West Buchanan – a blonde in Italy

West Buchanan in Battle of the Worlds
West Buchanan in Battle of the Worlds

During the mid to late 1970s, the Italian film industry was in a considerable state of crisis. Audiences were drying up as people deserted the cinemas for the comfort of television and, what’s more, international distribution opportunities were closing off alarmingly. All of which meant that – until the arrival of video at any rate – producers were less willing to invest decent sums of money into cinema; the only exception being for established industry heavyweights such as Fellini, the Taviani brothers and Bertolucci. There was still a will to make exploitation films, just not to finance them with any more than the miminum amount required to get the darned things made and releasable.

All of which is a rather circuitous way of introducing the Italian career of American actor West Buchanan. Born in October 1934, Buchanan made his first listed appearance late, at the age of 31 in the 1975 film C.I.A. Secret Story, directed by the arch provocateur Giuseppe Ferrara. Before this, however, he had already been active in Italian cinema for almost half a decade – much like many anonymous American adventurers – as a stuntman and extra, sometimes using the name Buck West. Finding out information about this period in his career is tricky as he was never credited, quite possibly for tax and / or quota reasons.

West Buchanan in War of the Robots
West Buchanan in War of the Robots

His part in C.I.A. Secret Story was largely insignificant, and although he played a named character in Edward Dmytryk’s big-budget spy film The Human Factor he was just one of a number of jobbing Americans buried deep in the credits (including a very young Danny Huston, who was only thirteen at the time). More fleeting appearances followed – in Pupi Avati’s Bordella, Dino Risi’s Telefoni bianchi – before he secured his first major role in Mino Guerrini’s comedy Vinella e Don Pezzotta, based on a successful radio play and starring Giorgio Bracardi. A religious parody, the third billed Buchanan played Padre Splendid, a modernizing priest sent to Italy from the States.

Next came his best known roles, internationally at least: three appearances in the series of cheapskate Star Wars rip offs directed by Alfonso Brescia. In War of the Planets he was again third billed, playing space captain John Richardson’s engineer and right hand man as he battles a giant, malevolent robot. It’s not a good film by any means, but with his stocky build and shocking blonde hair Buchanan made an impression. He was back for Battle of the Stars, although this time round only in a cameo role as a pilot and friend of space captain John Richardson, again battling a (different) giant, malevolent robot. Finally came another guest spot in War of the Robots, this time as an associate of space captain Antonio Sabato as he battles several malevolent if not particularly giant robots.

Around this time there were other films as well. He popped up in Lina Wertmuller’s A Night Full of Rain (78), ┬áPier Carpi’s gothic horror film Ring of Darkness, in which he played the husband of the protagonist Anne Heywood, Nino Manfredi’s Nudo di donna and the Giorgio Bontempi’s ambitious espionage thriller Spy Connection (83), which was made for TV but also released on video in a shorter theatrical version.

In the early eighties he moved back to America, where he starred in David Hess’s slasher movie To All a Goodnight (80) and well down the credits in Walter Hill’s epic western The Long Riders. A handful of small roles followed in low budget films before he made his bow in Rex Pickett’s obscure 1988 production From Hollywood to Deadwood.

Buchanan died aged 61 in 1995. If anybody knows anything more about his life and career, then please do get in touch!

About Matt Blake 857 Articles
The WildEye is a blog dedicated to the wild world of Italian cinema (and, ok, sometimes I digress into discussing films from other countries as well). Peplums, comedies, dramas, spaghetti westerns... they're all covered here.

9 Comments

  1. West Buchanan’s full name was John West Buchanan and he was born on October 16, 1934 in Greensboro, North Carolina, U.S.A. He died on November 22, 1995 in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S.A. He was married to Catherine Komis (19??-1995), Elizabeth Ashley Buchanan [196?- ], Dana Lovell Buchanan [1963- ]. He had two sons John West Buchanan, Jr. [1966- ] and Andrew Bradley Buchanan [1969- ].

  2. First wife was Lynn Holsclaw, mother of his four children, Elizabeth Ashley Buchanan, Dana Lovell Buchanan, John West Buchanan and Andrew Bradley Buchanan

  3. West Buchanan was my father. We were mostly estranged during his time in Italy making films, but he shared later how much it meant to him. Here was a tall, blonde haired, southern-accent seaking man starting his acting career in Italy! He loved the experience. He took me to Italy later and we had a great time as he caught up with his movie friends.

  4. I met West playing basketball in Venice CA. We had both arrived around the same time. I was living in Santa Monica and he was living in Venice close to the boardwalk border 1978. We had hardly known each other and he like to body surf. I’m not a surfer person. He went in and he was gone. Literally disappeared. I was standing on the beach for what seemed like forever wondering what to do. How do you report someone you don’t know. Practically in a panic when he suddenly came back dripping with water…He was tall and strong as well at basketball and he played clean and tough. Venice was not an easy court to play on. I wasn’t into the movie business at the time, but I remember him mentioning that he been in Fellini’s Satyricon. I actually had seen that movie. Fellini is one of the noted film makers in the history of film. No small chore in having the opportunity to work in his company.

    I was saddened by his passing at such an early age. In fact I was looking up names on IMDB and thought I might see what he had been doing. He was a lovely man. Very supportive and certainly very serious about his career. He drove a white MG. He was one of the most genuine people I have met. I am terribly sorry he is gone. He is still a very vital moment and memory in my life today. LA is a very large city. He was extremely kind and supportive. I am better off for having known him. To all of his children…Your father was a wonderful person.

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