Thursday, September 27, 2012

More fun with game show movie questions

So I was watching Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? again yesterday, and the contestant gets this reasonably fun question:

Used as a shooting locale for many westerns, the Tabernas Desert is located in which country?

a) Greece b) Spain c) Romania d) Italy

The contestant thought about it for a bit, and intelligently concluded, "I know they're called spaghetti westerns, and since spaghetti is Italian, I'll say Italy; final answer." Poor guy. It has more to do with Italian-born director Sergio Leone revolutionizing the genre that gave these European-made movies the name "spaghetti westerns", and not where they were filmed, which is in fact Spain.

For a bit I found myself wondering if this was an unfair question, but I don't think so at all. I don't know that the contestant would necessarily be expected to know that the genre was known as the spaghetti western, and one could reasonably figure out which European country has deserts, or at least something reasonably approximating a desert. I can't think of any such area in Italy, and the word Tabernas doesn't sound particularly Italian to me.

That having been said, I decided to do a bit of reading on the genre of Europe's look at the American West, and I was surprised -- although I probably shouldn't have been -- to discover the genre has a long history dating back before Sergio Leone was even born. Wikipedia mentions German author Karl May, who wrote a series of books that were wildly popular in Germany in the late 19th century, even though May himself had never been to the US when he wrote the stories and when he did get to the US, didn't get any further west than about Buffalo NY. It's only natural that these stories, however accurate they are (I haven't read any of them, and don't know how much worse in terms of accuracy they are than Hollywood westerns) would be turned into movies at some point. It's not only Hollywood that's derivative! Some of May's works were filmed in the silent era, and there were also silent westerns made in Italy and France.

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