close menu
Schlock & Awe: LITTLE RITA OF THE WEST (a.k.a. CRAZY WESTERNERS)

Schlock & Awe: LITTLE RITA OF THE WEST (a.k.a. CRAZY WESTERNERS)

My original plan for this, the final week of new Schlock & Awe before the holidays, was to find yet another weird Christmas-themed horror or sci-fi movie, however, a friend of mine recently showed me a movie I simply couldn’t ignore. It’s one of the weirdest, goofiest, most bafflingly bizarre films I’ve ever seen. It is, of all things, a spaghetti western made in the heyday of Italian cowboy movies, but is at once a parody/send-up of popular westerns of the time and a straight-up musical with show-stopping numbers, all to showcase the talents of a famous Italian songstress. What even is this thing? It’s Little Rita of the West, and you’re welcome in advance.

The 1960s were super weird. Super duper weird, even. While the mid-to-late part of the decade produced some truly excellent and genre-defining westerns made in Europe, it also produced things like this, which used a ton of already-concrete spaghetti western tropes for comedic effect. Rita Pavone was the 4’9″ light entertainment performer with a massive voice who cut her hair to look far younger than he actual age. (She was 22 in 1967 when the film was made). She spends the entire movie beating up or wantonly murdering half the bandits in the old west and singing songs every few scenes. It’s also maybe not the MOST racially sensitive movie of all time…

crazy-westerners-1

Pavone plays Little Rita, apparently the best gunslinger in the west, as she’s on a mission to help her friend, the Native American chief Silly Bull (genre staple Gordon Mitchell), to obtain all the gold in the entire world it seems so that they can blow it up. Because gold is bad or something. Naturally, other people disagree about gold, so she has to fight a lot of people. Eventually, Rita meets a gunslinger named Black Star (played by future spaghetti western megastar Terence Hill) who helps her retrieve gold, and she falls in love with him. Unfortunately, he MIGHT really secretly want to keep that gold.

crazy-westerners-2

All right, so this movie is bananas for a number of reasons. First and foremost, we’re led to believe that Rita Pavone is the toughest gunslinger in the west, with her enormous, solid-gold pistol and solid gold grenades which she is able to fire from said pistol. She also, when having a fistfight, just swings wildly with haymaker after haymaker, mostly because all the baddies she’s fighting are at least a foot and a half taller than her. MINIMUM.

crazy-westerners-5

Another crazy thing they do—which I actually find very funny—is they have Rita duel with a couple of well-known spaghetti western characters. First, she meets Ringo, a character who was the subject of a dozen westerns in Italy and elsewhere (he’s established as a badass bounty hunter, out looking for gold). After taking out a bar full of bandits, he then loses a battle with Rita, culminating in him blowing up via grenade. This sequence also has a fair amount of references to the most successful Italian western of them all, For a Few Dollars More.

crazy-westerners-4

There is also a sequence in which Rita finds Django, evidently minutes after he vacated his own 1966 film. Django, dragging his trademark coffin behind him, refuses to give up the stockpile of gold within. They then have a duel in a suddenly-appearing cemetery (which looks remarkably like the one from the finale of the Django film) and Rita, of course, comes out on top.

While neither Ringo nor Django are played by the actors who made the character famous, the idea of having her face off with two of the biggest stock heroes of the genre, and killing them dead, is actually a very funny idea. It makes the movie feel distinctly episodic, and kind of like a video game.

crazy-westerners-3

Okay, so I’ve written about this movie and not talked at all about the musical sequences. Well, as Pavone was a huge singing sensation, it seemed natural for her to sing and dance. However, when the movie was sold to America and dubbed, the distributors wanted a straight-up spaghetti western and cut out all the musical numbers. (The movie flopped as a result.) Eventually, the numbers were put back in and the movie fell into the public domain in the U.S., which is how my friend showed it to me. Except, all the musical numbers were neither dubbed nor subtitled, because nobody at the time did it and nobody owns the rights to do so now. So we just watched a movie where every so often, a tiny woman would sing huge songs with dancing Native Americans or saloon patrons. I have no idea what any of the songs were actually about.

As I’m a big fan of spaghetti westerns, it was fun and refreshing to see such a goofy take on the genre done by Italians for Italians. I watched with a bunch of friends who aren’t nearly as steeped in the genre’s trappings as I am, and even they still really enjoyed it. I think anyone would. It’s bizarre, it’s ridiculous, it drags in the middle (not a fun thing, just a fact), and I got a lot of laughs out of it. And, it’s bound to be less objectionable than the movie Pavone and Hill made the same year: The Field Marshal, a musical comedy about Nazi Germany…yeeeeesh.

crazy-westerners-6

Images: B.R.C. Produzione S.r.l.


Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. He writes the weekly look at weird or obscure films in Schlock & Awe. Follow him on Twitter!

The World's Smallest Cat is Impossibly Adorable

The World's Smallest Cat is Impossibly Adorable

article
The Sexy Jeff Goldblum Funko You've Always Wanted

The Sexy Jeff Goldblum Funko You've Always Wanted

article
Watch 6 James Bonds Battle Each Other

Watch 6 James Bonds Battle Each Other

article