Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Little Rita of the West (1967)

"The biggest little pain in the West"

Little Rita is a gunslinger with an interesting quest, she wants to rid the world of gold. Rita spends her time stealing gold from famous gunslingers, and then delivering the gold to her Native American friends who plan on destroying it, thus riding the world of all evil.

Ah, the things I will watch for you-Terence Hill.

Little Rita was essentially a vehicle for Italian singer, Rita Pavone who was popular in the 60s. The pint sized, feisty Rita had a powerful voice, and made several quirky films during her heyday. At the time of filming Rita was involved with a married man (whom she eventually married) and it was hoped that this film would re-establish her with the public, particularly her male fans, who were disappointed with her impending marriage. Terence Hill had been making a series of Westerns in Germany, and this was his first Spaghetti Western since that period. As the film was a showcase for Rita the story frequently diverges into song and dance numbers often with no warning! As I am unable to understand Italian I watched the English dubbed version, however none of the songs are dubbed! They remain in their original language, strangely catchy, but hard to understand!

What 'Little Rita' really is, is a spoof of the popular Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s. Rita spoofs the extreme violence, obsession with gold, ineffectual sherifs and dirty gunslingers of these films. Rita even takes on Ringo and Django (famous Spaghetti Western characters). It's a bizarre mix of Spaghetti Western and musical comedy, the ending is also rather odd! Some of the jokes are quite funny though, and the film is rather quotable, here are some of my favourites:

"Look a herd of buffalo. What a magnificent spectacle I just love buffalo"
"Those are skinny cows, and don't you forget it"
"Cows? Well I'll be darned"

"You better talk, or I'll put my signature on your face with a red hot iron!"
"But you don't know how to write…"

"But a movie is supposed to have a happy ending, or else the producer will lose all his money, cause no one will go and see it"

Of course, lets be honest, the real point of this film is Terence Hill (ha!). For those of you who don't know, he is my very favourite! His part isn't huge, he appears about 40 mins in, and often looks slightly bewildered during all the singing and dancing! The film though was to have several happy outcomes for Terence. The director of 'Little Rita', Ferdinando Baldi, was to cast Terence in his next film, Django Prepare a Coffin. The cinematographer of 'Little Rita', Enzo Barboni, was to cast Terence in his star making vehicle, They Call Me Trinity. And as Little Rita accurately describes him, "He's beautiful!"

If you're intrigued by this slightly crazy, but oddly endearing film, you can find the English version on YouTube!

Here's a look at the Pink Panther-esque opening credits:


Monday, 4 January 2016

Harper (1966)

"Tell me about Sampson's disappearance"

"He disappeared"

Lew Harper (Paul Newman) is a private investigator, his wife is asking for a divorce and he sleeps in his office, an old friend asks him to investigate the disappearance of a wealthy man. At first the case seems ridiculous, the man has only been missing for one night, and is disliked by both family and friends, but as Harper investigates further it becomes apparent that this is a complex case involving kidnapping, extortion and murder.

(This poster is rather amusing if you read it!)

Harper was one of a series of successful films starting with the letter 'H' for Paul Newman, others included, The Hustler, Hud and Hombre. A slick caper with witty, sarcastic dialogue a selection of cold hearted characters and unexpected twists and turns, Harper was a hit at the box office and became the 23rd highest grossing film for 1966. Harper feels like what the James Bond films could have been had they reached the same level of cool and smarts.

The film costars Lauren Bacall, Julie Harris, Janet Leigh, Pamela Tiffin, Shelley Winters and Robert Wagner. The real star is of course Newman. He's ridiculously cool and has a quip for any situation, at first he seems detached from everyone however as the film progresses a more human side is revealed. His dedication to his job has alienated him from those he loves but he is always determined to 'get the job done'. He is pitied against a group of characters who have their own selfish motives and lead shallow lives, Bacall is a former horse riding champion who has lost the use of her legs, Tiffin is her conceited step-daughter and Wagner is the pilot who seems to have connections to all involved. Harper figures them all out, though not even he will be able to guess the ending!