Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
This quirky Spaghetti western extends Sergio Leone's ritualized blocking and visuals into light
comedy mode, with old-timer Henry Fonda forming a buddy relationship with Terence Hill's oddball
quickdraw artist. It sort of spells the end of Leone's westerns in more ways than one. Total
Euro-western fanatics may love it, but its main appeal thirty years later is the genuinely
inspired music of Ennio Morricone.
Aging gunfighter Jack Beauregard (Henry Fonda) tracks down his old partner
Red (Leo Gordon). He's working his way to Sullivan (Jean Martin), who is supposed to be keeping a
share of robbery loot for him. Beauregard is shadowed along the way by an amiable, proverb-spouting
fellow called Nobody (Terence Hill) who encourages Beauregard to court immortal fame by
singlehandedly taking on The Wild Bunch, a 150-man band of mounted gunmen. Beauregard only wants to
collect enough money to leave his reputation behind and sail to obscurity in Europe.
Much like this film's leading character, Sergio Leone was already looking for a way out of the western
genre. By the time made Duck You Sucker in 1971, he tried to have someone else direct it, but
his stars rebelled. Leone had ambitions to become a glorious superstar director of epics to out-do
David Lean, and was wary of sullying his reputation with "minor" assignments. By the time of
Once Upon a Time in the West
Spaghettis had already branched out into political cartoons and buffoonish self-parody, and
Il mio nome è Nessuno was a Leone effort to out-do his own imitators. Henry Fonda is
back as a more restrained gunfighter hero, perplexed and amused by Terence Hill's almost
pixie-like hanger-on. Hill had already done a parodic series of Trinity films and was an
icon in his own right.
Thus Leone consciously quotes from westerns, the same way that Sam Peckinpah did. Nobody catches
catfish in a creek, as did Horst Buchholz in
The Magnificent Seven. The
two gunfighters trade off shooting holes in each others' hats, as in For a Few Dollars More.
Collecting the spoils of a long-ago crime is a minor detail instead of the complicated
treasure hunt of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Leone borrows American face Leo Gordon
(Roger Corman films), Peckinpah regular R.G. Armstrong (whose name is misspelled in the opening
titles) and icons from his own work - Mario Brega, Benito Stefanelli, Antoine Saint-John. Future
John Milius hands Steve Kanaly and Geoffrey Lewis show up as well. Finally, Fonda's friendly
adversary Sullivan is played by Jean Martin, the actor best known as the paratrooper general in
Battle of Algiers.
The Leone 'ideas' the film is based on are nothing more than a series of drawn-out encounter
set-pieces. Beauregard and Nobody face off in a cemetary (with a gravestone marked "Sam Peckinpah")
and on a lonely street, going through the familiar paces and poses. Fonda buttons his coat up to
clear his pistol draw, while Nobody quotes little homilies. There's an extended contest in a saloon
where Nobody pretends to be drunk while tossing beer mugs over his shoulder and shooting them before
they hit the ground. Various rat-like villains pursue Nobody into a sideshow hall of mirrors
reminiscent of the same year's The Man with the Golden Gun. An elaborate and slightly
wearying running gag has the 150-man Wild Bunch appear at regular intervals. Nobody eventually maneuvers
Beauregard into fulfilling his gunslinger fantasy by facing them alone, all at once.
Nothing in the movie resembles normal reality. Explosives, flying beer mugs and spinning
billiard balls behave under strict Mack Sennett comedy rules. There is also no love interest, just
a few giggling bargirls and parsol-carrying women in the expensive-looking settings - a couple of
towns, an entire New Orleans wharfside.
Typical of the film's no-rules attitude is the use of The Ride of the Valkyries on the soundtrack
whenever the Wild Bunch rides. Morricone's light, catchy score brings much of the the slow-moving
proceedings to life, just as it had been the savior of many essentially static moments in
Once Upon a Time in the West and Duck You Sucker; the lilting harmonies and light choral
effects bring to life what would probably be a boring film without them. Morricone also does riffs on his
earlier 'Harmonica' theme that are little hommages of their own.
There is some crude flatulence & crotch-jabbing humor, but an 'earthy' parable Nobody tells about a baby
bird has its own barnyard wisdom. Fonda is lightly amusing and so is Terence Hill's clowning, but in many
instances we feel like we're being left out of a private joke. The only real failing is in pace and
structure. After the Wild Bunch problem is resolved, the film goes on for two more reels that play as if
they should be the first fifteen minutes of a sequel.
Director Tonino Valerii has substantial credits of his own but most reports paint a picture of
overseer Leone directing from a remove, either butting in or directing the director. It
sounds like the situation that Peter Bogdanovich wanted to avoid on Duck You Sucker -
basically being the puppet for another talent. Then again, who knows how much of My Name is Nobody
is Valerii's doing? Crediting a director with full authorship because his name is on a movie is a risky
gambit even in normal circumstances.
Image and International Media Films' DVD of My Name is Nobody is a bright enhanced transfer
of flawless film elements, with a clear soundtrack to enjoy the Morricone music. I've become more
wary of 25 fps PAL-speed conversions lately, but this disc clocks at 115 minutes and six seconds,
and doesn't look sped up to me. Only a couple of wide shots show tiny flaws of inadequate
As with most Image discs there are no subtitles. This title begs for text essays or
extended liner notes, but there are no extras either.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
My Name is Nobody rates:
Movie: Very Good
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: April 19, 2005
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson