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Author Topic: HANG 'EM HIGH: The Story: 3. Hang 'em High and the Leone Westerns  (Read 4438 times)
mgk
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« on: February 16, 2003, 10:35:52 PM »

"A few of the critics were convinced, against the evidence before their eyes, that Hang 'em High was a spaghetti western in disguise"—Richard Schickel, Clint Eastwood, p. 191. Why would critics think this? Compare Hang 'em High to the Leone-directed films. In what ways are they similar? How are they different?
« Last Edit: February 16, 2003, 11:06:29 PM by mgk » Logged
Christopher
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« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2003, 01:00:36 PM »

It sounds like Schickel is a poet, and didn't know it. ;) :D

The only similarity that I could think of between Hang 'em High and the Leone films is the fact that Eastwood smokes in all those movies.

Honestly, Hang 'em High has never reminded me of a spaghetti western. The music is conventional, compared to the Leone films; the style seems more conventional compared to Leone's direction. Eastwood is cleanly shaven in Hang 'em High, and he ain't in the Leone films. Hang 'em High looks like a Hollywood movie, the spaghetti's don't.
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Daisy Abigael
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« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2003, 01:06:15 PM »

The film is clearly a Hollywood cash-in on the spaghetti trend.

The levels of violence and the concentration on morbid subject matter, gimmicky hanging scenes etc.  Would lead a superficial viewer to think this was another Italian western.


There is also the music with its gallows effects - and Eastwood of course.


However:  Clint's clean shaven tidyness, the romantic interest, the plethora of familiar Hollywood character actors - all mitigate against such a misconception.

The most telling difference is the moral tone.  The debate within the film about revenge and justice, capital punishment and lynching - this is totally alien to the spaghetti universe.

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bigdai
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« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2003, 04:24:49 PM »

In no way is this film similar to the Italian westerns.  The first time I saw Hang 'em High it was immediately obvious that the film had a whole different structure, style, political undertone and acting style en masse.  It was far closer to a traditional 1930's-50's western with the whole film more clean cut and to some extent melodramatic.  In fact, the first time I saw it I was slightly dissapointed because it reminded me more of Shane than FFD which was the type of film that I had begun to expect from Eastwood.  While I now like the film having critically viewed it for its own merits, I do think that the demands made on Clint by Freeman did not stretch him to his full ability and that any American born Hollywood actor could have played Cooper.  Clint certainly looks  more at ease playing a troubled or flawed character rather than a Cooperesque western character.  
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Daisy Abigael
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« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2003, 04:35:49 PM »

In no way is this film similar to the Italian westerns.

Yes it is in the ways spelt out above, BD.  The level of violence is way above anything you'd expect in a domestic western pre-Leone or Peckinpah.

Other than that and some of the decor, yes, it is a traditional western made up to catch onto the spaghetti trend.
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Doug
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« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2003, 10:26:23 PM »

Not counting Joe Kidd which I haven't seen in ages and can hardly remember a single thing about it, I'd say this is the least Leone-like of all of Clint's westerns.  Daisy's right, there are "touches" added to the movie that I think were deliberately done to give the movie a more spaghetti western feel (such as the bombastic music and the close-ups, which were done far less skillfully, to say the least!) but overall Jed Cooper is the farthest away from the Man With No Name than any other Clint character in a western.  And there aren't really any scenes that come close to the "coolness" and deadliness that exist in the Spaghetti westerns -- except when he kills Reno.  Those kinds of scenes exist in all his own westerns.  
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« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2003, 02:54:39 AM »

I'm not sure that the levels of violence make Hang 'em High similar to the Italian westerns.  Leone had certainly raised the bar on the levels of violence acceptable in a western which was clearly followed by Leonard Freeman.  This in turn was followed by Peckinpah in 1969 with The Wild Bunch.  I certainly wouldn't say that that film was similar to the Italian westerns (although closer than H 'em H).  

The same thing occurs in all film genre where a director will raise a bar, whether it be violence, language, expression etc.  Look at petty gangster films for example.  Goodfellas raised the violence and language levels set by the Godfather and this was followed about four years later by Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.  In no way are these two films similar but both contain extreme levels of violence.

I think the same thing applies to Hang 'em high.  It was trying to sell itself on the back of the Leone films but as mentioned by others, except for a few touches it was not alike.  Ok they are both very violent but I don't think this necessarily infers simmilarity.
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« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2003, 02:06:47 PM »

I'm bringing over part of a post made by Cigar Joe in another discussion that seems to fit in well in this topic:


The vigilantes for the most part are lightweights, take the two captains, Captain Maddow,  and "The Captain" Alan Hale-Gilligan's Island, come on give me a break. Leone would have had distict memorable baddies maybe even top stars as baddies, each would have had some sort of unique confrontation with Clint. What happend to the Swede, most of that apparently was left on the cutting room floor, only Bruce Dern had a spark of some devious charater. It seems that a lot of the story was truncated,  Leone would have given it the full treatment.  That whole storyline with Inger Stevens was for the most part another melodramatic waste, she should have been played against type and should have been one of the whores. There was also no big shoot out ending, it sort of just fizzled out, Clint rides off to serve more warrents, hummm...  think of how great Leone's version might have been. And to top it all off the music was a joke, they could have used some serious Morricone.

I suppose you could say in fairness that they didn't want to make a carbon copy Leone (which they probably could not do any way being back in the Hollywood picture mill), but, I still think it could have been much better.
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« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2003, 04:34:41 PM »

Great posts in this thread.  The only thing I'd like to add that hasn't been mentioned already is the element of humor in the spaghettis that is missing in Hang 'em High, with the exception of a few brief moments in the Dern scenes.

I haven't seen any spaghetti westerns other than Leone's, so I don't know if that's an element of "spaghetti westerns" or just a trademark of Leone's films.  

Eastwood would bring that dark humor to nearly all of his films and all of his characters after this one.
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Matt
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« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2003, 08:51:46 PM »

Thanks, everyone! This thread is now locked.  Please post any additional thoughts you have on this topic in the Westerns forum.
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