Non-Bond: American spaghetti

  • By Martijn Mulder
  • 06 Dec, 2015

Once upon a time.. the hanging

After finishing his 'Dollar' trilogy, Italian director Sergio Leone initially wanted to step away from the Western genre and start working on his next project, which ultimately would become 'Once Upon a Time in America'. When Paramount offered Leone a chance to work with his long time favorite actor, Henry Fonda (originally invited to play Eastwood's role in A Fistfull of Dollars and later asked to play Lee van Cleef's role in the sequel), Leone simply couldn't refuse.

He started working on a new western with Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento and together they came up with an interesting story about two conflicts happening around the fictional town of Flagstone. For the main part, Harmonica, Leone turned once again to Clint Eastwood, who by that time, wanted to move on and declined. He then turned to the man who he initially asked to play the man with no name (who actually did have a name - three different names in three different films, but that's another story..), Charles Bronson.

Most of the film was shot in and around what is now known as Mini-Hollywood, an rugged area in the Almeria region of Spain. Here, Flagstone was built from scratch, only a few kilometers away from the western town-set built for the Dollars-trilogy. Both sites still exist and have become real tourist attractions, although most visitors do not realise that these sets were actually built for the Leone spaghetti westerns.

There are two scenes in the film, however, that were NOT filmed in Europe.. The first wasthe buggy ride from Flagstone station to Sweetwater, on the road in the picture below, and the second is the famous recurring flashback scene in which Harmonica is forced to play his brother's funeral music during the latter's hanging. And that site still exists today as well, surprisingly, all the way in Monument Valley..
Utah's Monument Valley, home of the American westerns
Utah's Monument Valley, home of the American westerns
While doing a road trip from Albuquerque to Las Vegas, back in 2009, I had the pleasure of visiting Monument Valley. It's an amazing National Park, which constantly rings bells. The mittens that seem to appear like huge mushrooms in a barren field are a constant reminder that you're walking in a real life movie set. They feature in so many Wild West publications and film productions, that the moment you seem them you start having deja-vu's.
The position of the location, along highway 163 between Monument Valley and Mexican Hat
The position of the location, along highway 163 between Monument Valley and Mexican Hat
The filming location isn't actually inside Monument Valley, but it's a few miles down the road (highway 163) towards Mexican Hat. It's on a somewhat elevated plateau and probably chosen because it offers a great view OF Monument Valley. When you travel northwards from Monument Valley, you will first pass that very famous straight stretch of road that's on the front of so many road maps and travel guides of Utah (and sometimes of the USA in general). Then, after a few hundred meters, you will find two seperate roads leading to the old airport, on the left of the road. Take either of these roads and drive to the most upper side of the landing strip. From there on, a small track leads to a strange looking structure that stands there in the middle of nothing, pretending to be some sort of old gate. The track leads conveniently around it, like a roundabout, leaving the stucture helplessly in the middle..
The famous location from Leone's master piece, as it looks today..
The famous location from Leone's master piece, as it looks today..
If you wouldn't know the information behind it, you would pass this site without paying attention, because most of the structure is gone. All that remains are the two base parts of what once was the original arch. It was constructed especially for this scene as a wooden structure, its beams clad with bricks. At some point in time, the whole thing collapsed, so what you see above, is what you will get when you visit this site. The concrete track, which can be seen in the bottom part of the above photo, was made so they could easily move the camera crane on the rugged terrain.
Martijn Mulder in front of one of the remaining sides of the arch
Martijn Mulder in front of one of the remaining sides of the arch
Most of today's visitors to one of the western sets in Mini Hollywood, Spain, are treated to what they probably think is the original arch, since a replica was built. Obviously, what would give it away is the absence of the Monument Valley back ground, but on the other hand, that could have been a matte plate as well..

Anyway, it's a mighty cool site to visit, so if you're ever visiting Monument Valley and you do like your classic westerns (why else would you visit John Ford country?), make sure you'll get there before it totally falls apart.
P.S.
 In 2016, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly celebrates its 50th anniversary and to celebrate this, you will be offered a chance to join us on a tour of the Spanish filming locations used by Sergio Leone in the five films he made: A Fistful of Dollars , For A Few Dollars More , The Good The Bad & The Ugly , Once Upon a Time in the West and Duck, you Sucker! More information about this amazing tour will be announced on January 2nd.

On the tracks of 007

By Martijn Mulder 01 Sep, 2016
Although I love lots of movies and genres, there are some series that I do not know much about. 'Tarzan' is one of them. I can tell you Johnny Weissmüller played the role ages ago, but that's about it. Still, this story is so special that it just has to be shared. So even if you're totally not into Tarzan, like me, just sit back, relax and read this story. It's a good one..

A few years ago, an older friend of mine gave me a VHS cassette and asked me if I could make a digital copy and duplicate it for a few of his friends. They are all into old British cars, Austins to be exact, and my friend owns and restored a couple of them and happily takes the oldtimers on holiday to Scotland and Scandinavia, year after year. I agreed to help him out and took the cassette home where I put it in my VCR, curious to see what was on it.
By Martijn Mulder 07 Jun, 2016
One of the locations that had always puzzled us, is the gas station location, where 007 drives his Acrostar BedeJet to and quips "Fill 'er up, please". We posted the above photo on our website's WANTED page , hoping some fellow location hunter would be able to solve this puzzle. And this is exactly what happened..
By Martijn Mulder 02 Apr, 2016

The island of Hong Kong was occupied by the British Empire in 1842. In 1856 Britain acquired the Kowloon peninsula on the Chinese mainland. The Crown Colony of Hong Kong was completed by the lease of the New Territories from China in 1898. This lease was supposed to last for 99 years. In 1984 the governments of Great Britain and the People’s Republic of China made an agreement that the British rule over Hong Kong would expire on June 30, 1997. Since July 1, 1997 it has been a ‘Special Administrative Region of China’. For the normal visitor and tourist very little, if anything at all, has 'really' changed since then. The British Governor was replaced by a Chinese appointed head of administration, but capitalism still rules and the cars still drive on the left hand side of the street. Only you will get some different stamps in your passport.  The urban beehive of Hong Kong is a bonanza of fascinating sights and experiences and only few destinations yield their treasures so readily like this unique place at the verge of the Middle Kingdom.

Highlights of a visit to Hong Kong would be for example an ascent of Victoria Peak (by funicular railway) from where you have a spectacular view of the whole area, or a meal in the ‘Floating Restaurants’ at Aberdeen (Pierce Brosnan in the TV-series ‘Noble House’) or a trip to the outlying island of Lantau with the world’s largest outdoor Buddha-statue. The most popular novel dealing with Hong Kong is definitely ‘The World of Suzie Wong’ by Richard Mason. Although the action takes place in the Wanchai District, most parts of the film (1960), starring William Holden and Nancy Kwan, were shot in the area around the Man Mo Temple at the crossing of Ladder Street and Hollywood Road in the Sheung Wan District. 
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