Rather like the best 1970s disaster movies or the science fiction B-movies of the 1960s, the spaghetti western still boasts a strong and dedicated following many decades after the last movie was produced and the dust, quite literally settled. And like these other genres, even those who look back fondly at the age of sharp shooters in dusty saloons remember the films not so much for their artistic merit as for the joy they brought to a whole generation of young movie fans.
What Were Spaghetti Westerns?
While the original westerns were filmed in the American Southwest, spaghetti Westerns such as the famous A Few Dollars More were shot in cheaper locations in Europe. The Spanish deserts of Andalusia, Spain were a popular filming location, as was Cabras in western Sardinia, Italy. The Italian film director Sergio Leone, known as the father of the spaghetti Western genre, had long been fascinated with the American Old West and in the 1960s embarked on his grand project of recreating the Hollywood western genre of movie but with a relatively tiny budget.
The tiny village of San Salvatore di Cabras was transformed into a Mexican desert outpost, complete with saloon bar and the obligatory swinging doors. Movies were churned out at an impressive rate, quantity clearly taking precedence over quality. It was reported that western Sardinia was the perfect location for Leone’s productions, not only for the arid landscapes that resembled the American Southwest but also for some of the shady characters that were known to live in this part of Italy.
The Legacy of Sergio Leone
Cabras now is a small sleepy town that is a pleasant drive south of the popular Sardinian resort of Alghero. A visit to Cabras will provide a flavor of Italy of course, but will probably feel a million miles from the American badlands of sharp-shooting cowboys.
True to form for an enterprise that was focused on low costs, most of the buildings put up by the movie makers are long gone. But look closely and you might still find one or two of those Mexican façades belonging to another time and another place. Perhaps the Wild West of Sergio Leone is still alive in Sardinia after all!