With this definition we mean an entire series of Italian movies with a “western” setting (often filmed in Spain), not only with Italian actors, but also with famous American actors like Clint Eastwood.
Sergio Leone is the progenitor of this genre with the so-called “dollar trilogy”: “Per un pugno di dollari” (1964), “Per qualche dollaro in più” (1965), and “Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo” (1966).
Leone’s style, paired with the exceptional soundtracks by Ennio Morricone, is totally detached from the patriotic emphasis found in the American classics: it creates an hyperbolic universe, dominated by violence and abuse, painted with a constant dark humor.
The quality of the trilogy reaches the top with the last chapter: a sort of a “great war” set during the secession conflict (1860-1865) and narrated by happily blending picaresque tones with moments of great lyricism. The end is legendary, a rare masterpiece of editing, cinematography and music.
After this trilogy, an extraordinary epic colossal will follow: “C’era una volta il west” (1968), filmed in part in Monument Valley, and “Giù la testa” (1971).
Once snubbed by the critics, Sergio Leone is celebrated today as one of the most loved and known Italian directors at international level.
The worldwide success of Leone’s movies opened the road to a multitude of imitations made in Italy (about 500 hundred movies in 10 years): most of them of poor quality, still with some valid exceptions. To mention at this point “Il grande silenzio” (1969) by Sergio Corbucci, “La resa dei conti” (1967) and “Faccia a faccia” (1968) by Sergio Sollima, “Quien sabe?” (1966) by Damiano Damiani, and “Keoma” (1976) by Enzo G. Castellari.
We can also call spaghetti westerns those movies that combine the classic western set with a comic script, closer to the commedia all’italiana. Among the many titles we remember “Lo chiamavano Trinità…”(1970), and the sequel “…continuavano a chiamarlo Trinità” (1972) with the comic duo of Bud Spencer and Terence Hill (stage names of Italian actors Carlo Pedersoli and Mario Girotti).
“Il mio nome è nessuno”, from 1973, is a famous and funny movie that unites the epic tale (with the lead role played by Henry Fonda) of “C’era una volta il west” with the non-sense humor of the comedy westerns. The result is quite unexpected but memorable.