Last year marked the 50th anniversary of Serge Leone’s classic western A Fistful of Dollars, a film which brought a whole new dimension and lease of life to the western. As Michael Fassbender saddles-up and rides on to the big screen in Slow West, Showfilmfirst explores the changing face of westerns and show how they have evolved throughout cinema history and how audiences have forever been fascinated with the Wild West.
One of the most appealing aspects of the western as a genre is the escapism: the vast landscapes, the beautiful but brutal and completely alien way of life. To think that in a contemporaneous Britain the Victorian zeitgeist was one of prudishness, top hats and stiff upper lips. In the Wild West saloons, drinking, gambling and bar fights were regular practise. To help us chart this phenomenon we have selected eight of our favourites, all representing a shift in focus between the different epochs within the genre; The Searchers is the seminal ‘old school’ western, A Fistful of Dollars gave birth to spaghetti westerns and the Coen brothers True Grit is an example of modern revisionist westerns.
In recent years the western has been revisited with a fresh enthusiasm and this has led to a new appreciation both commercially and critically (For example, the Coen brothers remake of True Grit garnered ten Oscar nominations and hatful’s of plaudits). Tommy Lee Jones’ recent The Homesman and Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming The Hateful Eight, both vastly different in tone and style, ensure that the western genre will never ride off into the sunset.