One Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Once Upon a Time in the West Italian poster
Once Upon a Time in the West Italian poster

“You don’t understand, Jill. People like that have something inside… something to do with death.”

In December 1966 directors Sergio Leone, Bernardo Bertolucci (“Last Tango in Paris”, “The Last Emperor”) and Dario Argento (“Suspira”, “Tenebrae”), three life-long fans of the American Western, discussed the possibility of creating a new film incorporating well-worn motifs and cliches from the genre. The film would not just be a pastiche but something new, a homage that would be greater than the sum of it’s parts – a new kind of Western. Over the next few months they created a story outline referencing over 50 other Westerns – from films as diverse as “Iron Horse” (1924) to “Johnny Guitar” (1954), “High Noon” (1952) to “The Searchers” (1956). They incorporated well used character motifs such as the gunfighter bent on revenge, the thief with a conscience, the stone-cold killer and the whore with the heart of gold. Continue reading One Upon a Time in the West (1968)

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The Long Good Friday (1979)

The Long Good Friday
Bob Hoskins as Harold Shand

“You don’t crucify people! Not on Good Friday!”

I’m still in a thriller/gangster mood so tonight it’s the turn of The Long Good Friday (1979). A refreshingly detailed and thoughtful script, great characters and a memorable soundtrack combine to infuse this film with a freshness and vitality that endures to this day. It’s also got a great cast: Bob Hoskins (in his breakthrough role); Helen Mirren; Paul Freeman; Derek Thompson; Eddie Constantine; Pierce Brosnan (in his first film appearance) and a very young Dexter Fletcher (blink and you’ll miss him). It’s even got Jacko from Brushstokes! Continue reading The Long Good Friday (1979)

Touch of Evil (1958)

Original theatrical release poster for Touch of Evil

“He was some kind of a man.
What does it matter what you say about people?”

For all it’s dense structure and dialogue heavy script the plot is deceptively simple: Mexican drug enforcement official and moral advocate Miguel Vargas (played by Charlton Heston) runs afoul of corrupt, bigoted and thoroughly repugnant cop Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles). Heston threatens to expose Quinlan so the cop plots to discredit him by framing Vargas’ wife on charges of drug use and indecency. Continue reading Touch of Evil (1958)