Between the mid-sixties and the mid-seventies a new kind of film became popular in Italy: the “spaghetti western”, a term first used in a derogatory sense but later applied to an increasingly competitive genre on the international scene, so that in the end the term became a sort of stamp of quality. Appreciation of this kind of film soon led to a rebirth of the American genre of the western, which had initially accused the Italians of imitation, contributing interesting new elements.
Italian filmmakers were not the first or the only ones to revive the genre of the western, but they certainly played the most important role in restoring vitality to a type of film that had been on the wane for some time in America. Their films were popular even with the Americans themselves.
After all those years, the Italian revival of the western was rightly appreciated: the box office takings demonstrate the cultural and industrial value of Italian film at the time.
It was Sergio Leone who invented and then developed the original model in his 1964 film For a fistful of dollars. With time Leone was joined by other filmmakers, from Duccio Tessari to Sergio Corbucci, from Tonino Valerii to Damiano Damiani, who often chose to make their films in the desolate, inexpensive spaces of Spain.
The “spaghetti western” offered a disenchanted view of the reality of the American frontier, where men's actions were motivated primarily by avidity and venality. The characters duel and die lawlessly, and become skilled prestidigitators who dextrously draw their guns.
The importance of this type of film had social repercussions too, becoming a visual counterpart for the controversial age marked by the unrest of '68: the average viewer may have seen the cowboy as one who wrought vengeance for all the wrongs suffered, a hero capable of eliminating the vexation of a rival or the injustice of certain forms of social inequality.