My Name is Nobody (1973)

(Note that this was a review written for Film-Talk’s World Cinema Club, so it contains plot information and spoilers.)

One words comes to mind when I think of My Name is Nobody, silly…pure, unadulterated silliness. But don’t let that put you off from seeing it. The film not only succeeds in cleverly spoofing the Spaghetti Western genre, but it is a marvelous addition to that genre in its own right. Henry Fonda, in his final western, plays the role straight as can be; while the charming, yet goofy Terence Hill is the source for most of the laughter. The jokes are never dumbed down, which is quite refreshing in this day and age, although there is some slapstick. Most of the humor stems from situational comedy and a lot of puns.

The plot is quite simple: an old gunfighter, Jack Beauregard (Fonda), simply wants to retire and return to Europe to live out his final years in peace. However, his fame keeps getting in the way. Wherever he goes he must face groups upon groups of men who want to be the one who killed the “famous Jack Beauregard”. It has become a tiresome task for old Jack, as he must kill handfuls of men in town after town as he makes his way to catch a boat in New Orleans.

On his way into one town, he encounters Nobody (Hill) waist deep in a stream, with hands so fast that he can catch bugs skimming the water and use them to catch fish. The two men share a really odd and uncomfortable moment as they stare at each other for quite some time. Anyways, once that awkward few seconds passes, Jack makes his way into town to encounter yet another group of men plotting his demise. But luckily for him, Nobody is a big fan and is willing to do everything he can to keep his hero alive.

The group of thugs offer Nobody a horse if he will deliver a package to Jack and Nobody gladly accepts. He enters the saloon where Jack is calmly enjoying his lunch and the two get to talking. Finally, remembering his package, he sets it down in front of Jack.

Jack: What is it?
Nobody: A bomb, I think.

Jack respectfully declines the basket and Nobody takes it back. After all, the deal was only that he give the package to Jack, they didn’t say anything about him giving it back. On his way out, Nobody offers his two cents on how Jack should go out. He thinks that Jack’s reputation deserves him to go out in a blaze of glory. Since he’s easily taken out 3, 4, and 5 men at once, he should end his legacy by facing the group of 150 men called (can you guess?) The Wild Bunch.

Before Nobody can get his hands on that horse he was promised, Jack rides towards the next town as fast as he can to put some distance between himself and his new found entourage. Along the way, Jack stops off at an Indian cemetery to see if anyone has seen his brother, the Nevada Kid. Unfortunately, he finds Nobody instead. As they talk, Nobody browses through the headstones…

Nobody: Sam Peckinpah. That’s a beautiful name in Navajo.

Eventually he comes to the grave of Jack’s brother, who was killed over a year ago. Jack, in true gunfighter form, shows no emotion at this news. Instead, he and Nobody talk a little trash to each other and Jack shoots a few holes in his hat. Then they kiss and make up and ride into town.

Jack goes his own way while Nobody does the cliched, no name hero righting wrongs and putting people in their place deal. Eventually he makes his way to a saloon where a fun competition of skill and alcohol tolerance is taking place. He pays up $20 for a chance to play. The game: drink a bunch of whiskey and every glass you finish you must throw it over your shoulder and shoot it before it hits the ground. And boy these are some BIG glasses. Nobody puts on a little show and cons his way into $200, but apparently he pisses off one of the locals and is challenged to a gunfight. Instead, what takes place is one of the funniest things I have ever seen. I won’t even describe it, you can view it here: VIDEO.

Now, there’s this whole subplot about gold and some business man who screwed a bunch of people out of land and money and who is ultimately responsible for Jack’s brother’s death. They want Nobody to kill Jack, but Jack wants to kill the business man, etc. But the end result is that he puts The Wild Bunch on the trail of both of them.

Jack rides out of town in the hopes of catching the train that will take him to New Orleans. Meanwhile, Nobody rides out of town to intercept and steal the train that will take Jack to New Orleans. Who’s on first? But then, Jack gets caught in the middle of the desert with the Wild Bunch bearing down on him. So he sends his horse off and prepares himself with all the guns he has. What follows is a wonderfully stylized freeze-frame shoot out as Jack takes down as many men as possible.  And just when you think they’ve got him, the train (conducted by Nobody) steams through at just the right moment so that Jack can hop on and make his escape. Shew!

While on the train, the two men decide that since Jack has finally faced 150 men and lived, it’s now time for him to end it. The only way to do that: to die. He and Nobody stage a duel in the streets of New Orleans with plenty of witnesses. As planned, Nobody wins and makes a name for himself, while Jack is now officially dead and there’s a sign to prove it! The Wild Bunch rides into town a tad too late and they are all very disappointed by this news. But alas, all is well; they’ll just go after the other one!

The film ends with Jack narrating a farewell letter he has written to Nobody. It’s all extremely cheesy and really drawn out, but I guess they needed something to play over the shots of Nobody wandering through town as he has now become what Jack was and will forever have people trying to kill him. Jack then sits peacefully on his boat as it pulls away from the dock and takes him towards his future.

my-name-is-nobody-12I can’t even describe to you the genius that is the humor in this movie. You might not catch everything the first time around either, I know I didn’t! Not only is it funny, but this film is also visually stunning. The locations and the cinematography are top-notch and are right up there with the far more serious westerns. Fonda is in good form, as usual, and Terence Hill is wonderfully charismatic and has a great comedic presence. The music here is done by the great Ennio Morricone and it is as memorable as anything else he’s done. The Nobody theme song, while horribly cheesy, is quite catchy, while the rest of the score is done in true “Dollars Trilogy” fashion.

There are some moments that are awkward, like some of the interaction between Jack and Nobody. But, I do have something of a theory about that. Nobody mentions his grandfather telling him this story over and over again and that there was some sort of moral in there. Jack simply responds with “In my day, men didn’t live long enough to be grandfathers” or something along those lines. My theory: Jack is Nobody’s grandfather. My reasoning: both are so super fast on the draw, Jack constantly acts as a kind of father figure, Nobody acts like a son/grandson vying for Jack’s attention, and it’s the only way I can explain their bizarre glances to each other (unless there’s some sort of homosexual undertones that I’m just completely missing).

But, aside from some minor quibbles, this is just a fun fun FUN time! I highly recommend it.

Grade: B+

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