. . . and a stand in the street at the turn of a joke. (As the great Guy Clark once wrote).
I sat in last night with the Bullet and Blackbeard to watch the second of the spaghetti westerns. They were called spaghetti westerns because they were shot in Spain – did you know that?
Now, A Fistful of Dollars is, in my humble view, one of the finest examples of its genre ever made, but on the other hand, what the fuck would I know? Clever people like Fintan O’Toole and David McCavity or McMonstrous or whatever the fuck his name is, the guy who had a baby with the Pope, they’d have all the words for a thing like this. They’d probably call it a stark, uncompromising, futile and yet ultimately hopeful journey to the heart of the nihilistic human darkness, a veritable paean to to the atavistic amygdala that that twitches at our core and motivates the demon in each of us. Or something. Hey, don’t ask me. Who the fuck do you think I am? Niall Stokes?
I just thought it was a Western when I saw it as a kid. A fucking great western, with a hero who shot people in the back and didn’t give a fuck about fair play. Not like those Gary Cooper heroes with their shirts all ironed and washed even when they fell off a horse and got trampled by a herd of buffalo and got in a fight with some bollix in the pub and had a bottle smashed over their heads and ended up shooting a crowd of fuckers dead in the street.
Not the man with no name, though. He bled when he was beaten up and his clothes were stinking. You could smell him off the screen. And anyway, those fucking Rojos were a bad crowd of bastards and you just knew it would take a mean hombre like the man with no name to sort out these fuckers. And he did. Every last motherfucking one of them, the scum.
Well, that was the first one.
Last night we watched the sequel, which was also based on a Kurosawa movie, the little-known Hey, Jimbo! Kids don’t watch westerns much any more, which is a terrible pity, and so we have to educate them in to the conventions of the form. I had to explain to the lads, for a bit of context, that when I was small, everybody knew the lowest form of life on the frontier was the bounty hunter. More detested than the claim-jumper, the dry-gulcher, the gunslinger or even the sheep farmer. The bounty hunter was the scum of the earth: he’d bring you in for the reward. So what the fuck were we supposed to make of a bounty killer? He wouldn’t even bother to take you in for the hangin’. Bang!! Two thousand, thank ya sheriff.
And in For a Few Dollars More, we had two bounty killers. Two!! The man with no name we were familiar with, but on top of that we had the wonderful Lee Van Cleef as Col Douglas Mortimer, the best shot in the Carolinas, on a mission to avenge his sister’s honour. The bad guys had no chance. Did you know, incidentally, that Lee Van Cleef had a karate black belt? That has nothing to do with anything. I just thought I’d say it. Col Mortimer had a thing I didn’t see in years, since my days in Dodge City. He toted a Colt Buntline Special: the weapon of choice for that murderous thug great lawman, Wyatt Earp, with a barrel so long, he could pick off a fleeing bad-hat at a hundred yards.
And do you know who else was in it? Go on – guess. That’s right. Nosferatu the Vampire, just before he became Undead. The great Klaus Kinski, all sneering and humpy and twitching. Lee shot him. He went on to drag a huge paddle steamer up the side of the Andes to entertain the Indians with opera. What an amazing guy.
So anyway, that was that. The bounty killers eventually killed all the sneering Mexican bandidos and the man with no name made a shit-load of money from the rewards.
I loved it. The lads loved it. The end.