I try to watch a film every day. This is to help stir my story-telling instincts as I work on the never-ending novel. I’ve falling into a patch of westerns. The latest was a 1973 film called “My Name is Nobody”. I chose this film for several reasons:
- I never realised that Henry Fonda and Terrence Hill had been in a film together and was curious
- Terence Hill westerns mostly give me a chuckle
- Sergio Leone had a hand in the writing and directing (although the main director was Tonino Valerii)
- The film sits on the brink of the decline of spaghetti westerns
- The title refers to a scene from Homer’s Odyssey, which was a childhood fave of mine
So what’s it about?
Well, the broad brush strokes of it are fairly familiar. Jack Beauregard (Henry Fonda) is the quintessential aging champion (in this case a gunfighter) and he wants to get out of the business while he is still alive. So he books passage to Europe. But first he must get to the port and the journey there is filled with obstacles that he must overcome. So a simple tale.\
Ah! But is it?
A character whom we only know as Nobody (Terence Hill) is an uninvited companion on the journey, and he has plans for Jack Beauregard; plans that Jack Beauregard himself would rather avoid. You see, Nobody wants Jack Beauregard to go out in a blaze of glory. And here is the root of the film’s tension and conflict. Sure, there is a subplot involving old friends/foes trying to kill Jack Beauregard, but the almost supernatural presence of Nobody and his impact upon Jack Beauregard drives the story. I won’t say more because I don’t want to give too much away.
I felt that the story’s structure was sound and generally enjoyed it. The dialogue was typical western fare – the kind that you would expect in any Sergio Leone movie. I did feel that the music was a let down, especially so as it was composed by Ennio Morricone who also wrote the music for the Dollars Trilogy. I think it was the juxtaposition of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” in the recurring theme of the Wild Bunch that ruined it for me.
In respect to the acting, Terence Hill only really seems to have one style of cowboy in him (at least in the films that I have seen). So Nobody reminded me a lot of Trinity. In all fairness though, his Trinity films were made only a couple of years earlier, so there was no real time for development of his cowboy persona by the time “My Name is Nobody” came along. And Hill himself supposedly feels that this is his favourite performance in a western. Luckily I really like this character. Henry Fonda was classic Henry Fonda, dry and intense. In some ways I felt like this was a conflict between the classic 1950s cowboy (Fonda) and the next generation of cowboy (Hill) – perhaps a handing over of the baton. If you see the film you will understand why I think this.
It is not one of the great spaghetti westerns, but it certainly has a style about it and a curiousity value. If like me you are into the history of particular genres (never get me started on Fantasy, Science Fiction or Horror) then I think that viewing this makes an interesting side-note. Why? Well, as I alluded to earlier, spaghetti westerns had passed their used-by date by the early 1970s. So you have Hill at his peak in such roles just as the genre is dying (at least for a decade or so). Indeed, I think that the spaghetti western always tried to bring a fantasy-styled mythos to the western genre, and in “My Name is Nobody” this is highly evident, from the film’s title through to the plot. I guess even that use of musical phrases from Wagner’s myth-inspired opera adds to this.
By the way, you can view it for free at YouTube.
Thanks for reading.