My Name is Nobody (1973))

Il Mio nome è Nessuno

poster for My Name is Nobody

Ok, it’s spaghetti western time. Today, it’s 1973’s ‘My Name is Nobody’, directed by Tonino Valerii, a former assistant to the man who elevated the Italian western to an art form, Sergio Leone. The film also gives Leone credit for production, and the idea of the film, and he did direct some of the scenes.The film stars the legendary Henry Fonda as Jack Beauregard, an aging expert gunfighter, who is eager to retire, and Terence Hill (real name Mario Girotti), who stars as happy-go-lucky lighning fast shot named ‘Nobody’, who idolizes Beauregard,and is constantly trying to convince him to go out in a blaze of glory to be in the history books instead of quiet retirement. Nobody,through a few wily implemetations, arranges this to happen. Now, this film came out in ‘73. At this point, the Italian Western genre was fading out. The politically charged ‘Zapata Westerns’ had given way to a more lighthearted, ‘comedy western’, where this definitely falls into. Terrence Hill had just struck it big with “They Call Me Trinity’, another quite successful comedy western (which, apparently he was chosen for because of his resemblance to the other Italian western star, the then-unavailable Franco Nero). And for me, that is where I wasn’t too enamored with it. I have very mixed feelings about this film.

Terence Hill as Nobody

On the positives, there is the Leone-esque breathtaking wide landscape cinematography. There was a particular scene where the ‘Wild Bunch’, the team of 150 gunfighters that Jack is supposed to take on, are riding through the sand dunes in the desert. Absolutely beautiful scenery, framed just right, and there are a lot of other great wideshots in the film as well. It was filmed in (where else?) Almeria, Spain, as well as New Mexico and Colorado. Henry Fonda was pretty damn good, although nothing for me will ever top his character of Frank, the bad guy in Leone’s ‘Once Upon A Time in the West’. Terrence Hill goes between charming and kind of annoying, for there doesn’t seem to be a single scene where his character is serious, even for a moment (I know, it’s a comedy-he’s not supposed to be). I’ve read elewhere that this was Leone’s interpretation of some of the American westerns he had seen earlier. If you’re looking for a particular message, such as those in his previous films, it is quite hard to find. This film did quite well upon its release, and Terence Hill has said it was one of his favorite films he’s worked in. And it was Henry Fonda’s last western.

The score is by Ennio Morricone, who scored all of Leone’s films, and I have to say, on this one it kind of sounds like he was ripping himself off. There’s one particular theme that sounds almost identical to Frank’s theme in Once Upon a Time in the West, and other passages sound a bit too much like his work from Companeros, Giu La Testa, and the Dollars films. Maybe that was intentional. It’s still a Morricone spaghetti western score, so I can’t complain too much, but it’s not his most original.

Now, as funny as I like to think I am, I’m not really a fan of comedic films, and when I do, it’s more of the dry British humor type that I tend to like. If you know anything about Italian comedy, it’s heavy on the slapstick (even today, I hear). There’s plenty of scenes of people falling down, getting hit with things and rolling their eyes as they fall down, and even a few of the ’sped up camera’ type of thing going on here. I’m not too fond of that stuff, but many people are, and that said, I think a lot of people looking for a lighthearted laugh will enjoy this movie. SO if you’re looking for a movie with some laughs that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet still has many of the trademarks that you love about Italian westerns, check this out. If you’re into the more intense, serious variety, this probably won’t be your bag.

Henry Fonda

The original New York Times review here (registration required).





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