The White, the Yellow, the Black - Review (Scherpschutter)
Corbucci’s Last Hurrah as a western director opens with a delicious soliloquy, spoken by a vexed sheriff’s wife, consisting of a series of film titles, and names of directors and characters from spaghetti westerns. It’s the best part of an otherwise indifferent movie, basically a spoof, but only occasionally funny, starring Eli Wallach as a grumpy old sheriff, Tomas Milian as a would-be samurai, and Guiliano Gemma as a Swiss version of himself.
The title as well as the storyline seem to refer to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: There’s a sort of treasure hunt, only this time the three men from the title are not after a large sum of money, hidden in an unknown grave on an unknown cemetery. In fact, they carry a large sum of money with them, in a box with three keyholes, one black, one yellow, one white. Only one keyhole will serve to open the box, the other two will send anybody using them sky high, thanks to a load of TNT. The box is given to sheriff Edward ‘Black Jack’ Gideon, who’s supposed to retrieve a valuable pony that was stolen, during a train robbery, by a group of renegade Indians. The pony was a special gift from the Japanese Ambassador to the president of the United States, and the samurai escorting the present, was killed during the hold-up, because his stupid and clumsy assistant had stolen his sword to do some practice while his master was sleeping.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is not the only film that was ripped (or paid homage to). The theme of the stolen present and the samurai trying to redeem himself is lifted from Red Sun. There are numerous hints at Corbucci’s own westerns, and the film’s narrative more or less reflects the history of the genre, as if it was supposed to be the final movie of its kind. There’s the corrupt businessman from the early Karl May movies, who wants to provoke an Indian war because he’s after the natural resources of their land. A scatological joke, with the would-be samurai trying to identify the stolen pony by its farts, is a nice nod at the farting baby of the second Trinity movie. The film also seems to announce the raunchy comedies from the second half of the seventies, which would give Milian a second breath as an actor (often as the character Er Monnezza). As for the Corbucci references, Gemma is trailing a coffin through a desert landscape, Milian is buried to his neck in the sand, there’s a mad Renegade southern officer, still in uniform, and there’s a bridge out of Hades and a churchyard just out of town. Fans will of course recognize them all (and find a few others not mentioned here).
That’s all very nice, but once we're past this lovely opening monologue (lovely only in Italian, the English dubs lacks the film titles), the affair soon runs out of steam. There are a couple of nice moments. Milian has a funny scene when he’s chasing a buzzing fly with his samurai sword, and there are a few inspired moments on dialogue level; most of them imply Milian’s misuse of the English language and Wallach’s corrections. Milian: “Most Americans are prostitutes.” Wallach: “Protestants, Sakura, protestants!” The opposite is applied (successfully) when Wallach corrupts the line ‘No more hara-kiri!’ (Milian has threatened to kill himself) to “No more Harry Carey!”. All in all the actors do well. Wallach turns in a remarkably keen performance as the grumpy sheriff - for once refraining from his Tuco antics when on spaghetti territory - and both Milian and Gemma seem to enjoy themselves as, respectively, the mumbling would-be Samurai and the Swiss called Blanc de Blanc (actually he’s from mixed Swiss-Italian descent and also speaks some French). It’s Corbucci who lets us down. There are a few isolated sparks of brilliance, such as a well-handled musical interlude with the three actors as drag queens, and a vintage Corbucci moment with Gemma and Milian before a firing squad, saved in the last minute by the cavalry (the horse-soldiers shot in their place!). But overall Corbucci’s Last Hurrah is no triumph.
Cast: Eli Wallach, Tomas Milian, Giuliano Gemma, Jacques Berthier, Manuel De Blas, Nazareno Zamperla, Lorenzo Robledo, Cris Huerta, Dan Van Husen, Maria Isbert - Director: Sergio Corbucci
“Per un pugno di dollari, per un miserabile pugno di dollari, che non sono neanche tuoi, devi già ripartire? Almeno lo facessi per qualche dollaro in più!, e invece, vamos a matar compañeros, sempre in giro con il buono, il brutto e il cattivo tempo (to one of her her sons:) Giù la testa, caro… Sei alla resa dei conti, ormai. Chi sono io, per te? Nessuno, ecco, il mio nome è nessuno. Tu devi metterti faccia a faccia con le tue responsabilità. Per queste creature ti danno un dollaro a testa, sei il mercenario peggio pagato di tutto il Texas, cangaceiro!, e noi siamo il mucchio selvaggio… Ma tu non vali nemmeno un dollaro bucato, e prima o poi finirai come quel bounty killer del Minnesota, Clay era il suo nome, ma poi lo chiamarono il magnifico… però ricordatelo, c’era una volta il west che dicevi tu: oggi, anche gli angeli mangiano fagioli, ma sì, corri uomo, corri! Altrimenti, ci arrabbiamo sul serio, e se Dio perdona, io no, perciò datti da fare, capito? (She slams one of the other boys) E tu smettila di fare il bestione! (turns back to her husband:) Vergognati, vergognati di fare vivere i tuoi bambini come dei barboni. Leone, questo devi diventare, se vuoi fare la rivoluzione nel mondo del west".
(The sheriff:): "Ma che c’entriamo noi con la rivoluzione?”
(The wife again:) Avete sentito? Tanto di Ringo o di Django, sono sempre io che me lo piango ...
- Try to find the titles and names with the help of the clip, the text and the translation. In case you're not sure, you can check things here: The Soliloquy (Solution)
- I’ve stayed as close as possible to the original text, translating the original Italian film titles instead of using the common English titles, but in a few isolated cases, a literal translation was not possible:
“For a fistful of dollars, for a miserable fistful of dollars that aren’t even yours, you must leave again? If only you did it for a few dollars more! But instead it’s let’s go and kill, compañeros, always on the road in the good, the bad and the ugly weather (to one of her sons:) Head down, dear … you must finally settle the accounts. Who am I to you? Nobody, my name is nobody. You have to get face to face with your responsibilities: For these creatures they only pay you one dollar a head, you are the mercenary with the lowest fee of all Texas, cangaçeiro! And we, we are the wild bunch … and you, you’re not even worth a dollar with a hole in it, and sooner or later you’ll end up like that bounty killer from Minnesota, Clay was his name, but we started to call him the magnificent … once upon a time in the west, but admit it, today even the angels eat beans, so yes, run man, run! Otherwise we become angry, really angry, and if God forgives, I don’t, so you’d better do something, understood? (slams one of the other boys) And you, stop behaving like a pig! (turns back to her husband:) Shame on you, shame on you, for letting your children live like tramps. A lion, that’s what you must be if you want make a revolution in the Far West.
(The sheriff:) "But hey, what have we got to do with the revolution?"
(The wife again:) Did you hear that? Whether its Ringo or Django, I'm always the one who is to be pitied ...
-- By Scherpschutter
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