“The Price of Power” – Part of “Spaghetti Westerns,” at Film Forum

On June 7, Film Forum’s current series, “Spaghetti Westerns,” presented a screening of director Tonino Valerii’s The Price of Power (1969), an intelligent, complicated western about a presidential assassination.  The movie was introduced by director Alex Cox (Repo Man – 2010, Sid and Nancy – 1986).  In addition to being a director in his own right, Cox is also a Spaghetti Western enthusiast and author of the book “10,000 Ways to Die: A Director’s Take on the Spaghetti Western.”  His energy and enthusiasm for Spaghetti Westerns was quite evident.

Spaghetti Westerns seem to take place in alternate realities.  They are set in the American West.  The actors dress like characters in a western.  They ride horses and carry guns.  There are references to the Civil War.  However, everyone is speaking Italian.  In the case of The Price of Power there are at least three other alternate realities that can be added.

The Price of Power is about a presidential assassination that takes place in Dallas in 1881, but the story is actually based on the Kennedy assassination, which also took place in Dallas, in 1963.  As if that is not enough, the story, on the surface, is about the assassination of President John Garfield, which did in fact take place in 1881, only it took place in Washington D.C. according to Cox (or Baltimore if you go with the account on Wikipedia), not in Dallas.  Unlike Kennedy, Garfield lived for 80 days after being shot.

Cox explained that, “The conceit of the film is quite complicated.  It is really JFK or  Executive Action, but made earlier, only six years after the Kennedy Assassination.”  It is quite surreal, and the audience broke into laughter, seeing Italian actors, dressed as characters from the old west, talking about the possibility of a second shooter near an over pass.

In addition, for Spaghetti western fans, The Price of Power has yet another level.   The movie was shot six months after the production of director Sergio Leone’s masterpiece Once Upon a Time in the West, using the same sets and locations.  “So you’ve seen all these locations before.  You’ve seen this town before,” Cox explained, adding that the film “has pretty much the same crew the same art director.  Everything gets recycled.  The costumes get recycled, the stunt guys get recycled.”

Of director Valerii Cox explained that, “In 1965 he had the great good fortune to be Sergio Leone’s assistant director on For a Few Dollars More, which I think of as the most perfect of Spaghetti Westerns.”  Cox went on to say that, “An assistant director, a lot of the time, just directs the extras, handles the traffic and the parking.  Leone had a hard time with actors.  He didn’t really get along with actors very well and so he delegated a lot of what we would think of as first unit stuff to his assistants. Valerii, working as his assistant on ‘A Few Dollars More,’ ‘The Good the Bad and the Ugly,’ ‘Once Upon a Time in the West,’ became quite an accomplished director.”

“Spaghetti Westerns” continues at Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, through June 21.  For more information go to http://www.filmforum.com.


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on June 12, 2012, in Film Forum and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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