With his lean, angular features and narrow, piercing eyes, Lee Van Cleef had the sort of presence you didn’t easily forget in supporting roles, especially villainous parts in westerns (Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, The Bravados) and crime dramas (Kansas City Confidential, The Big Combo). Unfortunately, it took more than 12 years and over 100 film and TV appearances before the actor finally moved into leading roles after a career that began in 1952 with his debut in High Noon. And like Clint Eastwood, he finally found fame in Italy when he was almost forty, opposite the former Rawhide TV star in Sergio Leone’s For a Few Dollars More (1965), the sequel to Eastwood’s star-making breakthrough in A Fistful of Dollars (1965). After The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), in which he played “the ugly” Angel Eyes in the final installment of Leone’s Dollars trilogy, he carved out an impressive career in some of the best spaghetti westerns of the late sixties and early seventies such as The Big Gundown, Death Rides a Horse and Day of Anger (all 1967). Less serious than those but just as entertaining is Sabata (1969), which adds some tongue in cheek humor, gymnastic action and fancy weaponry to the spaghetti western formula.Continue reading
Tag Archives: Alex Cox
Every Man for Himself
Often overlooked in the Spaghetti Western hall of fame, The Ruthless Four (1968) is a riveting, well-crafted tale of a ill-fated search for hidden gold that bears some thematic similarities to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. While it is not quite in the same league as John Huston’s 1948 classic, the cast alone should still pique the interest of any film buff starting with the top-billed Van Heflin and Gilbert Roland, two Hollywood legends with some classic Westerns to their credit; Heflin with Shane (1953) and 3:10 to Yuma (1957) and Roland with his series of “Cisco Kid” oaters that began with The Gay Cavalier in 1946. The curiosity factor is also undeniable with the eclectic casting of Uruguay-born actor George Hilton, a veteran of countless giallos and Euro-westerns, and the inimitable Klaus Kinski, who has a substantial role here unlike many of his genre efforts where his appearance is often little more than a cameo or brief walk-on. Continue reading
Hamlet on the Range
The plays of William Shakespeare have provided a bottomless well of material for filmmakers as either faithful adaptations or unacknowledged inspirations since the birth of cinema. Yet, the western genre seems under-represented in this regard with only a few examples coming to mind such as a thinly disguised version of Othello (Delmar Daves’ Jubal,1956) or a re-imagining of The Tempest (William A. Wellman’s Yellow Sky, 1948) or a gender twist on King Lear (Edward Dmytryk’s Broken Lance, 1954). Continue reading
…And Bob Dylan Plays a Chainsaw-Wielding Conceptual Artist.
Sometimes the casting in a film is so peculiar and unique that you feel compelled to take a chance on it no matter how many negative things you’ve heard about it. Wouldn’t you want to see a movie that featured Jodie Foster, Vincent Price, Joe Pesci, Charlie Sheen, Dean Stockwell, Bob Dylan and numerous other well-known stars? Such is the case with 1990’s Catchfire, one of Dennis Hopper’s least known movies but there’s a reason for that. Continue reading