Wherein Social Media Specialist Marya E. Gates discusses her love of Spaghetti Westerns, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Sunday Morning Westerns.

When we were preparing to launch Shane (Plus A Hundred More Great Westerns), I could not contain my joy. I love westerns. I’ve been a fan of westerns for most of my life. 

My family was always a family that watched film and television together. My parents (especially my Dad) were big fans of sharing films they loved with us, no matter how old we were (this led to an ill-fated, nightmare-inducing introduction to KING KONG for my brother as a toddler). 

One of the earliest film series I remember watching with my Dad was Sergio Leone’s DOLLARS TRILOGY. If memory serves, we watched it either right before, or right after STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION aired an episode where in Worf and his son take a trip in the holodeck to the “Ancient West,” at which point (due to an engineering problem) they face off with a bunch of villains modeled off of Data. The episode entitled A FIST FULL OF DATAS was a direct homage to A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (’64), but also featured references to FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (’65), and THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY (’66).

Here’s the original television promo:

This became one of my favorite episodes of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, and I would rewatch it (and the Leone films) many times throughout my childhood. I mean, what is cooler than Worf as a gunslinger cowboy?!

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY became one of my all time favorite films (it consistently makes me Top Ten when I’m forced to narrow my favorites down). While I love Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name (aka Blondie), and Lee Van Cleef’s Angel Eyes really is one of the all-time great baddies, what makes the movie for me is Eli Wallach as Tuco. Tuco is not a good guy, but he’s not really a bad guy either. He’s just a guy doing his best to stay alive and maybe end up in a hot bath every once in awhile. Tuco makes my Top Five Characters of all time. Tuco is really everything.

The other thing about GBU that I love so dearly is Ennio Morricone’s score. Every score the Maestro does is going to be a masterpiece, but for me his score for this films top them all. The iconic score is exciting, and melancholic, and a thing of beauty. One of my all-time favorite sequences in film would not nearly be as perfect without Morricone’s cue. And no, I’m not talking about the stand-off at the end. Rather, the sequence entitled “Ecstasy of Gold,” with none other than my boo Tuco:

But back to STAR TREK for a second, I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the 1968 episode from the original series SPECTRE OF THE GUN, wherein the team end up pulled inside Kirk’s mind (kind of) and act out the Gun Fight at the O.K. Corral. Here’s the original promo for that episode:

While the TNG episode is clearly more of a riff on Spaghetti Westerns, the TOS episode is more in the vein of 1950s westerns like Fred Zinnemann’s HIGH NOON (’52) or John Sturges’s GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL (’57). 

I wasn’t familiar with these other more traditional westerns until a few years ago when I started what I like to call Sunday Morning Western, wherein I, much like the title suggests, watch a western on Sunday mornings. This really opened up a broader world of westerns to me beyond Leone (and other Clint Eastwood starring westerns). I just watched my 101st Sunday Morning Western a few days ago and I’ve still got so many left to watch! 

That’s what’s so great about this genre; it keeps changing, and adapting, but with a through-line that connects everything together (even singing cowboys!).

With that in mind, I hope you can join me as I live-tweet Sergio Leone’s masterpiece THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY tonight at 12am ET / 9pm PT