A Fistful Of Dollars was produced in 1964 but didn’t make it to American distribution until 1967. When it became a surprise hit, the floodgates opened in the U.S. for this new novelty known as the “spaghetti western” and they became a staple of theatrical programming. The trailers made for the U.S. releases rarely let on at their foreign origins and focused mainly on shootouts and punchups along with whatever dramatic visuals looked good in a trailer. That said, the unique character of these films often shined through, no matter how cookie-cutter the trailer editing approach might be.
A good example is the English language trailer for Any Gun Can Play. This 1967 western was an early directing gig for Enzo G. Castellari, a director who would become beloved in the ’70s for intense, visually imaginative action films. You can see that flair along with some post-modern playfulness in the opening 30 seconds of the trailer. A trio of badass gunslingers stop a man accompanying a cart with three coffins in it. They ask who’s in the coffins and he tells them their own names, shooting them down while they’re off-guard. If you look closely, you’ll notice the three gunslingers are styled and dressed to look like Lee Van Cleef, Clint Eastwood and Franco Nero circa Django. The results are exciting and action-packed yet suffused with a certain deadpan wit.
The next 20 seconds depict thieves on horseback robbing a soldier-manned train. There’s lots of rifle fire and men in Union soldier uniforms falling out of windows or off the top of the train. The narrator introduces the film’s title, along with an assurance that it’s “molded in the tradition of” A Fistful Of Dollars. Roughly the next 30 seconds introduce the cast: American import Edd Byrnes (listed here as “Edd Kookie Byrnes” for fans of 77 Sunset Strip), Gilbert Roland, George Hilton and Kareen O’Hara. Hilton is the film’s Man With No Name stand-in, with a bit of Django and Sartana thrown in, and he gets all the best Eastwood-style dramatic visuals.
Next up, approximately 40 seconds of fisticuffs: it’s a variety of brawls, sometimes between the three male stars as well as between the stars and an array of stuntmen. The narrator assures us we’ll get the action we’ve been dreaming of as well as whimsy. The mention of the latter word prompts some acrobatic, comedic action like Byrnes’ stuntman doing an acrobatic flip that predicts the kind of circus-style stunts you’ll later see in the Sabata films as well some flying kicks delivered while swinging on overhead bars that anticipate the slapstick of Terence Hill/Bud Spencer westerns.
At this point, the trailer moves into its endgame. Plot is referenced in the most minimalist manner by the narrator: he simply tells us there’s a fortune in gold and describes the personas of the characters who will be pursuing it (brawler, outlaw, bounty hunter). This is followed by a montage of shootouts between our main cast members and a variety of supporting players, all set to the galloping melody of the film’s theme song. As the trailer ends, there’s a moment where the three main characters find themselves under a shower of gold pieces as they rejoice over their good fortune. On this rousing note, we see the title card one last time.
The resulting trailer is simple but effective. It’s kind of like selling a potential diner on a dish by rattling off its ingredients and reminding them how appealing each one is. To the film’s credit, this coming attraction’s got enough gunplay, stunts and wit to back up the narrator’s salesmanship – and if you watch the film, you’ll see the irreverence and playfulness that the trailer’s sales-pitch approach doesn’t have time to include. In any event, both trailer and film are well worth watching for spaghetti western enthusiasts.
To read Schlockmania’s review of Any Gun Can Play, click here.