Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Duccio Tessari on influences

[In 1986, Lorenzo De Luca conducted an interview with director Duccio Tessari which was published in both Lorenzo's fanzine FAR HORIZONS and his book C'ERA UNA VOLTA IL WESTERN ITALIANO.]

LDL: Who influenced you the most?

Duccio Tessari: I think that, even if we don't realize it, we are influenced all the time. One who reads - a learned man or anyone, possesses a little critical sense. It's difficult to not be influenced because these people keep on stocking-up a great deal of things.
We are never original - not when we write, neither when we speak and make a pun. However, when you read a lot, or see and assimilate a lot of films, its gets difficult to distinguish between what is your own and what is not. As a film director, my great loves have been Ford, Hawks, Hathaway - but they did not influence me in the way of shooting. Or, at least, not that I am aware. The two directors I really feel bound to are De Sica and Luchino Visconti.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Yul Brynner on VILLA RIDES

by Jhan Robbins

In his next screen venture, VILLA RIDES (1968), Yul was cast as Pancho Villa, the famous Mexican revolutionary. Soon after the film was released, Arthur Godfrey read a rhyming review on his NBC television program:

VILLA RIDES is filled with so much rot,
Authentic Mexican history it is not.
So what else has this wacky movie got?
Yul. And these days he's not so hot.

Brynner was in a Paris hotel when he was told about Godfrey's uncomplimentary appraisal. He stayed up all night composing a rebuttal. As soon as it was finished he sent it to NBC and demanded equal time.
"I'd served a hitch in the Navy, and I thought nothing could embarrass me," Godfrey said. "But I have to admit that I blushed when I read Yul's reply. Practically every other word was obscene."
Brynner defended VILLA RIDES. "It was a wonderful screenplay," he said. "The director whom I had personally approved had to bow out because he was needed on another film. He was replaced with a director who had very little movie experience. When it came out, everything looked flattened and the performances were meaningless. Added to that sorry mess, the film had been cut in the wrong way. It was a bloody shame, because it's so rare to get a good script. Damn few picture makers really know anything about the film industry. To get a cushy movie job you have to be an accountant, a lawyer, or a stockbroker. It's very uncommon to have risen from the ranks!"
Brynner preferred making movies outside the United States. "Foreign countries still regard the actor as somebody," he said. "In Hollywood, the actor has become just another businessman - seldom a true artist."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Duccio Tessari on the difference between American and Italian Westerns

[In 1986, Lorenzo De Luca conducted an interview with director Duccio Tessari which was published in both Lorenzo's fanzine FAR HORIZONS and his book C'ERA UNA VOLTA IL WESTERN ITALIANO.]

LDL: What are the differences between the Westerns of John Ford and Howard Hawks and the Westerns of Sergio Leone and Duccio Tessari?

Duccio Tessari: The fundamental difference is that they play at home. They have the right faces for the characters; from the heroes to the extras - the indians are as real as the musicans and the cowboys. Their scenery and environment are genuine. We were compelled to struggle with impossible things. It was typical in our films that the villains were Mexicans. Why? Because we were shooting in Spain where the scenery and the environment looked like the American West and the people were similar to Mexicans. The only Americans were the 2 or 3 main characters. We were compelled to recreate everything; Americans had everything on hand. That's the real difference between our Westerns and their's.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Brynner, McQueen and RETURN OF THE SEVEN

by Jhan Robbins

He was the only one of the original band of gunfighters to appear in RETURN OF THE SEVEN (1966), a successor to THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Once again he donned his black cowboy costume and resumed the role of Chris, a mysterious shoot-to-kill philosopher-gunfighter. Yul urged Steve McQueen, whom he regarded as his protege, to also repeat his part. McQueen begged off because of another commitment. "I'd sure like to," he said. "But I'm too busy." Privately, he admitted the new plot was absurd.
At a party given by Jack Benny and Mary Livingston, Brynner and McQueen insisted on serenading the guests with a medley of cowboy ballads. They both had been drinking heavily, and when it came time to leave, they began whistling for their horses. They were disappointed when their chauffer-driven automobiles appeared in the driveway.
"Where's mah horse?" Yul asked drunkenly.
"Thar must be a horsethief in th' crowd," McQueen replied.
He had promised Yul that he would appear with him in his next movie. A month later Brynner signed a contract to star in TRIPLE CROSS (1967), a spy thriller that was made in England and France. Again, McQueen reneged. This time he offered his excuse in a cablegram: "I'M TRULY SORRY THAT I CAN'T BE WITH YOU BUT MY HORSE REFUSES TO SWIM THE ATLANTIC."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Duccio Tessari on the sound of the Italian Western

[In 1986, Lorenzo De Luca conducted an interview with director Duccio Tessari which was published in both Lorenzo's fanzine FAR HORIZONS and his book C'ERA UNA VOLTA IL WESTERN ITALIANO.]

LDL: The Italian Westerns used the soundtrack differently; why this particular attention to the soundtrack?
Duccio Tessari: I don't think that is a fact concerning quality. I mean that Morricone, Ferrio, Travaioli, took the classic music themes in a new way. But in our Westerns, and here's the difference, the noise - the punches, the gunshots - was exaggerated, expressive, never real. During the sound mix, inorder to avoid the music getting covered by other noises, we tended to set the volume higher.
I remember Sergio Leone in the dubbing studio calling to the mixer, "Bartolome! Make the blows louder! Bartolome!"

LDL: American critics didn't approve of the Italian reinterpretation of the myth, but wasn't your Ringo a success in America?

DT: My films, Corbucci's films, and Leone's films were successful everywhere in the world - Japan, France, Germany, Hong Kong. Americans had to accept what was going on and showed our Westerns, too, and they were successful there, too.

Monday, June 21, 2010


by Jhan Robbins

As a favor to Cocteau, Brynner did a guest bit in LE TESTAMENT D'ORPHEE, a movie that was a tribute to the French surrealist author. It was written by Cocteau, directed by Cocteau, and had Cocteau playing Cocteau. Brynner claimed that he had helped fashion the perplexing story line: Cocteau's spiritual search for himself in a world full of phantoms and symbols.
Yul's part was that of a tuxedo-wearing gateman who guards the entrance to hell. His assistants were also clad in tuxedos and had completely bald heads. Other cast members were artist Pablo Picasso, bullfighter Luis Cominguin, writer Francoise Sagan.
"Jean was very interested in hell," Yul said. "So am I. We purposely chose Les Baux-de-Provence for the setting of trhe movie because Dante had lived there when he wrote the INFERNO. It gave you an eerie feeling of the devil at work. One of the many troubles with Hollywood studios today is that they allow accountants to choose the area where the film is to be made. Damn little thought is given to the historical significance!"
Brynner attended a special Hollywood screening of LE TESTAMENT D'ORPHEE. Midway through the film the audience, composed largely of high-ranking motion picture executives, started booing and hissing. Yul ordered the projectionist to cease running it. Then he hopped on the stage and shouted, "Cocteau was right when he told me that this movie should be forbidden to imbeciles!"
This diatribe didn't prevent him from being hired by MGM for SOLOMON AND SHEBA (1959). As bad as many of his films were, none rivaled this big-budget flop. It is well up on lists of the worst movies ever made. Yul's friend Tyrone Power had originally been selected for the leading role. When Power suffered a fatal heart attack, Brynner agreed to substitute. Because he arrived on the set after the film was in production he didn't have sufficient time to learn his lines. The result was that he often looked as if he were reading them from cue cards - as he was. "But it really didn't matter," he said. "Even by Hollywood standards the script was ludicrous."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Duccio Tessari on the intention to demythologize

[In 1986, Lorenzo De Luca conducted an interview with director Duccio Tessari which was published in both Lorenzo's fanzine FAR HORIZONS and his book C'ERA UNA VOLTA IL WESTERN ITALIANO.]

LDL: As with American Westerns, Italian Westerns had good and bad characters, but for us it was only a convenient distinction as our heroes were all but honest and clean. Was the reinterpretation of the classic hero intentional or did it just happen?

Duccio Tessari: I don't think there was a clear, precise intention. I say so, because I remember well the scripts for PER UN PUGNO DI DOLLARI (aka A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS), made with Sergio Leone, and UNA PISTOLA PER RINGO (aka A PISTOL FOR RINGO). We must not forget that our cultural ground is not American, but European. For us the distinction between Good and Evil, Black and White, doesn't exist. Even the Good one commits wicked actions and even the Evil caresses children. I would say that the attitude of demythologization is typically Italian and not only concerning the Westerns. It was not intentional, it was natural for us to write Western stories that way.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Remembering Belinda Lee

From: Hollywood Citizen News
March 14, 1961

Belinda Lee, Actress, Dies In Auto Wreck

BAKER, Calif. (UPI) - Beautiful British actress Belinda Lee, whose love affair with Italian Prince Filippo Orsini led to her attempted suicide in 1958, was killed late yesterday in a spectacular 100-mile-an-hour auto crash.
Miss Lee, 25, hailed as England's answer to such film queens as Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren, was thrown 63 feet when the auto she was in blew a back tire, skidded 900 feet and flipped over on its top.
Three other persons in the auto, including her latest love, dashing Italian screen writer Gualtiero Jacopetti, 39, suffered serious injuries in the crash 12 miles east of this desert community.
The two others were Alet Nino Falenza, of Malibu, driver of the auto, and Paol Cavara, 34, Los Angeles. The injured were taken to Barstow Community Hospital.
The foursome had been at Las Vegas, working on a new movie and were returning to Hollywood when the accident occurred on U.S. 91, nearly 210 miles east of Los Angeles.
"She died shortly after the first officer arrived," said highway patrolman Donald Armitage, one of the first investigators on the scene.
"It's a wonder they weren't all killed. Blowouts at that speed are almost always fatal. A witness - a highway employe - told us the car went past him shortly before the blowout and must have been traveling about 100 miles an hour."
Member of a well-to-do Devonshire, England, family, blonde, green-eyed Miss Lee broke off her highly publicized affair with Orsini last year and announced her engagement to Jacopetti.
Jacopetti said they were to have been married as soon as he could obtain an annulment from his 18-year-old Gypsy wife of five years in Italy.
Miss Lee's husband, photographer Cornel Lucas, seperated from her in 1957, and in 1959 he named Orsini corespondent when he obtained a divorce. They had wed in 1954.

[Jacopetti dedicated his film, WOMEN OF THE WORLD, to Belinda Lee.]

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Duccio Tessari on cultural plundering

[In 1986, Lorenzo De Luca conducted an interview with director Duccio Tessari which was published in both Lorenzo's fanzine FAR HORIZONS and his book C'ERA UNA VOLTA IL WESTERN ITALIANO.]

LDL: The success of the Spaghetti Western raised alot of polemics: someone charged our cinema with appropriating a culture not its own. Then Sergio Leone said, "The West, considered as the myth of imagination, belongs to everybody." Do you agree? What were your Westerns based on?

Duccio Tessari: Sergio Corbucci was right when he said there was nothing wrong with us shooting a Western since the American filmmakers had, years before, come to Italy to shoot films about Ancient Rome. However, the West has been for us the dream of our childhood. Every one of the directors of my generation had grown up with formative movies, in a culture of cinema lovers. These films were all Westerns.
Besides, as I said before, the American people were an heterogeneous mix of races, and therefore the Western is not an exclusive American heritage. So, when we had this wonderful toy of our infancy in our hands, it was something fantastic.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Aldo Sanbrell is in the hospital

La tumba del pistolero (THE TOMB OF A GUNMAN)
by Andres Valdes

"I have been dying in scores of Westerns." Today, at 79, Aldo Sanbrell lies at the General Hospital of Alicante in guarded condition.

As it dawned on Almeria in 1975 Spain, Sean Connery was eating with Aldo Sanbrell. They were filming THE WIND AND THE LION and the Almeria coast surrendered to the charms of two famous actors who left the night together. In the desert of Tabernas were friends, admirers and former colleagues from the Western side of Europe, the heartless evil in the films of Sergio Leone and Mario Camus; a loved and respected actor. Even today there are many tributes to Sanbrell, black like the back of an insect, as he challenged Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, Lee Van Cleef and Charles Bronson holding a revolver in the dust made epic by Ennio Morricone. They have applauded his death, had shot down evil; the cruel gringo traveling to hell with his skull split by a Navajo tomahawk. Now, 40 years after the decline of the Spaghetti Western, his life now far from the stage and warmed only by the most faithful: his wife and his representative. 79 year old Aldo Sanbrell, after suffering three strokes, is in a room at the General Hospital of Alicante, a city where he consummated his disappointment with the same industry that took him to its heights. An actor in more than 170 films since his debut as an extra in KING OF KINGS in 1961, he has known more recognition in his country and a modest mention in the festival of short films by Sax in 2007.
Jose Portoles, manager and close friend of the actor since he moved to Alicante in 2006, reported on May 25 that the veteran actor was admitted after getting a poor prognosis. "Today, neither AISGE or the Spanish Film Academy have shown interest in his condition. He is the great desert of Tabernas. The movie 800 BULLETS, by the president of the Academy Alex de la Iglesia, was inspired by his personal friendship with Clint Eastwood. Sanbrell agonises today alone, forgotten by the industry in an Alicante hospital. That's how Rome re-pays its Generals," Portoles laments.
Sanbrell happened in Madrid during the Civil War and its aftermath, until at age 18 he was called up by the regime for military service. "He said he was not going to work for an army maintained by a hated regime. He was very athletic and went to Mexico to make a living as a singer and football player, after a time with Rayo Vallecano in Madrid. In the land of Pancho Villa, he sang flamenco, learned English, emulated Sinatra under the stage name of Alfredo de Ronda and played football in Puebla and Monterrey. Each day of filming became a party. Eastwood twisted cigars and the Dollars trilogy came from his cigarette. Eli Wallach, 'the ugly' of THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, confessed that the first thing he learned in Spanish was 'tapas, drinks and shrimp' from Sanbrell during filming."
One year after participating in the culmination of the Leone Western saga, he played alongside Burt Reynolds as a young NAVAJO JOE. His performance was indelible as seen in his recent participation in the TV series The Commissioner.
Bedridden, Aldo smiles and says that he can not speak because he is sedated, not because he is weak. In the room, there are his wife and Portoles. And Burt Reynolds, who, from the cover of NAVAJO JOE, reminds him.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Duccio Tessari on Italian Western heroes

[In 1986, Lorenzo De Luca conducted an interview with director Duccio Tessari which was published in both Lorenzo's fanzine FAR HORIZONS and his book C'ERA UNA VOLTA IL WESTERN ITALIANO.]

LDL: In the '60s, the American Western was in a crisis. Had the audience grown tired of the upright hero?

Duccio Tessari: I should say so! Upright heroes are typically American heroes; originated from a Protestant culture. They are round, complete characters; doubtless. Our horoes, however, are always somewhat defeated heroes. From the beginning, doubtful and perplexed.
At first, America was a country where people from different groups lived - Englishmen, Irishmen, Greek, Italian and so on. Then these groups melted together inorder to face the adversities of the new frontier and to defend themselves from the Indians.
And then America could be said to be one people, and from them arose the image of the heroic American, upright and invincible. It is highly probable that during the '60s, the American hero was not very popular, but it is clear that such a crisis does not exist now - consider RAMBO. Today the heroic myth rises again.
Our Cowboys were rogues, fearful, shot people in the back, and had little in common with the heroic Cowboys - starting with Corbucci's violent ones, to my free and easy ones, and ending with the studied and serious characters of Sergio Leone.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A vintage review of THE CONFORMIST

I'm going through some old issues of FILMS IN REVIEW from 1970 and 1971, edited by Henry Hart, and they are a real hoot. Hart and his team of reviewers are quite a reactionary group, lambasting those two years as being the worst in cinema history citing the hero of THE FRENCH CONNECTION as "a sadist tyrannizing over blacks and... a sex pervert", THE LAST PICTURE SHOW as "one of those specious denigrations of American life" and DEATH IN VENICE showing "the Left's utilization of sexual perversion for political subversion". Also entertaining is their creation of new words: instead of cinematic adaptation they use "cinemation", instead of theatrical films they use "theafilms".
Considering it's current reputation as a modern classic, THE CONFORMIST gets a rather different review in those old pages.

April 1971, Vol. XXII No. 4

Alberto Moravia's novels about the Italian aristocracy are a little better than the denigrations of the British aristocracy once concocted for servant girls, but not much. His THE CONFORMIST, on which this film is based, is supposed to be one of his best. Its protagonist, the son of an insane father and a mother who is a drug-addicted nymphomaniac, becomes, in a zombie sort of way, a member of the Fascist Party. Jean Louis Trintignant portrays him and is a fitting choice for such a part.
All this is so facititious and uninteresting director Bernardo Bertolucci endeavors to save his cinemation of it from banality by obfuscating everything. Deliberately. At least I hope it was deliberately.
The result is a worthless film even the Left is none too enthusiastic about.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sergio Corbucci on CASTLE OF BLOOD

From: Cine Zine Zone #50
Interviewed by Carlo Piazza, May 1989
Translated into French by Pierre Charles and then translated into English by Arcides Gonzales

CP: Did you co-direct DANZA MACABRA, aka CASTLE OF BLOOD, as well as co-write it under the name Gordon Wilson Jr.?

Sergio Corbucci: Yes, that's right. It's very strange because I never included this film in my filmography although it is in fact my film. When I finished shooting IL MONACO DI MONZA with Toto, the producer and I thought that it would be interesting to use this castle with all its beautiful sets to make an Horror film. However, I was supposed to start soon the making of another film with Toto, and consequently I could not start something that I didn't have the time to finish, but the producer insisted so much that he convinced me: 'Do it, Sergio, start the shooting, don't worry about it, and if you have to leave before it's finished, we will do our best to finish it.'
When I was forced to leave, I had shot 50 to 60% of the film. In order to finish the work, I called Antonio Margheriti, a person who I knew was interested in this genre and who would guarantee the continuation of the film in the style I had given it.

[Interestingly, Margheriti remade this film six years later as NELLA STRETTA MORSA DEL RANGO, aka WEB OF THE SPIDER, with Tony Franciosa.]

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Leone influence.

From: National Catholic Office For Motion Pictures Films '69/70
Film Education The Western: A Genre in Transition prepared by Frank Frost USC

The disillusionment we see in THE WILD BUNCH is not exactly new, nor is the public unprepared for its degree of violence. The unabashed violence of the Sergio Leone Westerns (A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, and so on) was no hindrance to their very popular success. To a public saturated with the saccharine goodness of men who shoot only when they have to, and then only to wound, in the defense of delicate women (whether they be devoted wives or pretty prostitutes), Leone's films offered a cynical and textured real world in which men are ugly, unshaven, sweaty, and irritated by horse flies. Likewise women are plain, earthy, and as hard, calculating, and self-seeking as anyone else. Peckinpah also creates such a texture, tempered, however, with characters who have some human feelings

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sergio Corbucci on Steve Reeves

From: Cine Zine Zone #50
Interview by Carlo Piazza, May 1989
Translated into French by Pierre Charles and then translated into English by Arcides Gonzales

CP: The film, THE SON OF SPARTACUS, with the character of Randus-Zorro, is another in the Western style.

Sergio Corbucci: I would say so. Yes, absolutely. As far as I am concerned, if I have to refer to someone, I refer to John Ford and not to Cecil B. DeMille. In Italy, at any rate, we have had directors who did sword and sandal films formally more correct than from a DeMillean point of view, but that goes back to the silent film. ROMULUS AND REMUS and THE SON OF SPARTACUS are two current, modern films, which seem to have been shot yesterday and not about 30 years ago.

CP: What can you tell us about Steve Reeves?

SC: A great guy. He always did everything I told him without a fuss. There are actors who seem to know it all. That makes me go mad. Not Reeves. I cannot complain about him.
During the shooting of ROMULUS AND REMUS, he showed me some resentment nonetheless because he thought I favored Scott over him. Of course, that wasn't true. I have never favored any actor over another. I have always treated everybody equally. Reeves had gotten this idea because he would often see me laughing and joking in the company of Scott. But Scott is the extrovert type; happy, who would cheer you up, and I preferred, frankly, to be with him than with Reeves, who was always taciturn and sullen.

CP: Do you think Leone thought about Reeves for the leading role in FISTFUL OF DOLLARS?

SC: I don't think so. Reeves does not know how to walk - perhaps because of his big thighs which impeded his movement. He wasn't right for a Western, and Leone knew it.