Any Gun Can Play: The Essential Guide to Euro-Westerns

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9781903254615: Any Gun Can Play: The Essential Guide to Euro-Westerns

The success of Sergio Leone's 'Dollars' trilogy in the '60s sparked a gold rush, as a legion of European film-makers - many of them sharing the get-rich-quick mentality of Leone's mercenary anti-heroes - followed the master's lead to create some of the wildest Westerns ever made. Cynical and stylish, bloody and baroque, Euro-Westerns replaced straight-shooting sheriffs and courageous cowboys with amoral adventurers, whose murderous methods would shock the heroes of Hollywood Westerns. These films became box-office sensations around the world, and their influence can still be felt today. Any Gun Can Play puts the phenomenon into perspective, exploring the films' wider reaches, their recurrent themes, characters, quirks and motifs. It examines Euro-Westerns in relation to their American ancestors and the mechanics of the Italian popular film industry, and spotlights the unsung actors, directors and other artists who subverted the 'code' of the Western and dragged it into the modern age. Based on years of research backed up by interviews with many of the genre's leading lights, including actors Franco Nero, Giuliano Gemma and Gianni Garko, writer Sergio Donati, and directors Sergio Sollima and Giuliano Carnimeo, Any Gun Can Play will satisfy both connoisseurs and the curious. Complete with a foreword by Euro-Western legend Franco Nero, this stunningly illustrated reference guide takes aim at the lingering notion that the genre has little to offer beyond the 'Dollars' films and a fistful of others, exposing the full, vibrant history of the Euro-Western. In much the same way that FAB Press's best-seller Book of the Dead has become the definitive text on the zombie movie, Any Gun Can Play is positioned to become the go-to source for everything any fan of Euro-Westerns could ever want to know.

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About the Author:

Kevin Grant is a freelance journalist and film writer with a particular passion for exploitation movies. A fan of Westerns since childhood, he was led astray at an early age by the subversive vision of Sergio Leone and his European contemporaries. He has contributed to a range of publications including Flesh & Blood, Delirium, Blood, Money and Vengeance, Hotdog and European Trash Cinema. This is his first book.

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PREFACE European Westerns captured my imagination from the moment I first saw the animated credits of A Fistful of Dollars cantering across the television screen when I was eight years old, and they have never relinquished their grip. This book is distilled from many years spent seeking and viewing as many of Fistful's stablemates as possible, as well as countless hours of research and interviews. From the outset there seemed a number of possible avenues of approach. Euro-Westerns can easily be appreciated - or dismissed - as nothing more than rugged adventures or escapist exploitation flicks. Like other popular forms, however, they also reward closer examination. They can be treated as violent, liberating fantasies or Mediterranean amorality tales; a mishmash of ancient myths and contemporary mores; as vehicles for cult actors or diversions for writers and directors of subsequent renown. They can be considered as pastiches of American Westerns, or in relation to their own domestic film traditions. They can be regarded as part of the Sixties vogue for deconstruction and stylisation, viewed as socio-political commentaries or simply, en masse, as the correlative to some great music. All these interpretations are valid - and these are just the most common ones - but only in combination can they convey a sense of the genre's development from something imitative to something inspiring in its own right. This evolution is the subject of this survey. The focus is not on Sergio Leone's accomplishments, which have been extensively studied elsewhere, although as the prime mover behind most of the Euro-Western's finest qualities, he remains a source of reference throughout. To fully appreciate the genre's diversity and strength in depth, one must follow a parallel path, meeting the many other filmmakers who were drawn into its orbit and either adapted Leone's themes and ideas, expanded on them or steered this exciting new vehicle into previously uncharted terrain. While mapping this journey I inevitably acquired a great deal of baggage, much of which was jettisoned along the way. The purpose is to paint what is, from my point of view, as complete a picture of the Euro-Western's core characteristics as practicable. I hope this will prompt a reconsideration of established works as well as stimulate interest in the neglected majority, to dispel the lingering notion that the genre has little to offer beyond the Leone films and a fistful of others.

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