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Spotlight Section: Zapata Westerns

One of this month's special Spotlight rental sections is Zapata Westerns, 21 titles located on the small shelf by the fire exit in our Western/War area. Here's section curator Joel to tell us more... --madamecrow Zapata Westerns is a nickname for a subcategory of westerns named after Emiliano Zapata, one of the leading figures of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, that are related to Mexican revolutionary movements or set in Mexico during that time. Generally produced between the mid 1960ís and early 1970ís,† these films often contain explicitly political themes reflecting contemporary concerns such as the escalating war in Vietnam. Many of these films reflect the growing resentment of American imperialism by having a villain be an American mercenary or by the villains being supported by outside (usually American) influence. The majority of the films included are European produced but some American films do fit into the category, though they generally tend to be less overtly political. One of the best and earliest examples of all the elements of the genre coming together are found in Bullet for the General (Quien Sabe?) directed by Damiano Damiani. El Chuncho (played by Gian Maria Volonte-A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More) starts as your typical spaghetti western bandino. Disillusioned from his revolutionary past, he now leads a gang of outlaws who steal weapons in order to sell them to the revolution. During one robbery he meets an American named Bill Tate who claims to be on the run and joins the gang.† True to form there are political intrigue and double crosses, but the crux of the film lies in Chunchoís inner conflict between his greed and his ideals. Possibly the most well known film of this type is Sergio Leoneís Duck, You Sucker (aka A Fistful of Dynamite). While not as engaging enjoyable as The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly or as masterful as the triumphant Once Upon a Time in the West, Duck, You Sucker is in some ways Leoneís most mature western. Leoneís use of flashbacks is at its height in this film and the Morricone score is extremely memorable. It is alternately funny, disturbing and profoundly moving. Finally, while not strictly falling into the category of †Zapata Westerns, I would be remiss if I didnít mention of the one of the most interesting political spaghetti westerns, The Price of Power. The film stars Giuliano Gemma as Bill Wilder who becomes embroiled in a conspiracy to assassinate the president in Texas. While the context of the film is the actual assassination of president James Garfield, the film is really an exploration of the JFK assassination. Skillfully directed by Tonino Valerii (Day of Anger), fans of the above films listed would do well to check this one out as well.

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