The Spaghetti Westerns of Alberto Cardone
From The Spaghetti Western Database
While others undoubtedly did more to create and launch the Spaghetti Western into popularity, Alberto Cardone has never really gotten his due for his hand in advancing the genre. His films were not as groundbreaking as those of Leone, Corbucci or Sollima. But they were and are quite highly regarded within the genre. He not only directed films for the genre, but he also had a hand in constructing sets and introducing actors that were to be used numerous times in the golden years and beyond.
Cardone had a hand in making Westerns years before they were popular in Italy, co-directing two German Westerns in '64. By 1966, he had entered the genre with his own films; directing two highly regarded genre entries, Seven Dollars on the Red and Blood at Sundown, with popular star, Anthony Steffen. After directing the rather obscure and unpopular, 20.000 dollari sul 7 in 1967, Cardone returned to form with Wrath of God, an entertaining vengeance flick, and Long Days of the Massacre, another vengeance movie. He left the genre behind after directing the redemption themed Kidnapping in '68.
Cardone not only directed films for the genre, he also introduced two very popular elements to the genre. The first was the Elios town set contructed for Seven Dollars on the Red. The town would be used in innumerable Spaghettis thereafter. He also introduced Gianni Garko to the Spaghetti Western. And with Garko came Sartana in Blood at Sundown. Although Garko plays a character named Sartana in that film, it isn't the Sartana we know and love. Here he is the film's villain.
Cardone's Westerns usually feature a rather acute visual sense that would soon come to embody some of the more stylistic traits of the genre. He usually used lighting and other artificial aspects in a very theatrical way to set the mood for a scene. At the finale of Seven Dollars on the Red, Anthony Steffen faces his son in a showdown in the raining streets of the town, highlighting the pessimistic aspects of the scene. In Blood at Sundown, Steffen's hero is given a sort of trial by Garko and his men. The scene takes place in Garko's Aztec style fortress and is lit entirely by torchlight. As, in both Wrath of God and Kidnapping, Cardone uses a mysterious and obviously anachronistic red mist for some scenes to highlight a suspenseful mood. Wrath of God especially has a nice visual style. A beating scene near the beginning is shot in many odd angles. From extreme high angle shots to Wellesian low angle shots. Like I said, these visual elements have become a sort of Spaghetti trademark and are one of the reasons I love the genre.
In pretty much all of Cardone's Italian Westerns, Family is a theme to at least some degree. Seven Dollars on the Red involves a man's search for his lost son who was stolen from him as a baby and has grown up to be a bandido with his Mexican "father". The conflict between father and son in the film is the main theme and would appear heavily in Blood at Sundown. In that film, Steffen and Garko play brothers. One good one bad. But they both have a family bond between them. There is not complete animosity between them and they each show a kind of love for each other by the end of the film. But, however, like Seven Dollars on the Red, there is conflict between them. Long Days of the Massacre also features a family theme with brothers and sisters. Wrath of God has a man avenging the murder of his wife. In Kidnapping, Brett Halsey plays a drunken ex-sheriff whose drinking led to the death of his wife and children.
Another somewhat prominent aspect of Cardone's Westerns are the villains. The villains in his Westerns often seem more Human than most Spaghetti villains. On the outside, they are of course the raving mad, power hungry bandit kings, but inside, there is a certain softness. Fernando Sancho as the villain in Seven Dollars on the Red shows himself to have a genuine love for his adopted son. Garko in Blood at Sundown has a fraternal love hidden deep inside him as mentioned earlier. Wrath of God features an episodic structure with many villains. However, a surprise reveal shows something else. I wasn't really sure who the villain was at first in Kidnapping. Like Wrath of God, it's kept hidden till near the end.
Most of these Cardone Westerns move along at a nice pace. They are a little less action packed than say the films of Corbucci, but more action packed than a lot of other average Spaghettis. There's nothing really that would set the action scenes apart. But Cardone manages to keep a high interest level in between the action scenes. And anytime it feels the interest might drop, we have an action scene to pick it right up again. Kidnapping, however, has been accused of being rather slow paced, which in terms of action content, it is. However, there is enough plot in that film to fill in for non-stop action.
These Westerns, as you might have picked up on, are quite high in the melodramatic content. Mostly Seven Dollars on the Red, Blood at Sundown and Kidnapping. Wrath of God, however, is a rather straight forward revenge flick. The plot of both Seven Dollars... and Blood... set us up for, as one reviewer put it, "Heaping spoonfuls of melodrama." Perhaps these soapish traits appeal to the more basic emotions. Which in turn may explain why the interest level is quite high. It's irresistible melodrama full of family feuds, horrible pasts and of course love.
Though he hasn't been forgotten, Alberto Cardone is usually a highly underrated director. Delivering true Spaghetti atmosphere in almost all his Italian Westerns. His body of work is a must see for genre fans.
--Korano 04:21, 14 September 2010 (UTC)