Movie Fan Man: Cinema Connoisseur

Traditional, Artsy, Genre-Within-Genre: A Little Something for Everyone

A HAPPY (JUXTAPOSITION) BIRTHDAY

by Tony Nash

(any and all opinions are soley of the author)

Actor Profile: Toshiro Mifune
“The ordinary Japanese actor might need ten feet of film to get across an impression; Mifune needed only three” – Akira Kurosawa (image from FilmDoo)

I know today is April Fools Day, and everybody is probably enjoying the jovial jokes and pranks associated to it. But for me, today is special because it’s the Birthday of the great Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, he’d have been 101. For those of us film aficionados, today being Mifune’s birthday is a little on the humorous side. Mifune of course was known for his very stern and hardened facial expressions that sometimes hid very humane emotions, and so for a man to be born on a day for humor and having become famous for playing subtly complex characters makes for very interesting conversation.

100 Years of Genius: The Toshiro Mifune Hall of Fame - The Ringer
Mifune showing a rare warm smile on camera (image from The Ringer)

(Mifune is one of my all time favorite foreign language cinema actors, and one I’ve always felt aspiring actors should look at and study due to the naturalness with which he approached every role. That he, along with his best known colleague Akira Kurosawa, transcended culture and were able to speak to not only their native countrymen, but to people from all over the world is something to behold and admire. All of his collaborations with Kurosawa are available on DVD and Blu Ray from The Criterion Collection, and some of his non Kurosawa films are on DVD and Blu Ray as well.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshiro_Mifune

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001536/

https://www.criterion.com/shop/collection/157-toshiro-mifune

https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/6879-who-s-that-man-mifune-at-100

Filed under: Film: Actor/Actress Spotlight

Birthday Wishes to My Favorite Actress

from Tony Nash

Today is the birthday of my all time favorite actress ever, Miss Catherine Deneuve, who is 77 years young.

The 8th Best Actress of All-Time: Catherine Deneuve - The Cinema Archives
(from the Cinema Archive)
Indie Sales to Show New Film with Catherine Deneuve at UniFrance RDV -  Variety
(from Variety)

I first saw Catherine Deneuve in a film when I was 19 and watched my first ever French language film Un Flic (A Cop) from French Noir master Jean-Pierre Melville. Granted Melville had difficulty in writing parts for film actresses, she was still a graceful and wonderful presence to behold on screen.

I first came to really appreciate her after watching Le Parapluies du Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) about a year later, and was completely under her spell. There’s just something completely enrapturing about her, that soulful, and sometimes mournful, gaze just implores you not to look away from her. Few actresses have left this type of impression on me, the others being Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Grace Kelly, so this naturally makes Catherine Deneuve pretty special, to me at least. I’ve seen a good amount of her films, have always been impressed with her, even when the film itself is a little clunky, which again shows just how much of a fine actress she is.

Another item that makes Catherine Deneuve great is that she’s one of a handful of actresses who’s never felt the need to always “bare all” for the camera to achieve desirability. Not that she wasn’t willing by any means, but she had this knack to give off the illusion of being au natural and that gave her an even more enigmatic feel as even her body remained an intriguing mystery.

So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Mademoiselle Deneuve, you’re a first class lady

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

Here’s some English friendly interviews with the grand actress

Filed under: Film: Actor/Actress Spotlight

Two of the Original Boss Women or, a Tale of Two Mae’s

A Look at Mae West and Mae Busch

by Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone)

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For a good number of people, a Boss Woman refers to women who don’t necessarily have to be pretty, but always exhibit a type of allure and appeal that draws both men and women to them in one form or another. Two women who exemplified this type of exoticism to its full effect were Mae West and Mae Busch.

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Mae West was both a tough Boss Woman and the Queen of the Pre-Code era. Initially starting out in Burlesque and Vaudeville, West became a sensation fairly quickly with her famous sexual innuendo dialogue and risque body moments, and still famous today for coining the phrase Is that a pistol in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?  probably the first ever sexually explicit piece of dialogue ever uttered in both private and films. Before Hollywood curtailed what she wanted to do, West often portrayed a streetwise woman who spent some time on the wrong side of the tracks with a heart of gold, never denying she accepted things from the men who wanted her company, but never conning or exploiting them. I’m No Angel from 1933 perfectly fits West’s type of character, particularly in the court room sequence in which she disproves the prosecution’s  libel case against her by seamlessly getting the truth from disgruntled former suitors willing to lie about her.

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Not only was West a Boss Woman in her physical attributes, but a Boss Woman in how she spoke. As streetwise as the characters she played, West’s voice oozed with plain speaking and touches of slang, never mincing words and usually bringing a smile and chuckle from those she was speaking to and those who stopped to listen. While the public adored all these aspects about her, the people behind the infamous Hayes Code weren’t amused, and considered West to be their biggest obstacle in ridding the screens of what they considered smut and immoral. Unlike the majority of Hollywood who caved in to the Hayes Code demands, West stoutly refused, not wanting to censor her creativity in anyway and soon left Hollywood behind. Hollywood’s loss ended up being the stage’s gain as West would have a successful series of nightclub, burlesque. and stage show acts, particularly her “Beefcake” shows which featured her surrounded by muscle hunks from the world of bodybuilding. By the 60’s, the public’s opinion of sexuality had become more open and accepting, and West came back to Hollywood for occasional parts, but pretty much stuck to her work on stage.

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Mae Busch had both the pretty face and the toughness to become one of the first female foils for comics of the Silent and Early Talkie period of films. Usually in Busch’s case, she acted the antagonist to the comics, particularly Laurel and Hardy whom she spent the majority of her career in the Talkie shorts with, often playing a scheming  shrewish female looking to cause trouble for the boys or the overly exasperated housewife who finally snaps and unleashes a barrage of physical destruction and insults on her husband played most times by Hardy. Three of the rare occasions she played a kind-hearted woman were in the Laurel and Hardy double-bill Them Thar Hills Tit for Tat in 1934 and 1935 respectively, playing the bewildered wife an insanely jealous husband who finally has it out with him over that fact, and in the Lon Chaney Silent Classic The Unholy Three in 1925 playing the Silent icon’s lovely accomplice who pleads with him not to frame the man she’s fallen in love with for Chaney’s crime.

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Unlike Mae West who made a career of broadening her style, Busch was regulated to the role of Femme-Fatale, but she was able to make each she-devil interesting in their own unique way, usually causing some form of mischief and trouble for the men who cross her path. Ironically, she started her career as a glamour model, later being discovered by Mabel Normand, wife of Mack Sennett who got her her start in comedy. Sadly, her career stalled after Laurel and Hardy went into making feature films, and somehow producers were no longer interested in using the type of characters she played. When she passed away in debt and poor health, she was practically forgotten by the industry and her remains went unclaimed for years until the Laurel and Hardy Society went on a search for ashes and finally gave her the burial she deserved. Today she is remembered as one of the great comic villains of the 20’s and 30’s, preserved forever by the fans of Laurel and Hardy and others.

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While only remembered by a select group of people who enjoy the Classic days of Hollywood, there’s still enough interest in these two ladies to keep their memories and careers alive. Radically different in style and personalities, both West and Busch offered up a different kind of appeal then the standard actresses of their period that made them interesting. West was the spitfire sultry beauty who didn’t take guff from no one  and Busch mainly was the scheming vixen who may or not have been trustworthy.

( I highly recommend give anything with West or Busch a try as they brought their own individual style that added to the story and atmosphere of the various shorts, film, and stage work they did. I’m No Angel and She Done Him Wrong are the quintessential Mae West films to see and anything Mae Busch did with Laurel and Hardy is always fun, especially Chickens Come Home and Oliver the Eighth.)

All Images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0922213/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0#actress

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0123994/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mae_West

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mae_Busch

 

Filed under: Film: Actor/Actress Spotlight

He Made Being Hammy Work:

A Look at George Hilton

by Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone)

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When a good number of Cult film fans think of George Hilton, they think of an actor who took his work to too high theatrics and overplayed the majority of his roles.

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While in many cases they weren’t wrong, very often his over theatrics served him well in making his parts believable and interesting. Often Hilton tended to play his roles lightheartedly, but when the role called for him to be serious, he could play it straight like a seasoned veteran of the stage. Like with anything else, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but when it did, it was always a fun ride. Due to Hilton being mostly recognized for his contribution to the Comedy leanings of the Italian Westerns, the notion he was a ham actor stuck with him for the majority of his life, which wasn’t necessarily fair to his talents. In films like Lo Strano Vizio della Signora Wardh (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh), La Coda dello Scorpione (The Case of the Scorpion’s Tale), Il Corpo Dolci di Deborah (The Sweet Body of Deborah), Mio Caro Assassino (My Dear Killer), and Perche Quelle Strane Gocce di Sangue sui Corpo di Jennifer (What’s That Strange Bloody Flower on Jennifer’s Body/The Case of the Bloody Iris) showed Hilton could be serious, deadly and average, when he chose to be. His long gaze, especially in Deborah and Tutti I Colori del Buio (All the Colors of the Dark) can be read as either neutral, or hiding something, which was one of the limitations Hilton had but could still be effective.

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Like actress Rosalba Neri, Hilton also had the distinction of appearing almost every known genre of film, with the exception of Adult films, a feat few actors can say they’ve reached. Now while this seems like an overstatement, Hilton and Neri did in fact pull this off in that they didn’t conform to one particular genre of cinema, even with Hilton being mostly known for the Westerns and Giallos, he never limited himself, nor was he typed to one particular type of role or genre.

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In the Western Il Tempo degli Avvoltoi (The Time of Vultures/Last of the Badmen) Hilton does very well in the straight part of Kitosch, though some of the character’s motivations can sometimes be undefinable and misguided. Hilton was able to convey a kind of sympathy for the character even with audiences often disagreeing with many of his choices and not seeing the obvious in his new companion. In spite of these continuity issues the character manages remain likeable and maintain a kind of nobility. The majority of his other Western roles, particularly his early 70’s ones, consisted mainly of parody, or borderline parody versions of the classics of the mid 60’s, which in the cases of his takes on the Sartana and The Stranger characters and his original character of Alleluja worked well for the story, but other times things got too silly, which was an injustice to his talent as an actor. When the Giallos came into popularity, Hilton rose in prominence with them. He often played either the heroic lover having to play detective when the woman he loves is in danger or the detective tracking down a serial murderer. Even if his acting was on overload some of the time, Hilton was, and still is, a dedicated actor who took his craft seriously and always brought his “A” game, even if the picture itself wasn’t up to par.

(I highly recommend seeing many of George Hilton’s early Italian Westerns and Giallos, particularly the ones mentioned in this write up. I know he’s very theatrical and his style may border a little on the silly, but he’s still very good when it comes down to a fine performance. He’s still active in the industry today and gladly gives interviews for DVDs and Blu Rays on his versatile career, always happy to regale fans with stories about interactions with other actors and what filming in Italy was like in the old days. What’s especially refreshing about him is his honesty when speaking. When he spoke of the Westerns, he admitted the genre wasn’t his favorite, but certainly loved the enjoyment it gave fans, and was happy to be have been a part of it’s colossal  impact. To my readers, give this guy a chance and you’ll be surprised.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

IMDB/George Hilton

Wikipedia/George Hilton

Spaghetti Western Database/George Hilton

Grindhouse Cinema Database/George Hilton

Many of Mr. Hilton’s films are available on Blu Ray and DVD from The US, UK, and Germany

Filed under: Film: Actor/Actress Spotlight

Happy Birthday Monsieur Delon!!

by Tony Nash

(Any and all opinions are of the author alone)

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Today the iconic French superstar Alain Delon celebrates his 85th birthday. While not very well known in the States, this legend of World Cinema has fans all throughout Europe and parts of Asia, his films still very popular. What makes Delon reaching his 85th year of life a milestone and something to celebrate is the tough road and difficulties this man had to endure before he found the career that would steer him on the right path. Born to parents already at the end of their marriage, Delon spent the majority of his childhood traveling between the homes of his parents and their respective new partners. Unable to stand his parents’, particularly his mother’s, going from lover to lover, Delon decided he wanted to go to America, particularly Chicago, after spending time with friends at the cinema, and resolved to stow away on a ship bound for the States. This plan got derailed when his mother reported him as a runaway and a cop had pinched him for trespassing and vagrancy even before he got to the docks.

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When it looked like he was on track to good behavior working at his stepfather’s butcher shop, Delon decided to join the Navy to finally be free of what he saw as too dysfunctional a family. The Navy proved no better for him as his attitude and smart-alack behavior constantly landed him in the brig with a shaved head and was equally constantly seasick. Transferring to a paratrooper’s division, Delon saw action in Indo-China, the first of series of rebellions in French held colonies  After his service was completed, Delon worked a series of odd-jobs until he was asked to be an escort for actress Brigitte Auber for a film festival. Several producers took interest in Delon’s looks, which were considered similar to the recently deceased James Dean, and began working in films. Two pivotal roles that made Delon a star almost overnight were Rocco Parondi in Rocco e i Suoi Fratelli (Rocco and His Brothers) for Luchino Visconti and Tom Ripley in Plein Soleil (Purple Noon) for Rene Clement, the former making him a romantic leading man, and the latter making him keen for character and genre parts.

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Visconti and Clement again certified Delon as a bankable name with the films Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) and Les Felines (The Cats/Joy House), leading to film offers from the US. A supporting role in The Yellow Rolls Royce and the lead in Once a Thief were favorably seen by both critics and audiences, and showcased Delon’s charms and grit well. While Delon had a good command of the English language and was handsome, his accent, mannerisms, and personality just didn’t seem to click with US audiences and any chances for a favorable career in America were put on hold. Upon his return to France Delon met with Jean-Pierre Melville who offered him the lead role in his cynical Noir Thriller Le Samourai (The Samurai/The Godson), where Delon was able to reinvent himself as a hardboiled, cold-blooded gangster type, completely shedding his previous matinee/romantic idol image, the the ladies couldn’t help but still fall in love with him even when he showed no feeling or emotion.

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The seventies saw Delon enjoying success in gangster and cop roles, beginning the brooding mystic romantic engima he’d become most famous for. This success led to Hollywood offering another opportunity to Delon to become a name in the US. Roles in Scorpio and The Concord-Airport 79 were moderate successes and again audiences were intrigued by Delon’s mysteriousness and gaze, but as he was getting into his 40’s, selling him as a romantic figure was too far-gone, and instead of going through more disappointments and lack of roles, Delon decided to stick primarily to films in Europe. By the 80’s, he decided to move to character and supporting roles, though he would occasionally still get tough guy roles to show he hadn’t lost any steam. By the 1990’s, he was acting only occasionally and currently lives in semi-retirement, but still makes TV appearances to talk about his career.

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In a pure case of irony, the advent of DVD and Blu Ray allowed the children and grandchildren of the US audiences Delon couldn’t reach in his heyday to view and come to really enjoy and admire his work as an actor, allowing him a whole generation of fans worldwide. While not as mainstream as one thinks he should be, enough fans of World Cinema and the Art House scene allow him to garnish a whole new world to tell his story to.

(Alain Delon is, along with Tomas Milian, one of my all time favorite Euro actors and someone whom I think everyone should watch at least one film of. Even though he’s world weary now to an extant, he still likes talking about his career to fans new and old, and, I think, is happy he can still make impressions upon viewers. I highly recommend seeking out any of his films as the majority of them are available on Blu Ray and DVD.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

IMDB/Alain Delon

Wikipedia/Alain Delon

 

 

Filed under: Film: Actor/Actress Spotlight, Film: Special Topics

Una Grande Attrice Italiana dalla Spagna

A Look at Nieves Navarro

by Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone)

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The 1960’s saw many Spanish actors and actresses coming to Italy for the creative freedom they couldn’t get in Franco run Spain. The Western genre was the most prolific for these performers, and once this genre played out and lessened in popularity, many of these actors and actresses went back to their native land. One actress who managed to survive the burnout of the Western and leap to the Giallos, Horror, and Sex Comedies was Nieves Navarro.

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Though born in the Southern part of Spain, Navarro’s look was different to her heritage, which allowed her to be cast in various non-Hispanic roles, along with playing traditional Spaniards and Mexicans. Unlike most Spanish actresses, Navarro somehow managed to get offers from Italian producers and made the decision to relocate to Italy. Starting out in a comedy with Italian comic Toto, Navarro initially started out playing the seductive foreigner who was on the side of the hero. This was unusual even for European films as most actors/actresses in these roles were often depicted as having wavering allegiances, usually playing both sides for their own benefit. Even in these early stages, Navarro showed herself as a capable actress, holding her own with top-notch talent. While leading lady roles were few and far between for her, Navarro would get to show romantic interest in her male co-stars, though rarely did it go into anything substantial, but when it did, it was really beautiful.

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Her real break through in films was when the Italian or “Spaghetti” Westerns were beginning to become popular in Europe. Usually set in towns that were on the border between the US and Mexico, many Spanish actors and actresses were sought for the roles of Mexican peons, bandits, and well-to-do’s. Navarro’s debut in Una Pistola per Ringo (A Pistol for Ringo) had her playing a role that was unconventional even for Italian Westerns: a gun-packing female bandit. While a supporting role, Navarro did get the opportunity to enjoy a romantic attachment to fellow Spanish actor Antonio Casas’s character Major Clyde. Her performance was so good she was asked to come aboard for the in-name only sequel Il Ritorno di Ringo (The Return of Ringo) a year later. In spite of playing a more traditional, non-interesting saloon girl part, Navarro’s beauty and talent is still on great display. Her only other major parts in the Westerns were in La Resi Dei Conti (The Settling of Accounts/The Big Gundown) and Una Nuvola di Polvere… un Grido di Morte… Arivva Sartana (Cloud of Dust.. Cry of Death… Sartana is Coming/Light the Fuse, Sartana is Coming) as The Widow and Sra. Belle Manassas respectively. The majority of her roles in these films were usually just as eye candy for the hero, but in the four films just mentioned she got to play characters with depth and substance that went beyond the norm of most Italian Westerns. Not used as much as many other Spanish actresses of the time, Navarro with her sultry and exotic looks were able to leave a valuable and lasting impression that still resonates today.

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It was during the shooting of the Ringo films that Navarro would meet and fall in love with Italian screenwriter/producer/director Luciano Ercoli, and later marry him. He catapulted her to fame with an important supporting role in his first Giallo Le Foto Proibite di una Signora per Bene (Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion). By this period she’d become a naturalized Italian citizen from her marriage to Ercoli and was fluent in the Italian language, but her strong Spanish accent required voice dubbing for her roles. With the advent of Crime Dramas, Crime Action, and Giallo films Navarro found herself having to adopt the American pseudonym Susan Scott, sometimes spelled Susanne (or Suzanne) Scott, but audiences still knew who she was from the Westerns. Looking more like a native Italian than Hispanic, Navarro was able to transition with ease to the new trends of cinema in Italy. Her center roles in her husband’s most famous Giallos La Morte Cammina con i Tacchi Alti (Death Walks on High Heels) and La Morte Accarezza a Mezzanotte (Death Walks at Midnight) cemented her status as a powerhouse player in the genre and well showcased her acting talents. Another great, though more of a supporting role in the genre was in Sergio Martino’s Horror mood effort Tutti i Colori del Buio (All the Colors of the Dark), playing fellow sex symbol Edwige Fenech’s sister.

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Sadly, by the mid to late seventies, Navarro soon saw her talents being wasted in exploitative horror films and comedies. Realizing tastes were changing in cinema and that she was getting older, Navarro decided to head back to her native Spain and try to re-ignite her career there. While she made a couple of films, her being away from Spanish cinema (even though many of the Westerns were filmed in her native Almeria) for the majority of her career and not being immediately recognizable to audiences past and present, had Navarro realizing her time as an actress had passed, though she was totally willing to play matriarch type characters. With the support and love of her husband, they both relocated permanently to Spain as Ercoli had long retired from filmmaking at this time after receiving a considerable inheritance from a late distant relative. They remained together until Ercoli’s death a few years earlier.

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While many of her roles had her playing the damsel in distress or the object of a killer’s obsession, Navarro always played her characters with a sense of independence and intelligence, very often strong-willed and fiery. Navarro may not have gotten the same acclaim as some of her contemporaries or the more internationally recognized actresses of the time, but its clear fans always enjoyed seeing her were captivated in one way or another by her. Having no regrets of where her career took her and still enjoying the admiration it brought her, Navarro still talks about her career in films today and has happily offered to do recorded interviews for various DVD and Blu Ray releases of the films she appeared in. Not an immediately recognizable name when asked of, her face is one fans, new or old, will never forget and will always be happy to see. A character actress all the way, she had that rare mixture of talent and beauty that took her far and wide. She could’ve easily made it as an important film actress and leading lady, but clearly loved the Western, Giallo, and Comedy roles she was being offered to her. An actress that certainly deserves and needs more recognition, but the Italian Subgenre category has a very loyal and devoted fan base.

(I highly recommend most of Senora Navarro’s pre-1976 films as those are her best work. She’s one of my favorite actresses and I’m thankful to companies like Arrow Video and Shameless Films for bringing her back to the public in the form of Blu Rays)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

IMDB/Nieves Navarro

Wikipedia/Nieves Navarro

Spaghetti-Western.net/Nieves Navarro

 

Filed under: Film: Actor/Actress Spotlight

Twice the Villain, Twice the Fun:

Anne Baxter in Batman

by Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Some spoilers may be present)

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Miss Anne Baxter who delighted audiences with her roles in The Magnificent Ambersons, The Ten Commandments, and All About Eve was at her most divine and excellence in the TV Series Batman starring Adam West. Now the who’s who of Hollywood wanted to be guests in the series, whether as people Batman had to save, or as his adversaries. Many got the opportunity; others were slated for it, but missed out because the show was canceled. Anne Baxter is a unique figure in the show’s plethora of guest villains, because she got the chance to play two totally different villains. She first appeared in season 1 as Zelda the Great, then as Olga, Queen of the Cossacks in Season 3. She played Olga several times to Zelda’s sole single appearance, but Baxter left pretty good impressions on more than one occasion during her tenure on the show. While not as talked about as Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Julie Newmar, Victor Buono, and Frank Gorshin, she’s still a worthy player in the cavalcade of Batman players.

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I hate robbing banks! All I ever wanted to be was a poor but honest magician!

Anne Baxter as Zelda the Great

What makes Zelda the Great an interesting Batman villain is that she’s not a villain by choice, or to be more precise, she never intended to be one. It’s discovered that in order to pay supplier Eviol for the elaborate props in her magic act, Zelda must rob the Gotham National Bank once a year. When Batman & Robin foil the most recent robbery with fake money, Zelda’s forced to kidnap Miss Harriet Cooper, Robin/Dick Grayson’s Aunt for a fresh stash. Being forced to abduct Miss Cooper is the final straw for Zelda, and tells Eviol she’ll have no more parts in actions that might get people hurt. Batman and Robin sense Zelda’s natural decency and come to realize she only acted out of necessity to earn a living to survive. Not wanting to see her talents as a magician wasted, Batman/Bruce Wayne asks that upon her parole, Zelda be hired as the Gotham City Hospital’s Children’s Ward magician, a role that raises her spirits.

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Zelda provided the rare occasion on Batman that an individual doesn’t look to be a criminal, nor is seduced by a known high player of the criminal underworld for the easy life. Instead Zelda, who loves performing her magic tricks and bringing joy, laughter, and entertainment to her audiences is forced by unforeseen debt to become a criminal in order to be able to continue her work as a magician. At first indifferent because she’s only required to rob a bank once a year, and doing so in an ingenious manner that avoids people getting hurt slowly becomes infuriating to Zelda because it goes against her moral code. Being a naturally good-hearted person is what convinces Batman to insist on a lighter sentence for Zelda, causing him to realize not all criminals are in the game for the thrill and spoils, that some have no choice or are forced by matters out of their hands to enter into the criminal life. Baxter, with her years of study and training, conveys all these emotions and feelings well, and not only mark her spot as the show’s first female baddie, but also the first sympathetic one.

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Baxter does well with the role and clearly made it her own all the way, not giving into standard TV clichés regarding these types of roles. Normally a character like this would start out bad, but somehow be brought back on the right path, whereas Baxter plays Zelda as a nice person from the start, coping with making poor choices, unsure of how to break away from the life. By having Zelda wanting out, and her proving as such to Batman, Baxter creates a whole new dimension to a villain like role that allows the audience to sympathize with her and hope in the end she’ll make that courageous choice in spite of the risks Many stars of the 40’s and 50’s found new audiences filming TV shows like Batman and so on, and Baxter was no exception.

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Cossack Queen is permitted up to six husbands. Oh, but do not worry Batushka, you will always be number one in my heart.

Anne Baxter as Olga, Queen of the Cossacks

In season 3, regular villain Egghead was joined in his schemes by exiled Cossack Queen Olga. Olga’s a more traditional Batman villain in that she has plans to become rich, but has much ambitious plans to reclaim the regency of all of Eastern Europe for herself. While many Batman villains were hokey in appearance and voice, Baxter makes a quite believable White Russian who prefers to wear red with a fine accent and dialogue delivery. She portrays Olga as a firm believer in the customs and rituals of her homeland, but juxtaposes a desire to take over the land and the surrounding provinces, giving her this interesting dynamic that pleases viewers to watch her. Her schemes with Egghead include obtaining rare treasures of the Old World to cornering the egg market to bringing back to life a species of dinosaur, all of which Baxter does with believability and a straight face, something most other actors/actresses got a little over the top with.

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Baxter is more interesting as Olga, in spite of not having the depth and background story of Zelda, that comes from Baxter’s abilities as an actress and the believability with which she is able to get audiences to enhance their imagination and go along for the ride she enjoyed taking them on. Olga is a very animated character and gives Baxter the freedom to put all her talents to their greatest use and sees her in one of the best performances of her later career. Zelda was an interesting character for certain, but Olga has a little more spirit and an intelligence that makes her quite the worthy adversary for Batman, as she takes him head on, while accomplice Egghead shifts to the side when confronted by him.  Even though she’s a villain, Olga manages to have viewers curious as to what she and her Cossacks will do next and maybe even root for her a little too.

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Anne Baxter was a rare talent among Hollywood elite, an individual who doesn’t get the same accolades as other stars of her generation, and certainly should. While many other stars were great at their guest stints on Batman, Baxter took it to a whole new level with her professionalism and dedication, giving every bit of herself to the parts she got to play. Her role as Olga may have been silly, but it was one of the most restrained and believable role out of all the Batman female baddies. Zelda provided a rare glimpse into the mind of an individual who never intended to be a criminal, and manages to come out with a better reputation than before, and a fresh start that re-ignites the passions she thought she had lost. A fine actress doing well in a zany and fun series.

(Despite most die-hard Batman comic book and Micheal Keaton & Christopher Nolan film fans, the Adam West series of the 60’s is a fun series and all the classic stars who appeared on it were as good in it as in their other amazing roles. I highly recommend picking it up)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google images and their respective owners

All quotes from Baxter’s acting page at IMDB under her Batman appearances

For more information

IMDB/Anne Baxter, Batman appearances

Wikipedia/Anne Baxter, Batman villains

Batman series Wikia

https://www.amazon.com/Batman-Complete-Television-Blu-ray-Various/dp/B00PVBCSNA/ref=sr_1_2_atc_badge_A2N1U4I2KOS032_twi_blu_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1535909346&sr=1-2&keywords=batman+the+series

For UK/Region B fans

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Batman-Original-Blu-ray-Region-Free/dp/B00Q6Z16F6/ref=sr_1_2?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1535909885&sr=1-2&keywords=Batman+the+Series

Filed under: Film: Actor/Actress Spotlight

In His Madness, There Was Genius:

A Look at Tomas Milian

by Tony Nash

(all opinions are of the author alone)

In here…in here, is everything, from A to Z. Okay? I could be…a good person, I could be an evil son of a bitch, I could be anything. I could be funny, I could be very dramatic, I can make you cry, if you want.

Tomas Milian

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The old saying goes There’s a method to the madness, and that saying is no truer than with Tomas Milian. The son of a soldier, and brought up in a privileged household, Milian would learn how to thrive on his own after the Cuban Revolution of 1957. It was after seeing James Dean in East of Eden that Milian decided he wanted to be an actor, because he related to the rebellious nature of Dean’s character, something he’d been going through himself. With help from an understanding Aunt, Milian then made the trek from Cuba to Miami, where he began studying English for acting. After some ups and downs, Milian finally succeeded in getting into the famous Actor’s Studio, studying under Lee Strasburg. Unlike contemporaries Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, and Eli Wallach, Milian put what he learned in the Actor’s Studio to good use, utilizing facial expressions, body gestures, etc to make his characters the most believable. Milian never put less than 100% for every role, and would give it his all every time. It was after performing in a theater festival in Paris that offers from Italian filmmakers started coming in. After a series of intellectual roles that eventually became tiresome to the actor, Milian seriously considered relocating back to the States and starting afresh in acting.

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After accepting a role in the Spanish Western El Precio de un Hombre (The Bounty Hunter/The Ugly Ones), Milian found himself a growing icon in the burgeoning “Spaghetti Western” genre that would lead to a series of successful roles. As Cuchillo in La Resa de Conti (Settling of Accounts/The Big Gundown) and Corri Uomo Corri (Run Man Run), Solomon “Beauregard” Bennet in Faccia a Faccia (Face to Face), Jesus Maria “Tepepa” Moran in Tepepa, El Vasco in Vamos a Matar, Companeros (Companeros), and Chaco in I Quattro dell’Apocalisse (The Four of the Apocalypse), Milian created numerous memorable characters, all Mexican or Mexican Indian due to his Cuban heritage, but very different, and very unique. At first it was thought he would crash and burn in the Westerns due to his being primarily associated with intellectual films, but his talent and likability had him packing in theaters and soon becoming one of the top talents and draws of the Italian film industry. For Milian, the Westerns were a fun genre to perform in and preferred them to the intellectual films he had previously made, stating he found he could do more with his training at the Actor’s Studio than he could in the other films.

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When the Westerns started phasing out in the seventies, and the Giallos and Polizioteschi’s were becoming the new fad, Milian started spreading the word he would do these films at half his normal salary and was once again a top draw at the theaters, primarily in the Cop Action films. More memorable characters like Giulio Sacchi in Milano Odia: La Polizia Non Puo Sparare (Almost Human), Inspetorre Ravelli in Squadra Volonte (Emergency Squad), Vincenzo “Il Gobbo” Moretto in Roma a Mano Armata (Rome Armed to the Teeth/The Tough Ones), Luigi “Chinaman” Miaetto in Il Cinico, L’infame, Il Violento (The Cynic, the Rat, and the Fist), and Stefano Augenti in La Vittima Designata (The Designated Victim) followed in this era, and showed Milian as a capable performer who would try anything at least once. His most prolific time in the seventies was as two characters in two series of films: Nico Giraldi, based off of Al Pacino’s Serpico character, in 12 films over the span of a decade and Sergio “Er Monezza” Marazzi in three films over a five-year period. So identical were these characters the public often confused them with each other. While Milian preferred his Western roles to his Police Action roles, he enjoyed them nonetheless and found more diversity in his roles.

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When the Italian film industry changed in the 80’s, Milian, though still very popular, found roles were less and less in demand, and decided the time had come to return to the States and begin a new chapter in his career. Character parts in series like Murder, She Wrote, Oz, Law & Order, LA Law, and Miami Vice gave him a second career which later led to roles in JFK, Traffic, and Fools Rush In and introduced him to a new audience that would later check out his work in Italy and reignite the popularity he enjoyed in the 60’s and 70’s. Ill health plagued the very later part of his life and he sadly passed away on March 22, 2017 at the age of 84 at his home in Miami. Still very popular in Italy where he spent so many years of his life and finding new audiences in the States and the UK where he films are being restored on DVD and Blu Ray. While he’s gone, he will never be forgotten thanks to a quirky, but lovable personality, and an eclectic body of work that had his face change every time.

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What I want to do is to become the part – to leave Tomas Milian wherever he is and become the character

Tomas Milian

(Tomas Milian is one of my all time favorite actors whom I feel has never given a bad performance. I highly recommend seeking out any of Milian’s films on DVD and Blu Ray, he’s well worth seeing in every film he’s in. Almost Human is one of his best films, but is the hardest to watch because of how evil and despicable his character is. He’s an actor worth rediscovery in the States.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google images and their respective owners

All quotes courtesy of Milian’s quote section on his IMDB profile.

For more information

IMDB/Tomas Milian

Wikipedia/Tomas Milian

TomasMilian.it. (if your Italian is good)

 

Filed under: Film: Actor/Actress Spotlight

Highly Underrated & Energetic:

A Look at Miss Joan Hackett

by Tony Nash

(All Opinions are of the author alone)

I said it before and I’ll say it again: the men in this town ain’t nothin’ but a bunch of lowdown, miserable, cowardly curs!

Joan Hackett as Prudy Perkins in Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969)

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A great actress of her day, though hindered in projects because of her difficult perfectionism, Joan Hackett was the embodiment of what a good character performer should be: resourceful, intelligent, capable, and diverse. Whether she played mothers, daughters, American, European, Latino, eccentrics, etc, she did what she thought best for the role, and no one would tell her different. Her most memorable performance was in Support Your Local Sheriff!, playing the clumsy, but very independent and wise, Prudy Perkins, daughter of the town Mayor. She and Jack Elam borderline stole the show from James Garner with their very wacky characteristics, and clever one liners. Other equally good performances were in the TV Western Bonanza, playing a no-nonsense, speaks her mind, Spanish spitfire Contessa in one episode, and a timid, but very much determined clairvoyant helping to solve the disappearance of a young boy in another. Another good independent woman role on TV was an appearance on Daniel Boone as a headstrong, gun-toting Mountain Woman. Her appearance in the Twilight Zone episode A Piano in the House showed she was equally adept at serious, dramatic, parts, proving she was diverse in the kinds of roles she was capable of. Her only other movie role of note was as an on her own, and good at it, female rancher raising her little boy in the Charlton Heston led Will Penny.

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Those who knew the woman, knew she differed in some respects to her on-screen roles: a wonderfully eclectic, intellectual Hostess, a supporter various charities and causes, and a firm believer in Spiritualism. Known to be very approachable and fun to be around, Hackett proved to be well liked by many off camera, though some admitted she could be trying when performing, even then admitting her dedication made her great at what she did. She continued to perform regularly until a battle with cancer began taking it’s toll on her. In spite of this, she remained as optimistic and professional in her career and private life. Many were saddened by her death in 1983, after a long valiant battle against a dangerous illness. Ironically, she asked that on her headstone, it read under her name, Go away – I’m asleep, which lends itself to the absurd as she loved hosting parties, but it’s humorous as sleep didn’t come easy when making TV or films. Sadly, she isn’t spoken of much today, and she should be as she was a constant professional, never demeaning others and doing what was best for the project at hand. Her style may have been erratic, but it was one to learn from as it garnered her acclaim and helped her get more roles. Very talented, though forgotten with the passage of time, she’s slowly making a comeback with the advent of DVD and Blu Ray, and entire new generations of fans are beginning to see the talent their parents and grandparents saw back in the day. Gone, but never forgotten by fans of the film and TV mediums.

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(I highly recommend watching Miss Hackett’s film and TV appearances, she’s very talented and her work is well worth watching.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google images and their respective owners

For more information

IMDB/Joan Hackett

Wikipedia/Joan Hackett

All quotes from the IMDB Support Your Local Sheriff! quotes page and Miss Hackett’s bio page

 

Filed under: Film: Actor/Actress Spotlight

Sometimes It’s Not in the Voice:

Great Performances by American Actors in European Films

by Tony Nash

(All Opinions are of the writer’s alone)

While many fans may make the assumption American actors who went to Europe to make films was a step backwards as their voices were often dubbed due to the actors not speaking the language of that country, this is hardly true. American actors appearing in films overseas had two benefits: for the established star, working in Europe meant the talents of directors, actors/actresses, screenwriters, etc. who wouldn’t normally get noticed in the States, meant for US distribution and a chance to get international recognition, and for established actors struggling in the wake of changing tastes, work in Europe meant a second career and second chance at stardom. For the up-in-comer having trouble getting through the door in Hollywood, a career in Europe offered a chance for recognition and star statues, and far more offers than Hollywood would give. Now there are many great performances out there, in A grade “important” films and B grade genre films, but the roles discussed here will reflect the noted stand-outs.

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Burt Lancaster as Prince Don Fabrizio Corbera of Salina (dubbed by Corrado Gaipa) in Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) (1963) ***** – Directed by Luchino Visconti, Written by Suso Ceechi D’Amico, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Enrico Medioli,  Massimo Franciosa, & Luchino Visconti, from the novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Burt Lancaster, who was mostly known as a matinée idol at the time, gives a powerhouse and touching performance as the aging Prince of Sicily who slowly watches his country go from Monarchy to Democracy. Lancaster only occasionally got to play roles with depth like with Come Back, Sheba, From Here to Eternity, and Elmer Gantry, and was often obliged to take standard role types. With Il Gattopardo, he’d hoped to break away from his leading man image, and show how talented an actor he was. Initially he was felt miscast, even by the director Visconti, but he ended up perfectly embodying the greatness of the Prince, physically and symbolically, as exactly Visconti envisioned when he was co-writing the script. The film flopped originally at the box-office as gaudy, and actually hampered Lancaster’s goal for more serious work, but years later critics and viewers alike see this as one of Lancaster’s best performances. His mixing stoic majesty with tender vulnerability, showing a man keeping his family’s spirits up in the wake of change in public and maintaining a sense of dignity and authority, while inside he is sad, scared, and uncertain of his place in a world without royalty in charge, is a real challenge he pulls off magnificently. A highly underrated actor who didn’t get his rightful accolades until almost too late, but still is seen as a rightful icon of the film industry.

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Charles Bronson as Harmonica (dubbed by Giuseppe Rinaldi) in C’era una Volta il West (Once Upon a Time in the West) (1968) PG-13 ***** – Directed by: Sergio Leone, Written by: Sergio Donati & Sergio Leone, from an idea by Bernardo Bertolucci, Dario Argento, & Sergio Leone

Charles Bronson gives one of the more underscored performances of his career in Sergio Leone’s loving homage to the American Old West. Bronson truly is The Man with No Name, as he never says what his name is; Jason Robards character Cheyenne finally coining him “Harmonica”. With a quiet demeanor, and a face that looked like it had gone through much hardships and tribulations, Bronson was able to affect a man haunted by a long ago trauma that left him a shell, only the sounds of a musical instrument giving audiences any hint to a small bit of who he really is. By only using glances, facial expressions, and body movements, Bronson was able to convey so much more to his character than any amount of dialogue could. Leone had a knack for choosing actors who didn’t need a lot of words to let the audience know what they’re thinking and what they’re about to do.

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Rod Steiger as Edoardo Nottola (dubbed by Aldo Giuffre) in Le Mani Sulla Citta (Hands Over the City) (1963) ***** – Directed by Francesco Rosi, Written by Francesco Rosi, Raffaele La Capria, Enzo Provenzale, & Enzo Forcella

Rod Steiger is at his heaviest and grittiest best in a film about the battle between a building contractor and a politician looking to win an election in the wake of a building collapse in Naples. What makes Steiger’s role unique is that his character, in spite of being greedy and opportunistic, is actually quite likeable. While money and being elected commissioner of construction in the upcoming elections is a goal he won’t be denied of, Nottola shows he’s a loving and caring father, a stout Roman Catholic, and does care about the future and well-being of the Province. His character is an interesting shade of grey, not black and white as most people would expect. Even stranger is that the intended “hero” of the film, De Vita (played a real politician ironically enough) is quite unlikable in his not thinking past the here and now of the film, and what his decisions might mean later. That Steiger plays his character as a real person in a film featuring only three actors (himself included) in a cast of non-professionals (a trait of filmmaker Francesco Rosi, who wanted his films to feel as authentic and relatable as possible) is a real showcase of talent and ability.

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Frank Wolff as Gaspare Pisciotta (dubbed by Turi Ferro) in Salvatore Giuliano (1961) ***** –  Directed by Francesco Rosi, Written by Suso Ceechi D’Amico, Enzo Provenzale, Francesco Rosi, & Franco Solinas

Struggling actor Frank Wolff gives an impassioned and equally restrained performance as Gaspare Pisciotta, the ally turned murderer of his cousin Salvatore Giuliano. Wolff, one of the earliest graduates of UCLA’s acting curriculum, had been shooting the film Atlas for his friend Roger Corman, when filmmaker Francesco Rosi offered him the role in his production of the infamous Sicilian outlaw. Rosi, who was known for casting non-professional actors for the effect of authenticity, realized the role of Pisciotta was a complex one, something a non-professional couldn’t convey, and since Wolff was eager to appear in productions with a little more depth, but not necessarily a big paycheck, he was hired on the spot. The duplicitous, tortured, and conflicted nature of Pisciotta is displayed beautifully from Wolff, who shows great talent that the UCLA training flushed out well. Being unknown at the time allowed him to blend in well with the non-professional performers, and not take away from the realism Rosi wanted to visualize.  While not the caliber of Laurence Olivier and many others, Wolff was a dedicated performer who always gave his best, even when the role was very beneath the great talent he possessed.

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Lee Van Cleef as Jonathan “Colorado” Corbett (dubbed by Renato Turi) in La Resi Dei Conti (The Settling of Accounts/The Big Gundown) (1966) ***** – Directed by Sergio Sollima, Written by: Sergio Donati & Sergio Sollima, from a story by Franco Solinas & Fernando Morandi

Lee Van Cleef is a wonderful and genuine surprise as the lawman with a conscious in Sergio Sollima’s entertaining and socially relevant Western. While Van Cleef wasn’t a trained actor, his naturalness and facial features allowed him to convey emotions in a way dialogue couldn’t. This ability gave the character the depth Sollima intended for him and, whether intentionally or not, showed Van Cleef as a capable character actor. Van Cleef didn’t get to do a role like this too often, and the few times he did, was very good and impressive. The character isn’t quick to draw his gun, and works out the mystery before he goes into action. Much like Charles Bronson, Van Cleef was another actor who could tell the audience much more with expressions, body and facial, than with words.

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Eli Wallach as Tuco (dubbed by Carlo Romano) in Il Bouno, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) (1966) ***** – Directed by: Sergio Leone, Written by: Agenore Incrocci (as Age), Furio Scarpelli (Scarpelli), Luciano Vincenzoni, & Sergio Leone

Eli Wallach’s sometimes comedic, sometimes serious, but always interesting to watch bandito is a sight to see in Sergio Leone’s classic Western. An individual who’s committed every crime in the book at least once is quite sympathetic as he’s one of the rare Leone characters to get a flushed out back-story that, while it doesn’t justify his actions or behavior, does let the audience know his criminal life wasn’t a wanton choice, but rather because he had no choice. Wallach’s ability to have the audience not hate Tuco, but not praise him either, takes a great deal of ability and skill, something Wallach showed over and over he had plenty of. One of the many early graduates of The Actor’s Studio, Wallach, like Cuban-American-Italian actor Tomas Milian, utilized his skills in genre film equally well as in more serious-minded projects. His breaking away from what Karl Malden and Marlon Brando were doing in terms of their films made him a recognizable character actor immediately and was able to gain a large variety of roles.

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Frank Wolff as Il Commissario di Polizia (dubbed by Sergio Rossi) in Milano Calibro 9 (Caliber 9) (1972) R **** ½ – Written & Directed by: Fernando Di Leo, from a collection of stories by Giorgio Scerbanenco

In his final complete performance before his tragic suicide, Frank Wolff shines as a disillusioned Police Commissioner, who thwarts all pleas from his new assistant to crack down on the ruthless rich who take advantage of the powerless poor. Even though his role is supporting, and much of his scenes part of a secondary plotline to the main story, Wolff still excels in his part, and gives 100% with it. The part is a very animated one and Wolff puts forth numerous burst of energy as much of the scenes he was in had him in arguments with the character of his assistant, played by Luigi Pistilli. The Commissioner comes off as very dedicated, but having seen so much crime and guilty people over the years, has hardened his thought process and no one is innocent anymore. Di Leo himself said later that Wolff’s part was much larger initially, but because he and Pistilli often took the scene outside the script, much of his role was left on the cutting room floor, feeling awful it happened as Wolff floored Di Leo and the crew with those moments of fine acting.

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Henry Silva as Lanzetta (dubbed by Sergio Rossi) in Il Boss (The Boss) (1973) R **** – Written & Directed by: Fernando Di Leo, from the novel by Peter McCurtin

Henry Silva goes above the norm in Fernando Di Leo’s look at the Sicilian Mafia. Silva gets to display the talent he honed in acting school to its fullest as a Mafia “buffer” who goes through conflicting emotions as a Mob War escalates between his employers and a rebellious Mafioso looking to become a kingpin. That Silva takes his character beyond the standard, and what many would consider “stereotype” of the Italian gangster, and gives depth and dimension to a role that would’ve normally been generic in other films. This depth doesn’t necessarily make audiences sympathize with the character, but it does allow for the audience to see that there is more to this individual than just what’s on the surface. The character is certainly brutal and vicious, but he shows at the same time he cares about certain people, even if he doesn’t feel he should be so close to said people.  A highly underscored actor who should’ve gone further than he did.

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Henry Silva as Commissario Walter Grandi (dubbed by Nando Gazzolo) in Milano Odia: La Polizia non Puo Sparare! (Almost Human) (1974) R **** – Directed by: Umberto Lenzi, Written by: Ernesto Gastaldi

In a major departure from his usual fare and casted against type, Henry Silva does really well as the police inspector in Umberto Lenzi’s well done, albeit darkly brutal, crime thriller. No one would’ve thought Henry Silva could play a cop until this film, but he excels beyond expectations in what he was a capable of as an actor. The role was originally intended for Richard Conte, who had to bow out because of a heart attack, so Silva was brought in as a last-minute replacement. Fears he couldn’t be believable in such a part were laid to rest as he succeeded in every aspect of a cop’s personality in every scene he appeared in. Ironically, Silva’s policeman comes off as more believable in the final moments of the film than Conte’s would have. Conte would’ve been the cop who’d gone bad from his morals being shattered whereas Silva comes off as a cop who sacrifices everything so someone like Tomas Milian’s character in the film doesn’t have a chance to commit another dastardly deed.

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Mark Damon as George Bellow Ferguson (dubbed by Giuseppe Rinaldi) in Requiescant (Kill and Pray) (1967) *** ½ – Directed by: Carlo Lizzani, Written by: Adriano Bolzoni, Armando Crispino, Lucio Battistrada, Pier Paolo Pasolini, & Carlo Lizzani, from a story by Renato Izzo & Franco Bucceri

Mark Damon, one of the many American expatriates who found fame in Italy, is a scene stealing success in Carlo Lizzani’s one and only Western about a Puritan raised gunfighter opposing a Southern Baron racist tormenting Mexican peasants. Damon is a blast as Ferguson, the poster child for the Southern Plantation Baron elitist who hates everyone not light-skinned. Even though you hate the character, Damon’s acting abilities make viewers want to hate him, and in some cases like to hate him. This guy is so full of himself and constantly using the third person when in conversation or order giving it almost goes into the absurdly funny. Not meant to funny by any means, this flamboyance gives Ferguson the mark of a dying breed of men whose time has passed and the way of life they led is no longer viable in a new and changing world. The politics of the time had Damon having to recite lines that voiced filmmakers of the times views on the world, but ignoring the preachy messaging of the film, Damon’s lines can be seen as the ravings of a bitter, hate filled man.

Honorable Mentions

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Henry Fonda as Frank (dubbed by Nando Gazzolo) in C’era una Volta il West (Once Upon a Time in the West) (1968) PG-13 ***** – Directed by: Sergio Leone, Written by: Sergio Donati & Sergio Leone, from an idea by Bernardo Bertolucci, Dario Argento, & Sergio Leone

In a casting against type that went against all conventions, Henry Fonda gives a performance of a lifetime as the sadistic/heartless gunman in Sergio Leone’s 2nd classic Western. It was a role that Hollywood would never let him repeat again, given all the saintly characters he played. Only Sergio Leone could see the menace within Fonda, and had him use his famous baby blue eyes to full effect with the coldness within. It’s only listed as an honorable mention due to how mean-spirited the character is.

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Lee Van Cleef as Setenza/Angel Eyes (dubbed by Emilio Cigoli) in Il Bouno, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) (1966) ***** – Directed by: Sergio Leone, Written by: Agenore Incrocci (as Age), Furio Scarpelli (Scarpelli), Luciano Vincenzoni, & Sergio Leone

In another surprising casting decision, Lee Van Cleef got to play the most brutal baddie of his career in Sergio Leone’s first classic Western. Van Cleef by this time was known in Italy for playing good guys who were honorable, but still had a touch of larceny. So the shock was on them when they saw Van Cleef shooting and maiming people without mercy while on the search for stolen Confederate gold. American audiences already knew of Van Cleef’s pedigree as a heavy, having played so many henchmen and big budget pictures, and main baddies in smaller budget affairs, but even they weren’t expecting the levels of meanness Leone would have Van Cleef’s character go. Van Cleef also proved his pedigree as a gentleman as one scene required him to slap a woman several times, and he insisted to Leone he wouldn’t strike her, resulting in very clever editing techniques from to make it look like it was him. This one goes to honorable mention status again due to the character being extra vicious.

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Lee Van Cleef as Frank Talby (dubbed by Emilio Cigoli) in I Giorni dell’Ira (Day of Anger) (1967) **** ½ – Directed by Tonino Valeri, Written by: Ernesto Gastaldi, Tonino Valeri, & Renzo Genta, from a novel by Rolf Becker (as Ron Barker)

Lee Van Cleef once again showing he was no slouch in the acting department, in Tonino Valeri’s Western about the unlikely friendship between a hardened gunman and the local whipping boy of a town. What makes this character unique is that he’s played as the ruthless type who lets nothing stand in his way, but at the same time shows a sense of fatherly affection for the mistreated young man who’s forced to do sanitation work. This duality might prove the downfall of the gunman, but allows the audience to have genuine sympathy for the man, as he truly does show he’s not all bad. This go around showed Van Cleef had matured during his tenure in Italy, and was gaining experience, becoming adept with dialogue and character conveyance, instead of purely relying on his physical appearance and facial features, though he still uses them to great effect. This only made honorable mention due to a little bit of a gap within the storyline for the character.

(Author’s Note: I must admit I nearly got teary-eyed at the end, as I didn’t want to see Van Cleef’s character die.)

While these actors’ own voices weren’t heard on film and often times the lines they memorized differed from the original script (the context/syntax was the same, but said differently), their physical presence and on camera personalities helped the voice come across as theirs, not just something mechanical. Sometimes these performances were much better than the ones they gave in Hollywood, partly because the screenwriters gave them great material to work with, and the directors saw potential and talent that Hollywood either ignored or didn’t take full advantage of. Whatever the case, these actors were amazing and did excellent jobs overseas as well as in the States.

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google images and their respective owners

For more information:

IMDB/The Leopard

Wikipedia/The Leopard

IMDB/Once Upon A Time in the West

Wikipedia/Once Upon a Time in the West

IMDB/Hands Over the City

Wikipedia/Hands Over the City

IMDB/Salvatore Giuliano

Wikipedia/Salvatore Giuliano

IMDB/The Big Gundown

Wikipedia/The Big Gundown

IMDB/The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Wikipedia/The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

IMDB/Caliber 9

Wikipedia/Caliber 9

IMDB/The Boss

Wikipedia/The Boss

IMDB/Almost Human

Wikipedia/Almost Human

IMDB/Requiescant

Wikipedia/Requiescant

IMDB/Day of Anger

Wikipedia/Day of Anger

https://www.amazon.com/Once-Upon-Time-West-Blu-ray/dp/B072ZWHY7J/ref=tmm_blu_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

https://www.amazon.com/Hands-Over-City-Criterion-Collection/dp/B000H5U5KS/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1534346557&sr=1-1&keywords=hands+over+the+city+criterion&dpID=61vk24%252B5y9L&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

https://www.amazon.com/Salvatore-Giuliano-Criterion-Collection-Frank/dp/B00014K5ZU/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1534348526&sr=1-2&keywords=salvatore+giuliano&dpID=512iE0Qcv3L&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

https://www.amazon.com/Good-Ugly-Anniversary-Special-Blu-ray/dp/B0716XZB2B/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1534348596&sr=1-2&keywords=the+good+the+bad+and+the+ugly&refinements=p_n_format_browse-bin%3A2650305011&dpID=61DtWrCvz4L&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

For anyone with a Region Free Blu Ray Player or is in the Region B zone

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sulla-Masters-Cinema-Format-Blu-ray/dp/B00GWIITE8/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1534348739&sr=1-1&keywords=francesco+rosi+blu-ray

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Salvatore-Giuliano-Blu-ray-Frank-Wolff/dp/B00KHSM9OK/ref=sr_1_2?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1534348739&sr=1-2&keywords=francesco+rosi+blu-ray

(All other movies will be linked when I do more in-depth Western Wednesday write ups and other special likes)

 

Filed under: Film: Actor/Actress Spotlight, Film: Special Topics