Nobody knows the troubles Judge Jim Thomas has seen; he just doesn't give a damn.
"Pa, is there anyone as fast as [Jack Beauregard]?"
By the early seventies, the spaghetti Western had run its course; gone were the sweeping epics of Sergio Leone, replaced by parodies such as They Call Me Trinity. Fed up, Sergio Leone said (in Italian, more or less) "Damnit, if anyone is going to make fun of the spaghetti Western, it's gonna be me." Thus he begat (but did not direct) My Name is Nobody, a film that allowed the genre to ride gracefully off into the sunset.
Facts of the Case
Jack Beauregard (Henry Fonda, Once Upon a Time in the West), a renowned gunman, is tired of being accosted by every two-bit gunslinger with delusions of adequacy. Jack just wants to go to Europe and retire in peace. He meets up with a brash young upstart who calls himself "Nobody" (Terence Hill, They Call me Trinity). Nobody is a big fan on Beauregard's, and is appalled at the thought of Beauregard slinking away into retirement. As Nobody reasons, while Beauregard has a reputation, he has had no single legendary fight, a fight against overwhelming odds—and Nobody won't rest until he has gotten Jack that fight. Jack wants no part of it, even when they stumble across the Wild Bunch—a group of 150 bandits running a fake goldmine that they use to launder their loot. As it turns out, Jack's dead brother was in on the scheme, and now that Jack has a claim on the mine, and the gang is looking to get rid of Jack before he blows the whistle on the operation. Nobody sees the Wild Bunch as a perfect opportunity. Before long, he engineers a plan to give Jack the battle of a lifetime.
Is Nobody helping Jack out of genuine kindness, or is he turning Jack into a larger-than-life gunfighter so that Nobody can (literally) make a name for himself by taking him down?
There is a warm, genial undercurrent running through the entire movie. Much of that comes from the total ease with which Henry Fonda slips into his last Western. While Fonda only has second billing under Terence Hill (just think about that), he provides the moral and emotional center of the film. Hill provides a balance—he had already perfected his slapstick approach to the genre in the Trinity movies, and it's in full force here, particularly in two delightful set pieces. In one, Hill uses a slightly under-cranked camera to mess with a bad guy by slapping him in the face, then pulling the other guy's gun and pointing it in his face, then returning the gun and slapping the guy again—over and over and over again. The under-cranked camera is obvious, not so much as to undermine the humor, but it remains an effective sequence.
Just as the movie marks the shift from the serious spaghetti Western to the comic, the main characters evince a similar shift. Jack is withdrawn, introspective; all he wants is to live out his life in peace, free from his reputation. Nobody, on the other hand, is brash and arrogant. It's not enough for him to be the best; he has to have an audience, and style points are so very important. Just as Jack's time has passed, so too has the time of the serious spaghetti Western. Just as the gunfighter mantle passes from Jack to Nobody so too is the genre passed to the new generation of slapstick shoot-'em-ups. The opening and closing scenes illustrate shifting world views brilliantly, but between those bookends, the story wanders quite a bit.
Trivia I: "Terence Hill" is the screen name of Mario Girotti. With his curly blonde hair and blue eyes, he looks so utterly American that it never occurred to be that he might be foreign.
The video leaves a little to be desired. While in general there is good detail and strong, saturated colors, the basic problem is that the original film stock wasn't particularly good to begin with. There is a noticeable amount of film damage and flicker, particularly in exterior scenes. While the problems are not enough to distract from the movie (OK, maybe once or twice), you certainly won't be using this disc to showcase your new 4000k display. The mono soundtrack is crisp and clear, so that you can fully enjoy the poorly looped dialog and exaggerated sound effects. You can also enjoy Ennio Morricone's score, itself a goofy parody of the iconic music he composed for Leone's earlier westerns.
There are no extras, which is somewhat annoying, given both the nature of the film and the "40th Anniversary Edition" blazoned across the package. While they did improve the transfer over the 2005 DVD release, that's about all they did.
Trivia II: While Sergio Leone produced (uncredited) and co-wrote the film (it was his story idea), it was Tonino Valerii who did the directing—although Leone did direct the opening sequence. Both men were always annoyed that people assumed that Leone had directed the entire film.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This is one seriously bipolar movie, with quiet and/or intense scenes with Fonda, and broad, comic set pieces with Hill. It takes a while to become accustomed to the shifts, and they are somewhat off-putting. The competing tones never quite harmonize with one another until perhaps the final scene. At the same time, the contrasting tones are a deliberate part of the movie.
My Name is Nobody is a movie about changes of all sorts. Despite an uneven plot, the film's promise is wonderfully realized in the final scene, particularly as accompanied by Fonda's melancholy narration. Like the title character, you may never be sure of what's going on, but it's never less than entertaining.
Not guilty, but Image Entertainment is reprimanded
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