Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Timed to the release of Seth MacFarlane’s oater spoof A Million Ways To Die In The West, we single out some favorite Western-comedies.
My Name Is Nobody (1973)
The definitive spaghetti Western parody, My Name Is Nobody, finds director Tonino Valerii and producer Sergio Leone—who himself helmed the film’s opening and closing scenes—paying tribute to their signature genre and its favorite clichés. Pairing old-school legend Henry Fonda with new-school star Terence Hill (the latter having made his name in comedic hits They Call Me Trinity and Trinity Is Still My Name), the film takes a lighthearted approach to its passing-of-the-guard story about an upstart gunslinger named Nobody (Hill) who decides to help aged badass Jack Beauregard (Fonda) hunt down the man responsible for killing his brother. More important to Nobody, however, is that Beauregard eventually square off against a 150-man gang known as the Wild Bunch—one of the film’s many nods to The Wild Bunch director Sam Peckinpah, whose name even adorns a gravestone in the cemetery where Beauregard finds his sibling buried.
Nobody wants Beauregard to stand alone against the Wild Bunch because it will turn him into the very sort of legend Nobody dreamed about as a kid—and, in turn, will help keep the myth of the Old West alive. That Nobody is the one not only formulating this myth but also the one who will end up carrying on its traditions is preordained from the movie’s outset, which is less interested in surprise than in playfully trading in narrative and aesthetic genre conventions. Thus, embellished by Ennio Morricone’s score, the action features solitary men on horseback set against majestic vistas of dirt and sky, extreme close-ups, and long stretches of suspenseful silence punctuated by the sound of deadly gunfire. Those tropes are presented with a mixture of straight-faced reverence and tongue-in-cheek goofiness, with the latter amplified by sequences that suddenly employ Benny Hill-style fast-forward, or slapstick involving Terence Hill’s happy-go-lucky Nobody—who, in the film’s finest sequence, shows off his formidable firearm skills during a saloon game by tossing glasses over his shoulder and blasting them before they hit the ground, after first emptying the glasses of their beer, of course.
Availability: My Name Is Nobody is available on DVD, which can be obtained from Netflix, and to rent or purchase from the major digital services.