My Name is Nobody (1973) / Western-Comedy
MPAA rated: PG for violence (would be PG-13 today)
Running time: 117 min. (Italian release runs 130 min.)
Cast: Terence Hill, Henry Fonda
Director: Tonino Valerii
Screenplay: Ernesto Gastaldi
Comedic Spaghetti Western star Terence Hill's (The Leopard, My Name is Trinity) biggest claim to fame outside of his Trinity films is My Name is Nobody, which definitely turned him into more of a somebody after its international release in 1974. Known more for the storyline by none other than the Master of Spaghetti Westerns himself, Sergio Leone (who also serves as producer), the offbeat film contains many of the famed directors staples, including an Ennio Morricone (Duck You Sucker, The Witches) score, unlikely friendships forged out of necessity, and a wry, tongue-in-cheek humor throughout.
Hill plays Nobody by name, who is also one of the quickest guns in the West of 1899. His role model is longtime gunman Jack Beauregard (Fonda, Rollercoaster), and the admiration eventually sees the two talented but very different gunfighters form a sort of friendship, despite the fact that Nobody is hired on at various points to bring Beauregard to an early demise. Beauregard would like to hang up the six-shooters and retire to Europe, but his new friend thinks that Jack needs to go out in a style befitting a legend, a 'blaze of glory' as it were, concocting a way to do singlehandedly battle against a horde of horse-riding outlaws known as the Wild Bunch.
The screenplay is very Western literate, with homage to some of the best, from The Magnificent Seven, The Wild Bunch, and even Leone's own works. although Leone's fingerprints are all over the movie. However, directorial credit goes solely to Tonino Valerii (Day of Anger, A Reason to Live a Reason to Die), though it has been reported that much of the film has been directed by Leone himself, both directly and indirectly. The marriage of music and vision is undeniable, though the tone is much lighter, with less undercurrent of melancholy of previous Leone works. As with others of its ilk, the long shots bring forth some sumptuous cinematography, such that My Name is Nobody emerges s one of the best spaghetti westerns of the 1970s, as much about the passing of the Western genre as it is about the passing of a Western legend.
Morricone's score is the one true oddity, mixing traditional Western riffs with a variety of anachronistic ditties, including an electronic version of Wagner's 'Ride of the Valkyries' whenever we see the Wild Bunch horde in action. Nearly all of the music employed goes against the grain of traditional Western scoring, and yet it works well for the kind of quirky Western parody it is.
The stars are fun to watch, with Hill providing a good deal of fun playing a simpleton who always seems to have the upper hand on everyone. Some of the sped-up action utilized to give a comic slapstick vibe are ill thought out, but don't mar from the overall enjoyment of the film. Fonda also seems to be enjoying himself playing a man who wants to give up the Western life. It's befitting that Fonda would also retire from the Western genre after this last hurrah.
©2012 Vince Leo