Cinerama: My Name is Nobody

Posted: September 12, 2009 in Cinerama

My Name is Nobody

By Mike Derderian

Whenever I meet different people I wish if I can introduce myself to them without having to pronounce my 12-syllable name. Just tell them that my name is Nobody. A poet sitting next to a shackled raven argued: “whether we like it or not we are all nobodies bearing worldly names that we inherited from long dead ancestors.”

The raven croaked as if unimpressed with the poet’s word. The charcoal bird was more concerned with the silver shackles that bound its feet to the ground than with the poet’s existential outburst. “We are but tenants inhabiting the face of the Earth with leased names. Mein Name ist Nobody,” the poet added before he turned to the crow and asked, “Have you seen Terence Hill in Tonino Valerii’s 1973 My Name is Nobody?”

After watching this 117-minute spaghetti western comedy, the lyrics of The Who’s Behind Blue Eyes echoed in my cranium and Henry Fonda’s unshaven visage was the only thing that kept popping up there. “No one knows what it’s like/ To be the bad man/ To be the sad man/ Behind blue eyes.”

“If you want to know. It’s like being Henry Fonda playing the bad guy,” The Who should have sung as an answer. Well, Fonda after all was the blue-eyed bad guy, who cruelly shot a child in the back, in Sergio Leone’s epic Once Upon a Time in the West. My Name is Nobody, which is Fonda’s second movie with Leone, is a slapstick comedy starring Jean Martin, Neil Summers, R.G. Armstrong and Geoffrey Lewis as the leader of the Wild Bunch.

Just in case you didn’t know Geoffrey Lewis, who appeared along Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter (1973), Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Bronco Billy (1980) and Pink Cadillac (1989), is the father of Juliette Lewis, who is best remembered for films like Cape Fear (1991), Kalifornia (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994) Strange Days (1995) and From Dusk Till Dawn (1996). Technically each and every psycho packed flick that was ever made.

Based on an idea conceived by the godfather of the Spaghetti Western genre, Sergio Leone, My Name is Nobody is a mesh of serious acting, fast-forwarded gun slinging, over the top dubbing, clowning and Terence Hill. If you look up the name Terence Hill in the comedy dictionary you would find his picture placed in the slapstick page. No such dictionary exists… I repeat no such dictionary exists.

The opening is so dead serious you’d think you are watching Once Upon a Time Redux but somewhere exactly right after that it becomes a Terence Hill movie but without the apocalyptic Bud Spencer element. Thus no hammer-hand bashing is ever seen or used in the film. Despite his age Jack Beauregard (Fonda) is still the fastest gun in the West but after years of shooting people—mostly bad looking bad guys sporting the dirty shave look—he wants to retire or so he thinks.

Three baddies arrive to town hoping to ambush Beauregard at the local barbershop. After incapacitating the barber and his son one of the bad guys pretends to be the barber, another acts as if to be grooming his horsie and the third starts milking a cow. Got milk material but still serious. Beauregard coolly struts into the barbershop and asks for a shave.

Fonda brilliantly demonstrates how a cowboy should really walk: Fonda strut style. The barber—the bad guy in disguise—lathers Beauregard’s sandy beard. He springs open the shaving razor. Is this the end of our brave old gunslinger? No, sticking his gun under the barber’s groin Beauregard manages to get a nice clean shave without getting his throat slit.

Brilliant and at the same time dead hilarious. Kind-a-like sticking your thumb in the gun barrel of a six-shot pointed at you. I think I have seen this somewhere in a Western movie starring James Garner.

With Ennio Morricone as the composer of the film’s soundtrack My Name is Nobody is a movie that you not only should watch but listen to. Who else than Morricone dares to re-arrange Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries and use it as the accompanying theme song for a gang of rough riders known as “the Wild Bunch”!

By creating a wild west roamed by cynical heroes, cold-blooded killers and clowns Italian spaghetti directors the likes of Leone redefined the Western genre forever. Watching a Spaghetti western can be dubbed—excuse the pun—a psychedelic journey embarked on by a cowboy wearing electric spurs. The experience is like no other.

The characters were meaner or at least they were in the serious flicks that starred a young Clint Eastwood. The action sequences became more outrageous and the music simply evolved from brisk country to pure electric guitar riffs and howling solos. Watching Leone’s spaghetti productions would make anyone realize that the harmonica was given a boost and became an integral element in heightening the intensity of a scene or a showdown.

Another admirable element in My Name is Nobody is how the two main characters have a theme music that plays each time they appear on screen—a cinematic sound technique heavily used in spaghetti westerns. Hill was given a chirpy feel-good tune supplemented with high-pitched female voices, while Fonda was given a music theme similar to the one that accompanied his screen presence in Once Upon a Time in the West.

Now, not all actors in a spaghetti western are actors in the real sense of the word but Fonda and Hill were definitely the actors in this one. Fonda was the serious one and Hill the comic relief and the action tilted between seriousness and playfulness faster than a ricocheting bullet.

Nobody (Hill) has been keeping track of Beauregard’s shootouts and has been following him. The latter is somewhat his childhood hero and Nobody wants to give Beauregard the chance to retire with a big bang. He has a plan.

The events basically stream slower than a snail rushing on a hot pipe but the tediousness is broken every time Nobody confronts a hotheaded stupid baddy. The dialogue comes as witty and sharp slapstick body language. Most lines were delivered in punch-line form: Short and straight to the point in the case of Hill, and longer with Fonda.

Must-see-scene: the scenes that involve Beauregard and Nobody—especially the hat shooting routine that they both enjoy doing; the Wild bunch annihilation scene; the glass cup shooting contest in the saloon when Nobody is challenged by a teeth clenching bad guy called Squirrel; the final scene when the Wild Bunch leader poses as a barber and gives Nobody a clean shave.

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