio Leone, I now have every Clint Eastwood Western! As you can see, I just got the The Man With No Name Trilogy on Blu-ray, as well as each individual Leone / Eastwood film on 4K from Kino Lorber (a worthwhile double-dip). And I've had Unforgiven on Blu-ray for quite some time now...

But now, I've just completed the collection with three films from what you might call a "transitional" period between the Eastwood / Leone trilogy (working with Ted Post, Don Siegel and John Sturges) and his later triumphs, and then the remaining three in which Eastwood's Western style is truly formed, as an actor / director within the genre:

Note that there are arguably at least four other films within the Eastwood oeuvre which might at a stretch qualify as Westerns. But Coogan's Bluff (which I haven't seen) is a fish-out-of-water action thriller about an Arizona deputy sheriff attempting to extradite an escaped killer in New York City, Paint Your Wagon is a musical about gold prospectors during the California Gold Rush, The Beguiled (which I do have and positively love) is a Southern Gothic drama set during the American Civil War, and Bronco Billy (which I haven't seen yet but really look forward to) is a drama about a stuntman working as a cowboy in a modern-day Wild West Show. So that just leaves a nice round ten, doesn't it? You've got Sergio Leone's The Man With No Name Trilogy, Clint's own quartet of influential films which revitalized the genre for future generations... and then in between a trio of slightly lesser works in which the Italian Spaghetti Western style and Eastwood's Man With No Name persona are fitfully assimilated into the American Hollywood style. (Interestingly enough, Two Mules for Sister Sara is the only other Eastwood Western besides Leone's to feature a score by Ennio Morricone. And a really good one, too!)

I particularly love High Plains Drifter, which I got in a beautiful 4K version from Kino Lorber. It's quite a dark and twisted tale, with a weirdly beautiful setting next to Mono Lake in California. I would venture to say that this film is probably the greatest American Spaghetti Western of all time... if that makes any sort of sense! Pale Rider is also kind of a throwback to the Leone style, but the film of Leone's which it bears the most resemblance to is not any of the "Dollars" films but Once Upon a Time in the West, strangely enough. Richard Dysart's mining baron Coy LaHood is not dissimilar to Gabriele Ferzetti as the ailing railroad tycoon Morton (albeit more robust and healthier), and in the Henry Fonda role of attack dog and "obstacle-clearer" we have John Russell as Marshal Stockburn, the object of the Eastwood character's vendetta just as Fonda's Frank was the primary target of Charles Bronson's Harmonica. Add to that the fact Stockburn's men all wear those famous leather duster coats made famous in the Leone film!

I don't know what it is, but I've really started getting into Westerns lately. I never was a fan of the genre to any kind of exceptional degree, although I've always had a soft spot for certain films such as Unforgiven, Michael Cimino's (woefully underrated) Heaven's Gate and Robert Altman's snowy McCabe & Mrs. Miller. (Note that in the past I've had a slight bias toward the "New Hollywood" type of revisionist Western.) As a Quentin Tarantino fan, I have of course been a long-time fan of Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight, both of which incorporate elements of the Italian Spaghetti Western style. And of course, just before my getting into Leone, I had gotten heavily into the Sam Peckinpah filmography. I had gotten into Straw Dogs mainly because of its controversial reputation and because I'm also into horror films and thrillers. (It is of course a contemporary of other such controversial '70s films such as A Clockwork Orange, Deliverance and Last House on the Left.) Eventually I got into the rest of Peckinpah's work, starting with The Wild Bunch and working from there. (His other Westerns of course include Ride the High Country, The Ballad of Cable Hogue and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, while elements of the genre also figure into Straw Dogs, Junior Bonner, The Getaway, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.) Pretty soon, I think I'm going to explore other works in the Spaghetti Western sub-genre, starting with the work of Sergio Corbucci. I'm also curious about the comedic Trinity films with Terence Hill and Bud Spencer, already having seen the Leone-produced My Name is Nobody, which pairs Hill with Henry Fonda. I'm also really interested in seeing Lucio Fulci's Four of the Apocalypse, having already seen and enjoyed a good chunk of his work in the horror genre. Would anyone like to make any further recommendations in the Western genre (American, Italian or otherwise)?

I think maybe it's just because I've recently turned fifty. I guess the Western is a genre that some people just have to sort of "age into" a love and appreciation for. The thing which strikes me about Westerns is that they seem to be suspended in a kind of burnished, mythical version of that period of historical transition when the Old World gradually and inevitably makes way for the New - and that's not specifically an American thing, which is why the genre is so beloved and has such resonance to people all around the world. The old-fashioned honorable lawmen and the ruthless outlaws whom they do battle with inevitably get phased out by the coming of the railroad and modern civilization. The land becomes "tamed" and the old-school gunfighters gradually become superfluous. There is little for them to do aside from settle their old scores in duels within some threshing circle, or to go out in an honorable, quasi-suicidal blaze of glory in some massacre down in Mexico.

As a fifty-year-old fan of a certain kind of music and movies, that which I grew up with in the '70s and '80s and '90s, I'm starting to see time beginning to take its toll. We're losing more and more people from that generation all the time. I really started to feel it in 2016, when David Bowie and Prince and Lemmy Kilmister and Glenn Frey passed away. These people were unique, one of a kind, and there will be no one to replace them. The same applies to great actors and filmmakers. There will never be another like them. One thing's for sure, when Clint inevitably rides into that setting sun, it will be a truly sad day. America will mourn, and so will the world.

But I'm sure that people of every generation feel that way about the artists and performers they grew up with. You know of the word Götterdämmerung, right? In German it means "Twilight of the Gods." And you know that famous expression "It's five o'clock somewhere"? Well, every day... It's Götterdämmerung for somebody, somewhere!

I agree with you, it is a great film! Chief Dan George was particularly marvelous in the role of Lone Watie. I also like the arc of the character Josey Wales, in that he doesn't begin as a pistol-packing gunslinger, but that he's made one because of tragic circumstances. And the scene with him and Will Sampson as Ten Bears, where they make their peace, is quite beautiful, and the dialogue is quite wonderful as well.

My only reservation: That disgusting chewing and spitting! It totally reminds me of my Grandpa John (on my Mom's side). He used to smoke a pipe, but for health reasons he (misguidedly) switched to chewing tobacco. Not an improvement! While the whiff of pipe tobacco will always produce in me feelings of nostalgia thanks to my Grandpa, I will always be grossed out by all that chewing and spitting. Granted, it's organically woven into the plot, being a sort of timing thing, but it's still kind of gross!

I love Westerns, especially Revisionist Westerns, and Eastwood's films. Check out the MoFo Top 100 Westerns, the Westerns List Countdown, and this thread examining Eastwood the Director.
"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

Clint Eastwood is classic. His Westerns were the best

Few Dollars More is my favorite tbh.

I forgot the opening line.
Would anyone like to make any further recommendations in the Western genre (American, Italian or otherwise)?
Definitely Death Rides a Horse (1967) - Spaghetti Western directed by Giulio Petroni, written by Luciano Vincenzoni and starring Lee Van Cleef and John Phillip Law. Has an absolutely incredible score by Ennio Morricone. One of my favourites.
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The Good, The Bad and the Ugly is probably a cliché choice to deem your favorite, but it's my favorite from what I've seen of him. I also love A Fistful of Dollars, High Plains Drifter, and Unforgiven though.

I you enjoy Fist Full of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More get the Kirosawa originals : Yojimbo & Sanjuro. It's fun to watch the Clit Eastwood film first, and than go to the Japanese original release. You can see sometimes it's almost shot for shot the same, LOL!! Of course one is a western and the other a Samuira film, but the feel is the same.

Like the pairing of The Magnificent 7 & The Seven Samurai a fun day of relaxation with friends, food and fun!!

High Plains Drifter! Think there's a 4K of it too.
Yup, that's the one I got!

Recently, I borrowed Lucio Fulci's The Four of the Apocalypse (1975) through inter-library loan. Having been a fan of Fulci's work in the horror genre (Zombie, The Beyond, etc.), I was curious to see what sort of take he had on the Western. Granted, this film is something of a mixed bag, but I wasn't disappointed. I found it to be rather weirdly moving in its tale of a fellowship of misfits who meet in a Utah jail and travel across the American West toward a place called Sun City. It stars Fabio Testi, Lynne Frederick, Michael J. Pollard and Harry Baird as the title quartet, and in the villain role we have Tomas Milian as the nefarious and vaguely Mansonian bandit Chaco. The movie has this vaguely hippie-ish sort of vibe to it, like the characters were '60s dropouts transplanted into the American West. And the soundtrack has these sort of folk-rock songs with Byrds-y vocal harmonies which sound like they were intended to evoke Easy Rider. (I'm specifically thinking of Wasn't Born to Follow.) I'm not sure this really works all that well. Granted, by 1975 this certainly had a precedent, in things like Bob Dylan's soundtrack for Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid and the use of Leonard Cohen's songs in McCabe & Mrs. Miller, but in the case of this film the lyrics are perhaps a bit too on the nose and tend to describe the characters' situations within the story, as opposed to just invoking a mood or a feeling. I'd recommend viewing at least once.

And guess what, it's coming out on Blu-ray as part of a 4-disc box set from Arrow Video called Savage Guns, to be released this December 12th, which includes three other movies: Paolo Bianchini's I Want Him Dead, Edoardo Mulargia's El Puro and Mario Camus' Wrath of the Wind. I'm definitely looking forward to that. (Kat Ellinger's doing the commentary track for the Fulci film! ) Arrow Video has also released two other collections of lesser-known Spaghetti Westerns, Vengeance Trails and Blood Money, which I'm thinking I should really check out.

Anybody else seen The Four of the Apocalypse? What did you think?