The Independent (December 18th 1989)
By David Shipman
Lee Van Cleef, actor, born Somerville New Jersey 9 January 1925, died Oxnard California 16 December 1989.
Among classic westerns, High Noon is more classic than most, as Gary Cooper scours the town to find someone to help him against the three released convicts who are sworn to kill him. As the clock ticks away it is clear that they will not appear till the climax; it is equally evident that they will give no quarter. When they eventually step off that train they look as mean as they are dangerous. One of them was Lee Van Cleef, whose looks would make him one of the most relishable heavies of the Fifties, when Hollywood was producing more and better westerns than at any time in its history.
High Noon (1952) was his third film in three years, but he was splendidly in demand thereafter, four or five times a year, to threaten, harass and sneer at the likes of Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda and Gregory Peck. Steely-eyed and suave, with pinched features and an itchy trigger finger, he was at best a trouble-maker and at worst the most evil varmint for miles. Not for him the climactic duel - because, for one thing, he was destined not to live that long: early in the film, he would shoot the unarmed, or someone in the back, to give the hero just cause for revenge.
When the Italians appropriated the western, Van Cleef went too, and became a star. The first spaghetti western, A Fistful of Dollars (1964), was directed by Sergio Leone, and it made Clint Eastwood a household name the world over. The sequel, For a Few Dollars More (1965), called for a bigger budget and an American partner, as devious as Eastwood is straightforward, as genial as he is taciturn - though not in any likeable way, for they are killers both and one of them is a double-dealing dirty dog. Van Cleef rose magnificently to the occasion and Leone teamed them felicitously again, in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966).
Eastwood returned to Hollywood and found superstar status; Van Cleef had to be content with the latter in Europe only. He did return temporarily to Hollywood, to top-billing or to villain, but the vasty plains of Arizona or Wyoming were more likely to be found in Italy or Spain, and unlike Eastwood he was not very effective out of the saddle. Europe not only kept him steadily employed, but in the postcard shops he was a cult in the order of James Dean.
In 20 years of European stardom he remained mean, and if he did a good turn it was only in contrast to villains even nastier than himself.
Most of these films have not been seen here, but his niche is secure: turn on an old western on television and if his name is on the credits you'll know there is someone you are going to love to hate.
Friday, November 30, 2012
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Monday, November 26, 2012
John Mansell talks to Dolores Claman, composer of the music for Captain Apache and other Spanish westerns. Below are excepts regarding Captain Apache and Bad Man's River.
Full interview is available here:
JM: In 1971 you scored CAPTAIN APACHE was this your first full film score, and how did you become involved on this project?
DC: We were taking a long sabbatical in Madrid when Richard and another writer friend went to see Phil Yourdan, the producer and Bernie Gordon, head writer of "Captain Apache" and the other films in the series, about getting some work as scriptwriters. It turned out that they wanted a theme song or two for Lee Van Cleef, and it developed from there.
JM: Staying with CAPTAIN APACHE, the star of the movie Lee Van Cleef sang the title song on the soundtrack, who’s idea was it to get Van Cleef to do this, what was he like to work with and did you coach him for the performances ?
DC: As I understand it, after Lee Van Cleef heard Lee Marvin singing in "Paint Your Wagon", decided that he wanted to sing too. His wife, who was in Madrid with him, had been an opera singer, and encouraged him to have a go. We wrote 2 demos, thinking Yourdan and Gordon would pick one, but they decided on both.
To be honest, he wasn't easy to work with. I think he felt out of his depth as a singer, and covered up by being difficult, which - of course - is not unusual. After 2 rehearsals with me on the piano, he said the piano made him sing out of tune, so a roving English guitar player was hired to be on the set and rehearse with Lee when he had a break.
Funnily enough, his problem wasn't so much about pitch, because we got him to speak a lot of the lyrics, but with the fact that he was "rhythm deaf" - not feeling where the phrase begins or ends, if you know what I mean.
At the recording, the engineer had to cut up his tape and feed it into the proper places to match the orchestral accompaniment.
JM: I am told that the songs in CAPTAIN APACHE were recorded in London, was the main score also recorded in England or was this done in Spain?
DC: No, they were recorded in Madrid. English speaking singers were very few and far between, and not necessarily experienced , so we had to add a LOT of reverb.
The score was also recorded in Madrid - but we had a very fine conductor/ arranger, Pepe Nieto, with whom we worked on a lot of other projects before and after.
JM: What size orchestra did you use on CAPTAIN APACHE?
DC: Not a large orchestra, there was about 24 players as I remember.
JM: On the score for CAPTAIN APACHE there is a piece of music just before Lee Van Cleef sings APRIL MORNING, this contains some whistling, it sounds very much like Alessandro Alessandroni, did he perform on the soundtrack at.
DC: No, it wasn't Alessandro. It was probably Antonio Areta, who sang bass in the backing track and whom we hired quite often when we needed a whistler. He was also a composer of Spanish jinglesJM: The movie has something of a cult following nowadays, but at the time of its release it received some very unkind press, are you surprised that it is still popular now some 35 years on?
DC: To be honest, nothing surprises me nowadays.
JM: I understand that your husband worked on BAD MANS RIVER, were you involved in any way on this movie, and did you score any other Spanish or Paella westerns?
DC: Richard was hired to write the lyrics. They had to use a Spanish composer because of co-production "points". Actually he was a very good Argentinean born composer, but hadn't a clue about barber shop quartets (these were used as a Greek Chorus to move the story along)
So Richard, with a little help from me, actually wrote the melodies and sang them to the composer. I did some "covers" for another movie - but I can't remember the name of the film.
JM: There was a rumour recently that the songs from CAPTAIN APACHE had been issued during the 1970's on a single 45rpm record for members of the Lee Van Cleef fan club, do you know anything about this recording?
DC: No, I don't, but I'd love to get one, if it were issued.
JM: Do you find it suprising that record companies want to issue your music from CAPTAIN APACHE onto CD, after all this time ?
DC: Yes. But I think there are a lot of Euro-Western fans who would be prepared to buy it.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
For the 1971 film Captain Apache, LVC sings the main title song (as well as the end credits). Below you will find the YouTube clip of the end credits, and the song "April Morning". I have also included an mp3 version you can download at well!
MP3 Download HERE
MP3 Download HERE
Thursday, November 22, 2012
For the 1971 film Captain Apache, LVC sings the main title song (as well as the end credits). Below you will find the YouTube clip of the opening credits. I have also included an mp3 version you can download at well!
MP3 Download HERE
MP3 Download HERE
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Below is a list of what is available through our partner site Amazon.
For a Few Dollars More
This was a retailer exclusive at Target, but has now gone wide. In my opinion the best looking transfer of the 3 Dollars films available in the US.
In my opinion a pretty weak transfer, with the Italian version being far superior in image quality (comparison blog entry coming soon!)
Same discs as above with Fistful of Dollars included.
Magnificent Seven Collection
This is a set of all 4 movies, and includes The Magnificent Seven Ride. Well... some LVC fan I am... I don't own this, so I can't comment on it!
Far superior to the region 4 version which looked like an upconverted DVD.
We'll take a look at some other region LVC discs in a future post.
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Friday, November 16, 2012
'The Magnificent Seven Ride!' Routinely!
Published: August 3, 1972
Routine Westerns aren't so common these days that I should want to dismiss any one of them out of hand. But George McCowan's "The Magnificent Seven Ride!", which opened yesterday at neighborhood theaters, is a routine Western so perfunctory in its routines that I can't recommend it even to people who, like me, delight in seeing the same thing done all over—and over—again.
The magnificent seven this time consist of an Arizona marshal (Lee Van Cleef,) a mildly unscrupulous journalist (Michael Callan) and five convicts who the marsal paroles so they can help him defend the women and children of a border town from a band of desperadoes that have massacred all their men.
By the time the battle is over, all the right people have been killed (including four of the five convicts) and Lee Van Cleef has fallen in love with the prettiest of the town's new-made widows (Stefanie Powers), and the journalist has also fallen in love and has discovered in himself a sense of moral discrimination. This last has no purpose, but the movie makes rather a thing of it, and perhaps it adds tone to the aura of the happy ending.
But the happy ending is a betrayal anyway, signifying that nothing of much importance has happened, despite the 100 minutes and maybe 50 killings that have gone before. Westerns usually deal best with the impermanence of happiness, and "The Magnificent Seven Ride!" would have been no exception if it had been made with the conscience and the care for certain ritual patterns of action that it might have deserved. But as it actually was made, it is sloppy in detail. And in theme, plot and character it is merely trivial.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN RIDE!, directed by George McCowan; written by Arthur Rowe; photography, Fred Koenkampe; film editor, Walter Thompson; music by Elmer Bernstein; produced by William A. Calihan; released by United Artists Corporation. At the New Amsterdam Theater, 42d Street west of Broadway, and neighborhood theaters. Running time: 100 minutes. This film is classified PG.
Chris . . . . . Lee Van Cleef
Laurie Gunn . . . . . Stefanie Powers
Noah Forbes . . . . . Michael Callan
Skinner . . . . . Luke Askew
Pepe Carral . . . . . Pedro Armendariz Jr.
Walt Drummond . . . . . William Lucking
Hayes . . . . . James B. Skikking
Madge Buchanan . . . . . Melissa Murphy
Scott Elliott . . . . . Ed Lauter
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Monday, November 12, 2012
Saturday, November 10, 2012
The Master Ninja (Lee Van Cleef) (Original)
Artist: Roger Payne
Medium: Gouache on Board
Size: 9" x 13" (220mm x 340mm)
Description: The original art for the VHS video box of The Master Ninja, as the series was renamed on video release. This action TV series starred Lee Van Cleef in the central role, plus Demi Moore, Doug McClure, David McCallum and George Lazenby. Superb action art by Roger Payne.
Price: £325.00 ($520.00) (€390,00)
You can purchase it here: http://www.illustrationartgallery.com/acatalog/info_PayneNinja.html
Here is the art as it appears on the tape.
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Sunday, November 4, 2012
Friday, November 2, 2012
From time to time I will post interesting items that I see on eBay that would be of interest to a LVC fan. These are not endorsements of the sellers, just merely my observations of interesting or rare items.
Very cool item!
DESCRIPTION: EXTREMELY RARE & UNUSUAL- Actor LEE VAN CLEEF authentic vintage 1958 originally hand signed agreement and examples of his signature and salutations written with a blue ink ballpoint pen. See below provenance for details but this document which is meant to display several examples of his signature so that a fan club company can duplicate it for different signed items.
PROVENANCE: From the personal archive of publicist LARRY KLENO who also worked with a fan club exchange called United Fan Club and Fan Mail Service and later called the V.I.P. Fan Mail Service. The archive contained hundreds of original authentic examples of autographs with different inscriptions by celebrities represented by the company and used for fan mail processed by them. - All of my autographed items have a lifetime money back guarantee of authenticity (see Return Policy)
SIZE: approx. 8 1/2" X 9 1/2" (trimmed on the top)
OTHER: on a creme colored paper
CONDITION: Good with light yellowing (much less than appears in the scan), two horizontal folds from the original mailing and light handling wear. (Please note that I am extremely condition conscious so I always point out the slightest anomalies)