Sergio Leone's elegiac self-lampoon, signed by Tonino Valerii as a painter's copy etched in custard. "To go out with style" is the ultimate dream, the preamble takes jocular stock of Once Upon a Time in the West (with a dash of My Darling Clementine for the barbershop gag) but the main object of parody is King's The Gunfighter. The graying slinger (Henry Fonda) has a murdered brother yet little desire for dramatic vengeance, his brand of retirement doesn't sit well with the sagebrush goofball (Terence Hill) who's idolized him since childhood: "My my, how modern the old folks have become." America at the tail's end of the century, a three-ring circus for European eyes: the gravelly tough on carnival stilts is cut down to size until he's a Fellini dwarf. Barroom contests and funhouse mirrors, a parable of birds and shits plus a grave marked "Sam Peckinpah" ("That's a beautiful name in Navajo!"), Hill the slaphappy roustabout scampers through it all like Paul Newman possessed by the spirit of Shemp Howard. Fonda as the ghost of Westerns past sits back and enjoys the glimmer and sparkle until it's time to face the Wild Bunch itself, the widescreen horizon is capped with riders while Ennio Morricone plays The Ride of the Valkyries on synthesizer horns. The Magnificent Seven, Lonely Are the Brave, 4 for Texas, Viva Maria! and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are a few of the ingredients in the rich confection, a sumptuous cartoon designed to beat Parolini and Barboni at their own game. The ebullient photographer choreographing the sham final duel might be Leone himself, who nevertheless hears the vanishing desperado's last words: "Preserve a little of that illusion that made my generation tick." With Jean Martin, R.G. Armstrong, Leo Gordon, Steve Kanaly, Geoffrey Lewis, and Mario Brega.
--- Fernando F. Croce