The Mondo Esoterica Guide to:

Sergio Corbucci

  About Sergio Corbucci:

Born in Rome, 1927, Corbucci envisaged a career as a businessman before being drawn to the world of cinema. After working as a critic for a while he made the break into writing and directing in 1951 and soon built himself a reputation as a solid writer and director in the most popular genres of the time. In comedy he worked with both the respected TotÚ and the more populist duo of Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia. In the newly popular Sword and Sandal Peplum genre he worked with musclebound heros Gordon Scott and Steve Reeves together in the epic Romulus and Remus (1961) and individually in the horror tinged Maciste contro il vampiro (1961) and Il Figlio di Spartacus (1963).

However the seeds of his biggest break dated back to the late 1950s when he was working in Spain as assistant director on another Steve Reeves epic,
The Last Days of Pompeii (1959) alongside Sergio Leone. Corbucci suggested to his colleague that the Spanish landscapes would make effective backdrops for filming Westerns, something that had been rarely tried in Europe. In 1964, after the sucess of the German Karl May Western Treasure of Silver Lake (1962) and its sequels and his friend Leone's iconic Fistful of Dollars (1964), the idea of a European Western suddenly became acceptable and Corbucci co-wrote and directed one of the first Spaghetti Westerns; Massacre at Grand Canyon (1965) - although ironically, not in the Spanish desert where he had suggested, but in the hills of Jugoslavia where the German filmmakers were shooting. Compared to many of his later works, this first genre entry was very American in style with little except the supporting cast to betray its Italian roots - Corbucci himself was credited as Stanley Corbett.

Proving the formula could work, the genre quickly boomed during the next year and Corbucci went on to direct
Minnesota Clay (1965) Johnny Oro (1966) and Navajo Joe (1966), but it was his fifth Western for which he became famous, introducing a lone, coffin dragging anti-hero who set the tone for a decade of Spaghetti Westerns to come. Django (1966) was darker, grittier and more violent than any previous Western and its deliberate subversion of the genre norms gave the Italo-Westerns a distinct characteristic of their own. With his name firmly attached to the genre, Corbucci would direct and write little else for the next few years: Hellbenders (1967), The Mercenary (1968) and Gli Specialisti (1969) were to follow, with Corbucci alternating between dark and comic tones and emerging as a strongly left-wing director alongside Sergio Sollima and Damiano Damiani.

At the end of the decade he made his two big masterworks. The Great Silence (1969), starring Klaus Kinski and Frank Wolff, was the culmination of the grim tone that had run through most of his works - a bleak and desolate snowly landscape provides the ultimate contrast to the genre's traditional sandy locales and the storyline verges on nihilistic as it builds to its uniquely dark climax. In complete contrast, Companeros (1970) takes a sunny south-of-the-border setting and combines light heated comedy with a political message to make a highly enjoyable production.
It was the highlight of both the Spaghetti Western and Corbucci's career - neither would ever reach the same heights again. He helmed three more genre titles, the twisted La Banda J.S.: Cronaca criminale del Far West (1972), the revolutionary Western spoof Che c'entriamo noi con la rivoluzione? (1972) and the rather purile comedy Il Bianco, il giallo, il nero (1975), none of which attained any commercial or critical sucess. Trying to tap into the newly popular Giallo genre he wrote the story behind Luciano Ercoli's twisted Death Walks at Midnight (1972) and directed his own Giallo Napoletano (1978) but without sucess. His last major screen credits came as co-writer and director of the Terence Hill/Bud Spencer comedies Odds and Evens (1978) and A Friend is a Treasure (1981), plus the Terence Hill solo project Super Fuzz (1980). He continued to direct, mostly small scale Italian comedies, until his death in 1990.

   DVD Reviews: Films directed by Sergio Corbucci

Companeros (1970)
Anchor Bay USA Region 0 DVD
Corbucci's last major success, and one of the last good films from the boom days of the Euro-Western.
Highly recommended for fans and newcomers alike.
Django (1966)            
USA Blue Underground Region 0 DVD
Corbucci's most influencial success, a darker and distinctly European Western that inspired the whole genre.
Highly recommended for fans and newcomers alike.
Goliath and the Vampires (1969)
Wild East US Region 0 DVD
Gordon Scott stars in a completely bizarre Peplum fighting against vampire zombies.
One of the more enjoyable Pepla.
The Great Silence (1969)
Eureka UK Region 0 DVD
A decently written western, with impressive direction and a very dark atmosphere.
Highly recommended for all genre and director fans.
Hellbenders (1967)
Anchor Bay USA Region 1 DVD
This grimly toned Spaghetti Western is not Corbucci's best, but is a solid entry with a good performance by Joseph Cotten.
Recommended for Corbucci fans to see.
Massacre at Grand Canyon (1964)
Koch Media German Region 0 DVD
A very average production in a traditional American style. Corbucci's direction is nothing special here.
Of interest to genre and director fans
Navajo Joe (1966)
Optimum Releasing Region 2 DVD
Burt Reynolds is the star of this interesting if rather unoriginal early Corbucci Western
Of interest to genre and director fans
Romulus and Remus (1961)  
Koch Media Germany Region 0 DVD
Steve Reeves and Gordon Scott go head to head in this well made epic, with more storyline than battle scenes.
The White, the Yellow and the Black (1975)  
DVD Storm Italy Region 0 DVD
The decline of Corbucci's career is evident in this all-star cast but purilely scripted comedy.
Not recommended.


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All text in this site written by Timothy Young - March 2006 - September 2008.
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