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Film & TV

Dirty Little Billy (1972) – Grimy Western

Dark Spaghetti Western

Dirty Little Billy is a 1972 American western film co-written and directed by Stan Dragoti in his feature film debut, and stars Michael J. Pollard as Billy the Kid. Clearly influenced by the darker, more sinister style of a grimy Western, the film offers a unique insight into the beginnings of the titular notorious outlaw. It is notable for Nick Nolte’s film debut, along with a background appearance for experimental filmmaker/artist William Ault.

grimy WesternAfter his family moves to a frontier town in Kansas, city-bred teenager Billy Bonney (Michael J. Pollard) finds he has no appetite for farming. He runs away, taking up with local outlaw Goldie (Richard Evans), who operates a saloon in town with the help of a prostitute named Berle (Lee Purcell). The three form a gang of sorts, menacing the locals until the townsfolk collectively decide to drive the outlaws away. Bonney escapes and begins the life of crime that makes him famous as Billy the Kid.

Michael J. Pollard depends on his particular mannerisms for effect. He rolls his eyes, looks off into space, breaks his sentences, engages in long pauses. Billy falls in the mud as soon as he steps off the train and he never really stops falling.

He’s presented as a smart-alecky, lazy teenager. He was a bum in New York, is still a bum out West and if he doesn’t know what he wants he sure knows what he doesn’t want and that’s work of any kind.

grimy WesternHe also isn’t very tough, just cheeky. He runs away from home and takes refuge in the shack that passes for the town saloon. There he is befriended by the local bad guy, Goldie and Goldie’s prostitute girl friend, Berle.

Dirty Little Billy is the ultimate grimy Spaghetti Western, so labored in presenting a veneer of soiled skin, filthy clothing and muddy terrain that the effect is finally superficial. Never have so many people been so unwashed for so long.

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