In the wake of Tarantino’s Django Unchained, classic Spaghetti Westerns like Sergio Corbucci‘s Django starring Franco Nero (click here for Pete’s full review) are back in the news and getting re-released on Blu-ray and DVD (click here to win copies of the Django sequel, Prepare A Coffin). But if you want to savour two classics that are a little more off-beat than the usual fare, here are two we think are deserve rediscovering.
FACCIA A FACCIA (1967) Eureka! Entertainment
Director Sergio Sollima’s gripping political allegory casts Gian Maria Volonté as a tubercular Boston history professor who unexpectedly falls in with a Texan bandit gang led by Tomas Milian‘s outlaw. Volonté later usurps Milian as leader, but the cruel violence that accompanies Volonté’s transformation into a cold-blooded fascist dictator ultimately causes Milian to take up arms against the once-timid professor.
Faccia a Faccia (aka Face to Face), which is now available on Blu-ray and DVD, has garnered a bit of a cult following thanks to its inspired narrative. Though full of brutality, it’s an accomplished morality tale about the power of violence. The film also benefits from the stellar performances of Volonté (For A Few Dollars More) and Milian (he appeared in the violent Django Kill! the same year); being produced by Sergio Leone’s Clint Eastwood trilogy partner Alberto Grimaldi and production designer Carlo Simi, and having a memorable score by the incomparable Ennio Morricone. This is definitely one for the film collection.
CHARLEY-ONE-EYE (1973) Odeon Entertainment
Described by one critic as though Stanley Kramer had made an Italian Western on a slim British budget, this allegorical period piece stars Shaft’s Richard Roundtree as a soldier gone AWOL who meets up with a crippled Indian (The Invaders’ Roy Thinnes) while heading to the Mexican border. Holing up in an abandoned church, the duo find some common ground existing in the unforgiving desert until a bounty hunter (Nigel Davenport) comes looking for Roundtree…
Although Charley-One-Eye was sold as a blaxploitation/Western crossover, the Anglo-Spanish production from British director Don Chaffey (best known for Jason and the Argonauts and Hammer fare like Plague of the Zombies) is One Million Years away from funky soul food like Shaft. Instead, we have a bleak, claustrophobic character-driven tale about survival in a hostile landscape, that’s light on action, heavy on atmosphere, and with a bent bordering on the surreal touches favored by Buñuel or Jodorowsky.
If you like your Westerns served with a dash of existentialism, then Charley-One-Eye might be just up your street. And who is Charley, I hear you cry? Well, he happens to be a chicken that causes a bit of a ruckus in the ensuing drama. Incidentally, this Western was produced by famed broadcaster David Frost and came out the same year as the superior High Plains Drifter, the surreal cult Dirty Little Billy, and the last in original Django series, Adios!
The Odeon Entertainment UK DVD release features a digitally restored and re-mastered print of the film.