Rolling Roadshow impressions
From The Spaghetti Western Database
- Back to: Rolling Roadshow Leone Edition Coverage
- Deutsche Fassung: Fünf Gringos für ein Halleluja - Eine Wahre Geschichte
Five Gringos for a Halleluja - A True Story
by Sebastian Haselbeck
It is a strange gang of gringos that came to Almeria the 6th of June of 2008. A fistful of Britons and a young German it was, all five looking as if they were tired, but it might have been the sun and the dusty winds. On the outskirts of Almeria lies the sleepy little town Los Albaricoques, home to but a few natives and a nice Inn, the Hostal Alba, owned by a nice chap called Manuel. It is that place these five strangers have picked as their home for the next three days, and after a cold beer they are setting out to do what they came here to do, see A Fistful of Dollars at the original shooting location, the Cortijo el Sotillo to be exact, now a posh country club style restaurant and hotel, back then a shabby assortment of farm houses with the characteristic white painting. The Rolling Roadshow, an outdoor cinema event organized by a gang of terrific Texans from the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, is coming to town. The "Leone Edition" as they call it, will span three nights, screening Sergio Leone's "Dollar Trilogy" on three special locations all in the surrounding area of Los Albaricoques and San Jose.
It was a moment that would change cinema history forever: a dusty, ragged looking cowboy, played by an unknown television actor, a certain Clint Eastwood, rides towards the Cortijo el Sotillo, jumps off his horse and takes a drink out of the well, looks up and sees a gang of outlaws molesting a family. The rest is history, and Clint Eastwood now one of the most famous hollywood celebrities, the film a cult classic. 40-odd years later, it is roughly a hundred locals and genre cinema fans from all over the world, sitting right at the same spot, staring at a huge screen, where just that movie is being projected on. It is a sacred ground, and it is an exciting moment. The five strangers clap their hands madly as the closing credits appear on the silver screen. The air is filled with excitement. Never before had any of the people present seen this groundbreaking film on location. It had to be celebrated. The after party inside the hotel bar, which was also used in the movie in the old days, served as the first get-together of a weekend, that has since become legendary among those who attended. A weekend full of cinema, beer, dust and friendship.
The gang of gringos from the Spaghetti Western Database, hardly sobered up the next day, set out to inspect some of the former western towns that were built a few minutes away, but not after they had taken a closer look at Los Albaricoques, which itself was one of the landmark locations, and no other than Manuel has made sure that visitors can find them. The western towns themselves turned out a minor disappointment. The first one, now part of a family theme park, is revamped and family-friendly, but aside from the general layout, the buildings and a nice poster collection, nothing reminds of the good old days, when Leone shot movies here, and celebrities like Lee Van Cleef walked down the dusty town square. The next place, still used for filming, but in shabbier condition (which is more the sort of place you want to see in this context) was more interesting to us amigos, although we did some visible damage to the church from Blindman and cursed at a ludicrous copy of the arch from Once Upon a Time in the West. Luckily, the sun was about to go down, and these five figures turned around and headed back to Los Albaricoques, where happy children were looking flabbergastedly at a huge screen that was being set up right before a stone circle, not knowing the fact that they were trampling around on the same sandstones Clint Eastwood sat himself down with a winchester rifle and a certain golden watch. And for the second time, a multicultural group of fans, plus a good hundred townsfolk, took seats within a historic place in the hearts of spaghetti western fans, and watched Quentin Tarantino's personal print of For a Few Dollars More. It was the final minutes of the film, and most of the audience already had goosebumps. To the left, Lee Van Cleef, bitter with revenge. The audience looks to the left, that's where he stood. To the right, Gian Maria Volonte, a ruthless killer about to meet his end. The audience looks to the right, away from the screen, but the place and the screen have long merged. And in the front, Clint Eastwood, an oportunist, for tonight's entertainment taking the role of the very audience now watching the story unfold with open mouths and trembling hands. The camera zooms out and we see.... us. Applause, then silence. Half an hour later, the bar at the Hostal Alba is quickly filling up and bustling with people, the five gringos still haven't digested that awesome moment. But they start mingling with the crowd again, and they meet some of the greatest people, most of them they've seen the night before, such as Tim League, the mastermind of the Rolling Roadshow. Hours later a local looking out the window might see a man stumbling up the stairs looking a lot like Lee van Cleef.
Two hours before high noon the next morning, sunlight blinding the eyes of the young German, our crew meets Ricardo and Veronica of Tuco Tours, two Britons who left their island refuge to serve traveling Spaghetti Western freaks like these four gunslingers and lead them to forgotten lands, unknown corners and ramblas (dry river bed canyons), decaying movie sets and other secret spots surrounding Almeria where films were shot back on the good old days. Hours of driving and marching, the gringos wished they had their horses with them, but no sign of exhaustion. In their eyes we see excitement. Here a stony slope where you could see horses riding down with enough imagination, there a rock formation you only recognize if you stand exactly.... here, and over there in the tall grass, rusty nails and wooden bars. Watch out, you're walking in Tony Anthony's footsteps! Thanks to these two great human beings, the five gringos return to their Inn a good six hours later full of material to talk about. They had visited a good many shooting locations, experienced what only few real cinema nerds have experienced. But no time to drink more than, well, just about a pint, and the Britons and the German saddle their made in Spain 100 or so horsepower ride and drive down a dusty road to arrive at the Cortijo del Fraile, a place not only famous because it was a location out of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, but also the place out of the Blood Wedding. While the German is being interviewed by courageous Spanish journalists, a the huge screen is being set up, while a strong wind from the coast lowers the temperature there in the desert a few degrees more. It would be a cold night, almost too cold to watch a three hour epic, but not cold enough for the five gunmen and their new friends. Only a few wimps would later commit the sacrilege and leave during the movie, an unspeakable act. But all eyes were fixed upon the screen one last time, where a projection of MGM's restored version of The Good The Bad and the Ugly was moving back and forth in the strong wind, turning the event almost into a 3D experience. Wild applause after the lights went on again. For three hours, about 150 people went through the time machine and witnessed Sergio Leone's vision of the Civil War. But the Spaghetti Western Database crew knew that this third night would top it all. What an experience they said, as they walked back to their car, Ennio Morricone still humming in their ears, shivering, not from the cold they said, but from the excitement.
It took lots of salt water from the Spanish coast and a few hours of sunlight to help them digest this experience. The Rolling Roadshow Leone Edition was a highlight in the lives of all five of these visitors from far away. Three nights of sheer cinematic goodness, meeting great people and enjoying cool Spanish beer in small glasses. One last time did the German look back over his shoulder as they drove away, catching a last glimpse of the white walls of Los Albaricoques, and he could swear he could hear a gunshot, or did the music that was still playing in his ears play tricks on him? Probably not, he could clearly see the shadow of a gunman with a hat and a poncho when he stepped out of the Hostal Alba that morning.
There's two kinds of people in this world. Those who will forever remember a great time in Almeria, and those who made it possible. Muchas gracias.