Anti Heroes part 2
Possibly the greatest aspect of the Spaghetti Westerns are the characters. They're not heroes but not villains. Anti Heroes. They have shades of grey but still fight for goodness or justice. Here are some I find most interesting.
(?) = heroism in question
Sebastian is one of the vengeance seeking heroes. His mother killed his father and lives with the other accomplice. He has forgotten all this until his childhood friend, Rafael, reminds him.
He is one of the most focused anti heroes. He does not let too many people or incidents get in his way of killing his father's assassin. He is also a very efficient killer as most anti heroes are. He is skilled with both rifle and pistol. He also is rather smart. He knows how to go about getting his revenge without going in guns blazing. He tries to basically talk to people he knows are spies for the assassins. He knows they will be expecting him and he does this to torment them. He eventually gets his revenge but does so savoringly. He knows that this is a man who needs to die. And killing him will put an end to all his torment and his family problems. He is based upon the main character in the Greek tragedy in Orestes.
He was played by Leonard Mann in "The Forgotten Pistolero" directed by Ferdinando Baldi in 1969.
Manuel is called upon by his former love to exact revenge upon the killers of her husband. He does this begrudgingly and reluctantly. He is a deeply saddened man suffering from the torments of a life of violence. A true tragic figure.
Manuel is the most regretful and emotionally intelligent of any anti hero. He is not a good man. He kills members of another family (that are being oppressed by the killer's family) just so he can convince the killers he is worthy to be employed by their family. He also lets the widow's brothers-in-law rape an innocent woman who was the killer's daughter. He hardly ever speaks and mostly communicates through looks and expressions. He is an extremely fast draw and eerily proficient killer. Unlike almost every other anti hero, he is left handed and wears his pistol cross draw style. He is rather intelligent and goes about exacting the revenge with quick thinking and very little preparation but still conjures up an ingenious plan to satisfy the widow's thirst for revenge. He has been "retired" for many years. He lives alone in a daliesque ghost town which symbolizes his loneliness and his past. The mission he is presented with ultimately completely destroys any remaining humanity he had left and offers himself to be killed at the film's conclusion as a way of atoning for his countless sins.
He was played by Robert Hossein in "Cemetery Without Crosses" directed by Hossein in 1968.
The man only referred to as Silence is also a very tragic figure. He is a mute because his vocal cords were severed as a child. He lives as a hired gun. He is called upon by a widow to kill her husband's murderer, the evil bounty hunter Loco.
Silence is an interesting anti hero. Besides the fact he is a mute. He lives by a code. Not a moral one but a practical code. He can't draw his gun first if he wants to be within the boundaries of the law. He provokes his victims to draw first so his killings will be regarded as self defence. If they surrender to him, he shoots off their thumbs so they can never draw again. His family were murdered as a child and this incident, including the cutting of his throat, has left him a cold hard man. He has almost no emotions and kills mostly for money. But only killing bounty killers. Men he despises and were responsbile for the slaughter of his family. The cold climate makes it very hard to travel and undoubtedly cost him many horses. I would assume he often travels in stage coaches to shield himself from the freezing cold. The film he stars in is set in 1898 and he is equipped with the latest technology. He carries an 1896 mauser pistol with a detachable wooden holster that doubles as a rifle butt. The Mauser can fire semi-automatic and fully automatic which gives him the edge in any gunfight. He does not have a rifle, probably because of his very accurate pistol.
He was played by Jean Louis Trinitgnant in "The Great Silence" directed by Sergio Corbucci in 1967.
The Blindman is a gunfighting drifter who will take any job for money. He is hired to escort 50 mail order brides but is double crossed by his partner and is forced to combat a horde of vicious Mexican bandits to retrieve his women and receive his $5,000.
Blindman is a very cool character. He has a very relaxed and laid back demeanor. He is a smart ass and receives many beatings for this. Despite his handicap, he is a skilled killer who relies on his senses to kill. He tries to rile up his targets so he can acquire their approximate position then shoots as many bullets as possible in their general direction. This adds to the uniqueness of his character. He is very focused in his goal. He has his plan already laid out and despite being blind, he constantly outwits his enemies. He brings them into environments that suit him so he can kill his enemies easier. He has a love of dynamite. Whenever the odds are against him, he uses dynamite to bring a quick end to a conflict.
He is emotionless. He rejects a possible romance from the woman he is using as a guide. He just wants his money. He uses several weapons to give him an advantage in combating his handicap. His preferred weapon is a winchester rifle equipped with a bayonet. He also carries a colt peacemaker and several sticks of dynamite. Also in combating his handicap, he uses his horse, Boss, as a seeing eye horse.
He was played by Tony Anthony in "Blindman" directed by Ferdinando Baldi in 1971.
Michael "California" Random
Michael Random is a confederate veteran returning home from the civil war. He lives on the farm of his fallen friend with his family. He soon falls in love with the family's daughter and when she is kidnapped, he chases the man who has done this and infiltrates his gang.
Cailifornia is the quintessential spaghetti western hero. He is a loner and likes it that way but a persistent young man constantly follows him around. He begins to form a friendship with the young man and they begin to travel together. This brings a little happiness into California's life. He is probably not used to having a lot of friends. But his friend is soon killed and he basically returns to be a loner. Pretty much every time he finds joy, it is taken away or killed. This happens for the last time when the woman he loves is taken from him and he goes on a quest to recover her so he can finally be happy. He is a proficient killer but doesn't kill that many people. In fact, he is unarmed for most of the film which adds a curiosity factor to his character. At least for my part. When he is armed, he has a colt pistol and a winchester.
He was played by Giuliano Gemma in "California" directed by Michele Lupo in 1977.
Blade is a bounty hunter named for the hatchet he is often forced to use in the pursuit of his prey. To cash in on his latest bounty, he heads to Suttonville. The wrong town!
Blade is a very interesting character. He is more a hero than an anti hero, similar to California. The area he operates in is a very large swamplike area. Because of this, he wears a very cool looking fur coat. He is a very skilled killer and very quick to spring into action. He hardly hesitates at all. When the town's prostitutes are being unjustly punished, he springs into action with a winchester blazing. He also has the normal bit of vengeance seeker in him. However, he ends up in the employ of the man who killed his father, deeming him not worth it. His main attribute is that he carries a hatchet as a weapon along with his pistol and rifle. He uses the hatchet quite often and this adds to the character's "coolness."
He was played by Maurizio Merli in "Mannaja: A Man Called Blade" directed by Sergio Martino in 1977.
Keoma is a veteran of the Civil War. He returns home attempting to live a normal life. But being a half-breed, this is not a possibility.
Keoma is a very cool and down to earth character. Although he has the normal incredibility with guns, he still is far more human than most. He saves a woman from the town thugs. It seems like he has chosen this woman to test his humanity. The war and his history have left him cold and pretty emotionless until he returns home. So he focuses his attentions on doing everything he can to save this woman. This gives him more credibility with the audience and makes him more a hero than an anti hero.
He was played by Franco Nero in "Keoma" directed by Enzo G. Castellari in 1976.
Gary Hamilton is released from 10 years hard labor for a crime he never committed. This only means one thing, revenge!
Gary Hamilton is a very mysterious character. He takes on a ghostlike quality. It seems his preferred method of fighting is to hide out and take pot shots at his targets then disappear. This confuses and scares the bad guys and makes it very fun to watch Hamilton. How he does things is very different than most anti heroes. He almost never goes out into the open but he is definitely not a coward. He is practical. When facing around thirty bad guys, it would be a very stupid thing to do to face them out in the open. His appearance is cool too. He wears a large, miner type hat with red long johns and a coat. This gives him a mysterious appearance. When he rides up, his hat eclipses the sun. His weapon of choice is a rifle which is also different than most. He is good with a pistol but only uses one once.
He was played by Klaus Kinski in "And God Said to Cain" directed by Antonio Margheriti in 1969.
Brad Fletcher (?)
Brad Fletcher is a college history professor who goes west to cure his tubercular lungs. He soon meets, and befriends Solomon Bennet and gradually descends into the life of the outlaw and violence.
Fletcher is a very interesting character. At first, he finds Bennet and the outlaw life in general very off-putting. But holding a gun gives him a strong sense of power. He develops a dark side. The outlaw side. Only he lets his entire humanity die while he becomes more and more violent. So cruel and ruthless in fact, that it is in question if he is really any kind of hero at all. All his emotions die and he only has left in him the will for fame, power and riches.
He was played by Gian Maria Volonte in "Face to Face" directed by Sergio Sollima in 1967.
Don Jose is a Sergeant in the Spanish army until he meets Carmen, a seductive and deceptive Gypsy whom Jose falls in love with. He kills his superior officer in a fight over Carmen and flees the city. He then is forced to become a bandit to amass enougb money to go to America.
Don Jose is a very troubled and deep character. He is very human, unlike most anti heroes of the genre. He is also romantically active, which is what makes him human. But he is very reluctant to become a bandit. He is however, warmly accepted by the bandits because of his intelligence. He masterminds a stagecoach robbery. Unlike almost all heroes of the genre, he doesn't use guns. Only once does he use a gun and doesn't even kill with it. He is a lot better with a knife and kills three people in knife fights.
He was played by Franco Nero in "Man: Pride and Vengeance" directed by Luigi Bazzoni in 1967.
Tom is working as a prospector when he is given a letter from an old family friend. The letter urges Tom to return to his home town of Laramie. Once he is there, he begins to realize that his hometown is under the control of a father and son team of power hungry villains. Tom, with his brother, get to the bottom of things and fight to destroy the despotic rule of the powerful rancher and his son.
Tom is the type of character who can get things done. He shows a certain determination. That and confusion. He does not let people stop him in his quest and this is a hard thing to do. Those who aim to stop him are more powerful and numerous than he is and he must overcome a serious trial to complete his goal. He is a good fighter but not very good with a bullwhip. He loses in a whip duel and returns to his cabin, scarred and beaten. But this only stiffens his resolve. He is also a very good gunfighter and when in a gunfight, he is quite savage. Shooting his targets more than enough times to kill them. He will waste a full six shots to kill one man. And when in gunfights, he takes on a strange quality that defies the laws of science.
He was played by Franco Nero in "Massacre Time" directed by Lucio Fulci in 1966.
Solomon "Beauregard" Bennet
Solomon Bennet is an outlaw. He is a captive and he breaks free from custody thanks to Brad Fletcher. He is wounded and when Brad Fletcher heals his wounds, he decides to reform his decimated gang. During his friendship with Fletcher, he sees violence in a new way. As Fletcher becomes more violent, he sees that violence in a mirror effect, as the violence of Fletcher shows Bennet the errors of his ways.
Bennet is a interesting character. He is more developed and three dimensional. He learns during the course of his friendship. He becomes more human. He is a half breed. Most likely of Mexican and Indian decent. Probably perpetrated all his life leading to a life as an outlaw. He is also more organized than most outlaws of the genre. He has different hideouts but has an HQ set up in a mountain pass. Here, beyond being just a hideout, it is a community of people who have banded together to escape the law. Bennet is their leader and he is loved and respected.
He was played by Tomas Milian in "Face to Face" directed by Sergio Sollima in 1967.
Colonel Pembroke deserts from the Union army after he is put on trial for abandoning Fort Holman without a fight. He drifts around until he is captured by the army. But instead of being hanged, he strikes a deal with his old friend to recapture the fort with seven convicted criminals. With his dirty seven, he sets out to destroy the garrison of Fort Holman and to exact revenge on its commander, Major Ward.
Colonel Pembroke is a very serious character. He is pretty humorless and somewhat ruthless with his men. He is not emotionless so he is somewhat likeable. He despises the company he keeps except for Eli Sampson. A goodhearted beast of a man. He is very courageous. He refuses to recapture the fort with an army. He only needs seven killers. And the best killers around are about to die. He can also be submissive. When his men hold pistols on him, he submits himself to their will, but will not shy away from giving them a few punches when needed.
He was played by James Coburn in "A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die" directed by Tonino Valerii in 1972.
Brian Clark (?)
Brian's wife is killed and his home burned by a group of Yankee vigilantes. He is saved by Daniel and the two, with Daniel's brother, begin to travel together, but the hostility they face on the road begins to bring the killer out in Brian.
First of all, it is not entirely true if Brian is the anti hero or not. He does eventually take the position of villain in the story but he is at least for a time, the anti hero. He is a good killer. Fast on the draw and unrelenting. He often kills at random. He also attempts to disarm his targets with promises of fair fights or his own comforting words, before he shoots them. He even starts to lose his mind, descending into a senseless killer. A very interesting character.
He was played by Gianni Garko in "Taste of Vengeance" directed by Mario Siciliano in 1969.
Famous gunfighter Hud travels to his home town of Blackstone to investigate the death of his brother who was killed by the locals. The townspeople fear Hud who no doubt wishes to avenge the death of his brother.
Hud is a great spaghetti western anti hero. He is quick thinking in gunfights and very bold. He is handsome and quiet. Very cold and unhumanly quick with a gun. His love for his dead brother hints at the possible existence of human emotions but other than that, it seems very scarce. He has many allies within the town whom he treats with respect. He has an unnerving ability with a gun. He can shoot at the drop of a hat. Often in rather awkward positions when shooting. He is heavily armed and carries the classic Colt Peacemaker. He wears a bullet-proof vest which adds to his invincible characteristics.
He was played by Johnny Hallyday in "The Specialist" directed by Sergio Corbucci in 1969.
"Apocalypse" Joe Clifford
Amateur actor/gunfighter, Joe Clifford, returns to his uncle's hometown to collect a gold mine given to him in his uncle's will. He finds that a man, Berg, has taken possession of the mine. Joe isn't very happy about this so he puts up a fight to claim what is rightfully his.
Joe Clifford is a very interesting character. He has a profession aside from gunfighting. That occupation happens to be a travelling Shakespearian actor! He often uses his acting skills when killing. Often using disguises to confuse his enemies. He is extremely fast when shooting and drawing. He seems to enjoy showcasing his deadly ability, using a variety of ways to shoot his opponents. Hanging upside down, pushing a cord of wood to hit a weak walkboard which seesaws his victim into the air only to be shot down by Joe. He also uses a lot of jumps and dives. Jumping past his enemy and shooting in mid-air, diving out of the saloon and turning around fast enough to shoot his three opponents. He has a curious wardrobe. It is far larger than most anti heroes. He has his civilian clothes (vest, shirt). He has his anti hero clothes (black everything with handerkerchief) and his disguises (priest, old man, woman, waiter.) He has no real deep emotional feel or physiological aspects. Just a pure Spaghetti Western killing machine with a curious profession.
He was played by Anthony Steffen in "Apocalypse Joe" directed by Leopoldo Savona in 1971.
Jonathan Corbett is a famous bounty hunter. He is hired to track a lowly Mexican peon who supposedly killed a little girl. Corbett is continually outwitted by the peon and soon learns of the truth behind the murder.
Corbett is a great anti hero. He is fast with a gun but rather lenient to his foes. He often gives them choices between dead or alive. For all his skill and resoruces, he cannot catch the peon who knows the land. Corbett is hired by a rich landowner. He soon learns of the peon's innocence and turns on his employers. This obviously shows he has a conscious. He knows the difference between right and wrong and although killing the peon would acquire him great wealth and a position as a senator, he still sides with the good guys. Before all this, he starts to feel obsession with capturing the peon. This reassures his own humanity. He is a great killer and uses tricks sometimes to fool his enemies into wasting ammo. He is heavily armed with two pistols. He is very self assured and often lets the peon escape knowing he can and will catch up with him.
He was played by Lee Van Cleef in "The Big Gundown" directed by Sergio Sollima in 1966.
Ray Hassel is a lone drifter. He just happens to be in mid-drift when a heatwave strikes. He travels to a ghost town for water but instead is captured by bandits on the lam. He is tortured and beaten until he gets the upper hand. He manipulates the gang until it climaxes into a gunfight. He rides away.
Ray Hassel is one of the most famous anti heroes. He is more a hero than anti but doesn't lift a finger to help an old lady when she is in need. But the reason for his fame is simple. He does not carry a gun. He was a preacher's son and is armed only with boomerangs! This actually works to his advantage as guns cannot shoot around corners. But his boomerangs can. He is quite uniquely dressed. He sports a paisley jacket. Something not commonplace in the real west. But common in Canevari's west. The fact that he is introduced to us half dead is a unique addition to the story. This hints at his humanness and shows even cold Spaghetti Western heroes can be destroyed by nature.
He was played by Lou Castel in "Mátalo!" directed by Cesare Canevari in 1970.