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The Hills Run Red: Italian Westerns, Leone, and Beyond

January 10, 2013 - January 27, 2013


It was high noon when Sergio Leone rode into town ready to draw down on that most leather-clad genre, the Western. His nerve was unflinching as A Fistful of Dollars (1964) declared that the Old West was newly won. Leone followed with a string of sage sagas like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Duck, You Sucker, replete with ruthless desperadoes and rustic musings, ringed by the rugged landscapes of Italy and Spain. “Spaghetti” Westerns also featured American actors anxious to go from overlooked to Most Wanted: Warren Oates, Lee Van Cleef, Burt Reynolds, James Coburn, Jack Palance—the gang was rough and ready. Soon, other quick-draw directors came to town, among them Damiano Damiani, Gianfranco Parolini, and Sergio Corbucci, competent cowpokes themselves. Particularly fearsome was Corbucci, whose The Great Silence remains legendary but elusive. Here, we lasso Navajo Joe with a baby-faced Burt Reynolds, and The Mercenary, a tight-lipped Franco Nero vehicle with loopy-locked Jack Palance along for the ride. Damiani’s mildly Marxist A Bullet for the General wrangles the brooding Gian-Maria Volontè as El Chucho and unleashed the Zapata variant, a revolution-bound Western that follows the path of most resistance. Parolini’s Sabata takes the art of shifting alliances and edgy ambushes to new depths, all under the saurian gaze of Lee Van Cleef, and Monte Hellman takes back the helm with China 9, Liberty 37 as Warren Oates finds himself railroaded by western expansion. Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming Django Unchained brings Spaghetti back to the table. The Hills Run Red honors the original recipe.

Steve Seid, Video Curator

Thursday, January 10, 2013
7:00 p.m. Duck, You Sucker
Sergio Leone (Italy/Spain, 1971). Score by Ennio Morricone! In torrid Mexico, just in time for the undoing of Porfirio Diaz's dictatorship, the bandito Juan (Rod Steiger, sputtering in Spanglish) teams with nitroglycerin expert Sean Mallory (James Coburn) to make a few holes with the “holy water.” Leone's strangest concoction—a mix of high camp, booming ordnance, and radical zeal.(158 mins)

Saturday, January 12, 2013
8:10 p.m. The Mercenary
Sergio Corbucci (Italy/Spain, 1968). Score by Ennio Morricone! The revolution will not be narcotized in Corbucci’s rabble-rousing rebellion, which follows a Mexican peasant leader Paco Roman (Tony Musante), a taciturn mercenary (Franco Nero), and oppressed silver miners as they battle businessman and a psychotic thug (Jack Palance).(105 mins)

Thursday, January 17, 2013
7:00 p.m. A Bullet for the General
Damiano Damiani (Italy, 1966). Gian-Maria Volontè plays El Chucho, a badass bandit bent on exploiting the revolution, whose brother is the demented priest El Santo (the feral one, Klaus Kinski). The action is packed in this compressed concentrate about deceitful perversion and political conversion. (118 mins)

Saturday, January 19, 2013
8:45 p.m. China 9, Liberty 37
Monte Hellman (Italy/Spain, 1978). The director of such acid oaters as The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind samples the spicy red concoction of Spaghetti for this latter-day Western, starring Warren Oates and Fabio Testi as two gunslingers setting their sights on railroading moguls and their freight car full of hired thugs. (102 mins)

Friday, January 25, 2013
9:10 p.m. Navajo Joe
Sergio Corbucci (Italy/Spain, 1966). Score by Ennio Morricone! A pre-stardom Burt Reynolds is Navajo Joe, who’s on the warpath after his wife is killed. Part of Ennio Morricone’s score, complete with embedded screams, was lifted for Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 2. (92 mins)

Sunday, January 27, 2013
5:00 p.m. Sabata
Gianfranco Parolini (Italy/Spain, 1969). Spaghetti Western stalwart Lee Van Cleef glares his way across a town of “upstanding citizens”—and takes them all on—in this brutal Western. A character’s concealed “banjo gun” was later lifted by El Mariachi. (107 mins)

Thanks to Alex Cox, Bruce Goldstein at New York’s Film Forum, and Monte Hellman for their generosity and advice.