My Name is Nobody (1973)
As the Western waned in popularity in the seventies, the Italian market was still further revising this already stylised genre with a distinctly comedic element. The uniquely European approach to slapstick was introduced as a mean to try and explore the genre in new ways. Unlike US comedy Westerns such as The Hallelujah Trail and There Was a Crooked Man, their Italians counterparts seemed to have an allegorical theme and as ever a heavy political sub-text. They were also steeped in the unique audio and visual style of their makers.
My Name is Nobody (Il mio nome è Nessuno) is perhaps the most obvious example of this curious cinematic sub-category, pairing iconic Hollywood Western actor Henry Fonda with the visually charismatic Terence Hill (Mario Girotti). Upon first look this is a simple tale of an ageing gunman Jack Beauregard, who’s tired of his legendary reputation and the constant attempts upon his life from those who seek fame by killing him. Things take a curious turn when he meets an enigmatic Saddle Tramp (who claims to be “nobody”), with an unorthodox plan to take his crown. After a series of misadventures the unlikely pair find themselves facing The Wild Bunch; a gang of a hundred gunmen.
My Name is Nobody is a leisurely paced movie with many of the usual tropes of the genre. Gunfights are meticulously staged and shot (the opening scene was allegedly conceived and devised by Sergio Leone). There are also extensive slow motion montages of horseman riding, set to yet another outstandingly quirky Ennio Morricone Soundtrack. Director Tonino Valerii handles the simple slapstick humour with aplomb. Viewers have the option of ascribing a deeper meaning to the story, if they are of a philosophical bent.
This is an enjoyable Western, if approached with the right frame of mind. The humour is mainly visual and of a physical nature. Don’t go expecting anything like Blazing Saddles. As ever with a genre that is more interested in style and aesthetics rather than logic, there are several plot holes and tonal inconsistencies. Also be aware that there are a large amount of horse falls in the climatic action sequence. Such stunt work is not to everyone’s liking. Overall My Name is Nobody is a curious hybrid and in some ways that in itself makes it quite special. Such experimentation with an established genre is a rarity these days.