It’s a shame Sergio Leone didn’t shoot “Per Un Pugno di Dollari” (or “A Fistful of Dollars” as it was titled in the States) in Orgosolo, Sardenia instead of Almeria, Spain. Clint Eastwood’s sullen character, The Man With No Name, would have fit right in with the rugged locals of Orgosolo, men known for their secretive ways and a fondness for revenge. In fact, just a few years before Leone shot what some consider to be the first commercially successful Spaghetti Western (for all of $200,000), Vittorio De Seta, shot “Bandits of Orgosolo” in the untamed region of Barbagia, an area long known for its lawlessness.
The film, shot in sort of a documentary style in 1961, used non-professional actors from Orgosolo to portray the hard-knock life of the poor farmers and shepherds who, like the warring cowboys in “Fistful of Dollars, make a meager living through banditry. Back in the 60s, you ventured into Orgosolo at your own risk. As Pasquale Cugia wrote of the area, “The people of Orgosolo, bold and proud, eager for adventure, have warlike ardor in their blood and the restlessness of the nomad races.”
Sort of reminds me of what The Man With No Name has to say when he first wanders into the little hellhole in “Fistful of Dollars” and says the only one making any money in town is the undertaker. Did you know that they originally offered the Clint Eastwood part to James Coburn, who turned it down, and then to Charles Bronson, who thought the plot was ridiculous, and finally to Richard Harrison? And it was Harrison who suggested to Sergio Leone that he get Eastwood for the part.
Anyway, we hung out in Orgosolo yesterday, chatting it up with these old guys sitting on a stone wall who looked sort of like a bunch of aging Tony Sopranos. I asked one of them if it was true that the shepherds here used to kidnap people and take them to their hideouts up in the rugged mountains of the Supramonte. The guy just shrugged, like How should he know? Then another old guy started whistling. Maybe I was just being paranoid but it sounded a lot like the theme from the last of the Dollars Trilogy, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” From somewhere down the mostly deserted street, I thought I heard the sound of a cracking whip. A few minutes later, a sullen youth passed by yanking a stubborn donkey with a rope. When the donkey stopped walking, the youth yanked the rope as hard as he could. Once he yanked and the donkey yanked back and the youth stumbled to the ground in front of us. I almost laughed. But then I thought about the scene in “Fistful of Dollars” when Eastwood’s character says, “I don’t think it’s nice, you laughin’. You see, my mule don’t like people laughing. He gets the crazy idea you’re laughin’ at him.”
And then he shoots everyone. Which seems like a pretty ridiculous scene. Until you’ve spent an afternoon in Orgosolo.
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