Reviews of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
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Sergio Leone’s masterful example of film-making in its purest form, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly could arguably be called the greatest genre film of all time. There is something mystical, un-explainable about why this is, but nevertheless, I will try to convey some sort of rationality as to why this is certainly MY favourite genre film.
The first ten minutes or so are completely without dialogue. The characters move through entire scenes silently, to the point where their actions are almost abstracted. When they do finally speak, we learn of a plot involving some stolen confederate gold (the story takes place during the American Civil War), apparently buried in the grave of a soldier. A mysterious opportunist known as ‘Blondie’ (played by Clint Eastwood) knows the name on the grave, and a greedy and generally base outlaw, Tuco (Eli Wallach) knows which graveyard. As old acquaintances, they must temporarily bury the hatchet and work together to uncover the lost loot. On their trail is a man Tuco calls ‘Angel Eyes’ (Lee Van Cleef), a sadistic and self serving bounty hunter and army captain. Although the film is offcourse a spaghetti western, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’s sprawling scale and American Civil War context give it the feeling of a true epic.
Throughout the film, Tuco is confronted with ethical decisions. His choices seem to guide the story along. Tuco can be seen allegorically as an everyman, with ‘Blondie’ and ‘Angel Eyes’ as incarnations of his own good and bad instincts. In this context, the story is seemingly elevated to a timeless parable. Perhaps almost Biblical. Leone’s ‘Dollars Trilogy’, the trio of iconic westerns starring Clint Eastwood of which The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is the final part, brought the Italian style western into the mainstream and inspired a surge of similar movies, all shot in southern Spain, and usually with funding from Italian or German production companies. These would become known in America as “spaghetti westerns”. Spaghetti westerns, as apposed to the traditional kind, featured the violence and high drama of Italian opera, along with a knowing modernity, often influenced by the social and cultural climate of the 60’s. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is no exception to this rule, having a distinctly anti-war message at around the time America was gearing up to invade Vietnam. A movie that has yet to be surpassed in terms of visual and sonic aesthetics, and perhaps one of the greatest artifacts of the 20th century.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
English Title: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Original Title: Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo
Country: Italy, Spain
Genre: Western, Adventure
Director: Sergio Leone
Lee Van Cleef
Antonio Molino Rojo
Sergio Leone’s third piece of the Dollars Trilogy, years ago I watched A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964, 7/10), but FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965) is still sitting laid-back in my waiting to see list. I wish my jumpy sequence might not hinder the logical understanding of the film, although it is never a major concern of Mr. Leone and his team.
I cannot claim myself an ardent Western genre follower, also without any trickle of fetish towards neither guns or other weaponry, nor killing for fun, plus being an out-and-out urbanite, my natural response over the usual tonal settings of Western films is quite nonchalant (also the bleak milieu is not my preference to admire), what I need to fathom is whether it will evince any on-screen dynamite to maintain a buoyant vibe through its storytelling and action. THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, without any doubt, has done a crack job here, the lengthy narrative never cease to fall into tepid, three leading characters are richly depicted with accumulated details and minor plots, Eli Wallach’s the ugly, who receives the most amount of screen time and rendered as a complete hypocrisy and opportunist, is the arch-protagonist, Eastwood and Van Cleef’s roles are less colorful but more pragmatic to be idolised in the hero and anti-hero cinema realm.
One cannot evade Morricone’s masterly work (not only in Leone’s filmography), but here, his knack of enhancing the whole film’s temperament has been comprehensively facilitated, the hyena-mimicking theme tune for me is something worth persisting for my entire life. The very much discussed and highly appreciated Mexican standoff could be regarded as the pinnacle of the wholesome western films, Leone’s obsession with relentless close-ups is another trademark of its own kind.
Leone’s film career is an underachieved one, and most of his fame has been accruing after his untimely decease in 1989 at the age of 60, with only 7 feature films under his rein (another one I have watched is his swan song ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, 1984, 8/10), if only he could live a bit longer, his feat would easily stride outside his comfort zone and evolve himself and his work with the time, like what Martin Scorsese has attained.
What should I whine about the film? I really cannot say it explicitly, the only thing impedes me from rating it higher is the innate trait of the grumpy and grubby world, which seems to me like a pit on earth.
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.
During the 1960s, Hollywood had grown largely tired of Western, which was increasingly viewed as a stodgy and hokey relic of another era. Sergio Leone thought it differently. He sensed that the genre was ripe for reinvention, and the enduring influence of his spaghetti westerns demonstrates that he’s right. Leone had also directed the first and the second of this man with no name trilogy; which are, A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, now, the third part, is what really confirmed Leone’s reputation in cinematic legend. And yes, it’s the best of the three, even though I gave 5 stars to the other two. Leone isn’t terribly interested in plot. The movie embraces purely cinematic elements of filmmaking. He carefully composes each widescreen image like he’s painting a great landscape, frequently indulging himself in extreme close up shots, and sometimes a little more than a character’s eyes. He also propels the story forward with radical editing techniques, often cut to the rhythms of Ennio Morricone’s score, pairing odd instrumentation and electric guitars to more traditional orchestration. The style drips from each frame like the sweat pouring down his stars’ faces. Finally, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, literally comes down to the faces of Eastwood, Wallach, and Van Cleef, as the mutual antagonists perform a three-way duel in an old graveyard. The scene has since become of the most imitated and parodied in the history of cinema. The score intensifies with quickening film cuts from face to face, capturing each set of squinting eyes, each hand reaching for a gun. Truly one of the best western trilogies of all time, and of the best movies of all time.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Sergio Leone’s Man with No Name trilogy was the fruition both of the dying myth of the Old West and the Italian’s recognition of the demise of a myth that America had clung onto too firmly. In his Gunfighter Nation, author Richard Slotkin describes the phenomenon as the scrutinizing of the public myth of white domination in the frontier. This is a fancy way of saying that Leone, who cornered the spaghetti Western wave, sought to tell the truth about the forming of America. In his day many were jarred by his cleansing of a dearly held fantasy. Today, the violence in his films seems less gratuitous but an honest depiction of the results of war.
The Vietnam conflict was also intruding on filmmakers’ consciousness and the responsive violence in movies was become increasingly graphic. Graphic as it was, the violence in Leone’s films was brief. He created suspense, instead, in the build-up to brutality.
This controlled rage is present in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the final chapter in Leone’s trilogy but released in America at the same time as its predecessors. That it is the best of the trio says nothing of the shock the film caused upon release in the States and the trendy revisionism it launched. Perhaps the clearest testaments to the film’s legacy are the countless imitations and even parodies of Ennio Morricone’s haunting score. The John Ford and John Wayne Westerns remain the most iconic, but The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the most influential. Then again, in his own way, Sergio Leone was heavily influenced by Ford.
Conceptually, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a traditionally mythic tale about three men’s quest to find buried Confederate gold in a dangerous wasteland, here referred to as Sad Hill Cemetery. Think Treasure of the Sierra Madre combined with the writings of Frank Dobie. But from the start the film promises to hide none of history’s ugly truths. Filming in Spain, Leone captured not the stoic Monument Valley but a rundown dirty West.
The three central figures are not just anti-heroes but pure sociopaths, even “The Good” is a sinister snake and his classification is relative. Arguably Clint Eastwood’s most iconic role (certainly the one offering him the best entrance), Blondie is the mysterious stranger from his previous collaborations with Leone before he focused on collecting bounties for a living.
Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef), earns the title of “The Bad” right from the start, seen standing in a doorway in a scary deep focus shot clearly influenced by the work of John Ford. What’s amazing is not only how much fear Leone creates from this single image but how much he tells us about the character. Angel Eyes is the inverse of Frank from Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West and is also a hired gunslinger working for a pathetic old man. Ironically, Angel Eyes is the most obscure of the three. What are his true morals? He is not above killing for money, but what is he like outside of his job? Only his modus operandi gives any indication and only makes him all the more chilling a person. He makes his victims feel comfortable before attacking.
It’s Eli Wallach’s Tuco, “The Ugly” that surprises us. He is not just a bumbling bandit, but a skilled marksman. He is label as “ugly” refers more to his reprehensible tendencies than the physical. As shady ad Blondie and Angel Eyes are, they have a certain code (Angel Eyes even appears dignified walking through a town devastated by cannon fire). But Tuco is a weasel of the dirtiest kind. He will switch alliances and signs according to the tides of fortune and is not above taking barbaric revenges.
Despite the title, each one of the three fortune hunters is bad to an extent but only Blondie has any goodness to speak of. The three are engaged in a continuous game against each other, each one thinking they are a step ahead.
Conniving power games delighted Leone and so did biblical allusions. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly makes the same reference as Once Upon a Time in the West to the story of Judas, but redemption and salvation are bigger motifs. Blondie is Tuco’s inconsistent guardian angel (although his interest is motivated by reward money) and when Tuco turns on him, Blondie is himself “rescued” by a horse cart. But the cart brings a grisly surprise; all of its passengers have been slain in a robbery.
A religious institution, a Jesuit chapel, represents the film’s sole place of pure goodness. In there, wounded men are cared for regardless of the army they are fighting for. Leone always had a glimmer of hope in his operas of violence. In A Fistful of Dollars it was personified by the hospitable innkeeper, here it is the Jesuit chapel, and in Once Upon a Time in the West it was Jill. Even Tuco finds a temporary redemption here when he encounters his brother Pablo, now a priest, who lectures him about he error of his ways. It’s a sadder scene than one would expect, drawing from the story of Cain and Abel. One brother followed a righteous path while the other brother became a bandit.
The Good, the Bad and Ugly is part comedy, part suspense, and part legend and there are some hilarious moments such as Blondie and Tuco’s mix-up with Union soldiers. The overall tone, however, is darker than that of Leone’s other works, occasionally creating a soundtrack dissonance. Like Tarantino and Scorsese, Leone had a keen sense of how to employ music.
The Civil War is the psychological backdrop of many Westerns and many soldiers did indeed migrate West after the war to restart their lives. However, the battle scenes in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly are parables to Vietnam. Like Little Big Man and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the film annihilates the glory of combat. For one, the soldiers aren’t noble and their depiction in the film is a reaction to how America lost its morals in Vietnam. Of course, Tuco and Blondie are not exactly the rebellious heroes of the anti-establishment, taking a stretcher from a wounded soldier to carry explosives to bomb a bridge in Bridge on the River Kwai fashion.
Both the bridge bombing scene and the unforgettable stand-off at Sad Hill Cemetery are classic examples of Leone’s building up to a violent ritual. Some of the best moments in Leone’s career are featured in the climactic cemetery scene, shot as if the men were in an arena. It is a scene of primal suspense and even beauty, before it fizzles to a bloody conclusion. Leone ends his trilogy in his best manner.
The genre defining Western that has it all. Superb visual style from Sergio Leone. You get wide shots that paint the character of the landscape, then you get the famous close shots of the faces and details. The casting is brilliant, its all about the look. Everyone in the movie has something memorable about them. Add to this Eli Wallach’s great humourous character but most of all Clint Eastwood’s ultra cool anti-hero, “The Man With No Name”, or “Blondie” as Tucho refers to him. Clint really knew how to deliver this – say little or nothing but when you have something to say, really say something. Also I can’t not mention Ennio Morricone’s fantastic score, especially the opening title which is echoed by the crying wolf in the first scene. Great.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
I have to admit that westerns didn’t really appeal to me when I first started getting into films. I watched a few of John Ford’s classics such as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Sturges’s remake The Magnificent Seven. While I did like the films, they didn’t make me love the western genre. After my father recommended that I should watch some Spaghetti Westerns, a quizzical look appeared on my face and I had to ask, “What the hell is a Spaghetti Western?” Sure, you can simply sum up saying that Spaghetti Westerns are westerns that are produced and directed by Italians, but the sub-genre seems to have much more to it than that going for it. After debate over which film to start with: A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, or this one, I decided to go with this because the title was the most appealing of the three. When the intro credits started, I was immediately pulled by it. The famous opening song by the Ennio Morricone has become synonymous with westerns and is one of the all time greatest film themes. The introduction of each of the three main characters is one that I have always found unique and amazing. When Eli Wallach crashes through a window with an “ugly” look on his face and a big poultry leg in hand as the words “The Ugly” appear on screen, it really sets the tone for his character. Lee Van Cleef, who has just an amazing screen presence in his films, gives probably my favorite introduction of the three. When the scene opened up, I immediately recognized the song used in this scene from Kill Bill Vol. 2, as I would also see this scene being greatly referenced in the introduction to Inglourious Basterds, among the many other homages paid to Leone’s films by Taratino. Leone masterfully created this scene, as there is no dialogue for the first few minutes of it, just letting Lee Van Cleef’s menacing screen presence do all the talking. Then there is the “Good.” Clint Eastwood, who is one of the quintessential western stars, makes it known with his character’s introduction. “Couple of steps back,” he says as he lights his cigar only to gun down the three men claiming the bounty on Tuco, Wallach’s character. From there, started my obsession with wanting to get into duels old western style. Though we have three main obviously-pointed-out-in-the-title characters, there are two other characters to this film. One of them is the camera work. A vast amount of deserted sand filled landscapes doesn’t sound all to appealing to one’s eyes, but Leone magnificently films this dusty deserted European landscape in such a beautiful way. The extreme close-ups of the characters that fill the screen are intense; it just goes to show that Leone knew how to use his camera. The other character in this film is Mr. Morricone’s brilliant score. From the opening credits to the final duel song, “Il Triello,” I was simply blown away by Ennio Morricone’s music in this film, and it doesn’t stop there, he has scored all of Leone’s westerns, and they are all just as good. This film made me love Morricone’s music and he is my all time favorite film composer; sorry John Williams, sorry Bernard Herrmann, Ennio Morricone is the world’s greatest film scorer. I could simply talk about this film for days and watch it over and over again and never get tired of it. The impact this film has left on me is can obviously be seen, but it also gave me appreciation for the western genre in a whole, not just spaghetti westerns. I have come to love John Ford’s Tour de Force The Searchers, as well as the gritty fantastic westerns of Sam Peckinpah; still, though, no film has quite impacted me the way The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly has.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
“You see,in this world there are two kinds of people,my friend:Those with loaded guns,and those who dig.You dig.”
Leone’s classic western is the last(and possibly the best)instalment in his so called “Dollars Trilogy”,featuring also “A Fistfull of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More”.The film takes place during the American Civil War,when the three cahracters,Blondie/the Good(Clint Eastwood),Angel Eyes/the Bad(Lee Van Cleef) and Tuco/the Bad(Elli Wallach),mixed up in a suspenseful and adventurous treasure chest,a treasure of 200000 dollars buried in a cemetary.The film starts with a seperate introduction scene for each of the 3 main characters,and goes on for nearly 3 hours,with one memorable,extravagant scene after the other,as the three characters double-cross each other ιn almost unbelievable coincedences,they even took part in the Civil War,but finally their ways end up in the cemetery,in a really grande finale,the unforgetable triple duel.In this amazing scene,Leone and Morricone,used all of their creative force,to make one of the most exciting,suspsenseful and,why not,best scenes in history of cinema.
One of the most interesting elements of the movie,is the way Leone plays with the cliches and the conventions of the Western genre,and how he,kind of,renovates Westerns with this film(and also with his later one,“Once Upon a Time in the West”,the best western ever,in my opinion).Leone was a great admirer of American westerns,and especially of John Ford.So the film paid tribute to traditional American western movies, but significantly departed from them in storyline, plot, characterization and mood. Leone gains credit for one great breakthrough in the western genre still followed today: in traditional western films, heroes and villains alike looked as if they had just stepped out of a fashion magazine, with clearly drawn moral opposites, even down to the hero wearing a white hat and the villain wearing a black hat. Leone’s characters were, in contrast, more ‘realistic’ and complex: usually ‘lone wolves’ in their behaviour; they rarely shaved, looked dirty, sweated profusely, and there was a strong suggestion of criminal behaviour. The characters were also morally ambiguous by appearing generously compassionate, or nakedly and brutally self-serving, as the situation demanded. Some critics have noted the irony of an Italian director who could not speak English, and had never even seen the American Old West, almost single-handedly redefining the typical vision of the American cowboy. (this great last part is from wikipedia.I thought it was so great,so I posted exactly as it was there).
Lee Van Cleef is great as Angel Eyes(the Bad),a mercilles bounty hunter,driven by greed,and willing to kill everybody,even his “partners”,to get the treasure.Lee Van Cleef manages to create a character that seems cruel in each and every one of his attributes:from his look,that mirrors his greed and obsession,to his tone of voice and his laughter.Maybe Angel Eyes is the only character of the film that is definetely one-sided.
Clint Eastwood as Blondie/The Man with no Name(the Good) is the defintion of cool.He has always a cigrette in his mouth and he rarely speaks.He prefers to shoot.Although he is typically “The Good”,he stays far-away from that characterization,as his motives are also the money and he doesn’t hesitate to betray his collaborators too.But he has a kind of strange moral code,and also some little bits of humanity(one of the most characteristic scenes for his personality,is when he gives a puff of his cigarette to an injured soldier).
And then we have Eli Wallach who delivers an amazing performance as Tuco(the Bad).Tuco is the best-developed character of the movie,and also the most complex and the most human.He’s the only character that we learn something about his past and why he became a criminal,when he meets his brother in the monastery.Tuco has the most varied personality out of the three.He is sly,fool,funny and clever at the same time.He is the one that colours the movie with funny scenes and humour.And,undoubtly,Eli Wallach gives the strongest performance of the three.From his looks,to her gestures,showing a great comic talent,he creates an unforgetable character.(By the way,I have read that Leone concentrates on Tuco’s character,cause he is the one that is closest to himself as a personality.Leone and Wallach have become good friends,although they can hardly speak to each other,considering that Leone wasn’t speaking english and Wallach’s french was very bad).
But,the most important thing of this film,the one that makes it so special and gives it his classic status,is Leone’s masterful direction.Leone had a great eye for grand,larger than life images,and an operatic view,that gave an epic scale to his westerns(all these elements will be perfected in his next film “Once Upon a Time in the West”).In this film,Leone plays masterfully with what’s in the frame and what’s not.The view,both of the audience and the characters is limited by the sides of the frame,and so Leone has the chance to surprise us(the most characteristic scene being the sudden appearance of Angel Eyes in the cemetary).Leone is also using his trademark juxtaposition of lenghty long shots with extreme close-ups on faces and items.Generally,throughout the film,Leone shows us his huge technical abilities in many scenes(one of the most impressive is surely the one where Tuco is running round the cemetary),makes the film almost an exercise in style and virtuoso direction.But,the scene that surely reveals Leone’s talent in all of his majesty,is the final duel.The epic long shot of the cemetary,as the three characters are taking their places for the duel,gradually giving his place to continuous close-ups of each character,which evolves in a furious editng of extreme close-ups of the character’s eyes and weapons.Combined with Morricone’s magnificent music,this scene has such tense,that still makes my heart beat like crazy,although I have seen it countless times.
Of course,there couldn’t be a discussion about “The Good,the Bad and the Ugly”,without referring to the wonderful music of Ennio Morricone.The score of the fiIm is as,if not more,classic as the movie,and one of the most famous and easily recognizable in the history of motion pictures.In this film,music is one of the major elements of the film,not only a way to evoke the feelings of the viewer.Leone has once said that music is around 40% of a film,and surely Morricone’s music for his films fulfill his statement.Pieces like “Ecstasy of Gold”,the one during the last duel,that contributes almost equally with Leone’s direction to create the tense atmosphere,are among these that ranked Morricone as one of the great film composers ever.(One of my favorite music pieces ever).
To sum up,“The Good,the Bad and the Ugly” is,at least in my opinion,an excellent film,although surely not Leone’s best,as “Once Upon a Time in the West” and “Once Upon in America” are for sure better and more complete and mature films.And yes,some of the scenes are extremely over the top and the narrative is too obviously depend on coincidences sometimes.But all these things,that could be considered disadvantages,are the ones that makes it so unique and enjoyable.Of course it’s not realistic,it’s a fiction film that could only exist within the frames of the big screen.An over the top story,that is also over the top entertaining,that’s what this film really is.A film that I could never be bored to see.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
If I could think of one film that sums up everything I ask for when I see a movie, this would be it. Not only is it the greatest western ever made and Sergio Leone’s masterpiece, but I would say it is absolutely the greatest movie ever made. Most, if not all films have flaws in some way or another, whether it is small or large. In a lot of cases it is either the plot or the execution of the plot. Actors, directors, whatever the case may be. With a lot of Hitchcock’s work it is the incredibly fake backdrops and with Lynch it is the bizarre and alienating nature of his films. With The Good, The Bad, &The Ugly there are no flaws or room for disagreement. It is a movie that anyone and everyone can enjoy and appreciate. You don’t have to be a fan of westerns or even a big fan of movies for it to be enticing to you. Very few might argue that the plot isn’t all that complicated, but completely disagree. Does a film need to have an obvious baffling plot or series of unanswered questions to be thought provoking? Not at all. In fact, I don’t think that should be any film’s purpose. Any director should want to give its audience a message and Sergio Leone does that ten fold. He gives us an excellent examination of man and his most obvious flaws. On the surface, yes, it’s a movie about treasure and gunslingers. However, with a closer examination there is a lot more going on. You have the end of the civil war going on in the background and a great evaluation of the political state of the west and it’s utter apathy toward the situation. You also see the brutal forms of justice going on at the time and the rise of the capitalism we know today. Then we have three characters that really set the stage for an amazing ride. Tucco is dirty, despicably and greedy. He never has enough of anything and never learns a thing from his actions. Not even when he is left in the desert for dead does he re-examine his ways. For some reason though, he is an incredibly entertaining character to watch. In many ways I believe it is because we all pity Tucco because he is never going to win no matter how hard he tries. Next, there is Angel Eyes who is incredibly deserving of his title as: The Bad. He is evil in every sense of the word. He kills for money, has no sense of honor and spares no expense to cheat someone. Last, but not least in any way is The Man With No Name a.k.a Blondie. In no way is he the good guy, but he is the character that everyone can identify with, admire and even idolize. He is the gunslinger that you wish you could be and is what most western movies tried to produce, but never quite could. He is the birth of the Anti-Hero. Now when you look at the acting in this movie, you couldn’t ask for a better cast to be on screen. Eli Wallach is perfect for Tucco because he just completely embodies the greedy nature of him. You love to watch him continuously make a fool out of himself and fail time and time again. Now I don’t care what anyone says, but Lee Van Cleef is the most underappreciated actor of the genre. He is the face of the Spaghetti western to me. He has done so many great performances, starting with For A Few Dollars More. He has one of the greatest presences on screen, every time he appears on screen I get the chills. Again, last but not least we have Clint Eastwood. This is his one of his many amazing contributions to film. You can tell from the first moment he appears on screen how completely involved he is with becoming Blondie. To say this is his career best would be wrong because he’s done so many other great things with his talent. However, this performance is on par with anything he has done. He also happens to be one of the determining factors in why I love this movie so much. Here is someone who loves film, has a giant respect for his craft and storytelling in general. You can do nothing but stand back and be in awe of his presence. Sergio Leone is in every respect one of the most important directors in film history. He knows what he’s doing and know’s what his audience wants. He has one of the greatest respects for Hollywood and entertainment. In saying that, all of his movies are something to treasure. He always put 100% into everything he did. The Good, The Bad, &The Ugly takes some small elements and styles from other films, but it is Leone that makes this a perfect piece of cinema. He manipulates the camera and presents you into to this world that is completely believable and downright fantastical. It’s like watching a movie when you’re a kid. Everything disappears around you and you’re taken to another person’s imagination.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Sergio Leone’s masterpiece solidified Clint Eastwood as one of the iconic superstars in all of film, but his Men With No Name wouldn’t be so special if he didn’t have good villains to out-duel, and in Lee Van Cleef and the hilarious Eli Wallach, he had two of the best. And by the time the three take center stage in a cemetery bullring, all whipping circular montage, gigantic close-ups, and Ennio Morricone’s brilliant, one-of-a-kind score reaching an orgasmic crescendo of horns and whips, Leone has reached some kind of flamboyant madman auteurist plateau, and it’s a riot.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
I’ve made converts out of self-proclaimed sushi-haters by taking them to a place that serves good quality sushi not rolled together like a burrito using fish I wouldn’t feed my cat. “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” has similarly revised my notion of the spaghetti western — a genre I’ve thus far eschewed as a “guy thing”. My bias doesn’t make much sense in retrospect, because Tarantino (whom I like) is very much a student of Sergio Leone and his contemporaries. The dry, cheeky one-liners, the situational comedy, the engaging characterizations, and the cool machismo of QT’s world clearly owe a massive debt to the genre, if not directly to this film.
Opening with Ennio Morricone’s iconic tune, the film takes its time developing the characters, beginning with Eli Wallach’s (“The Ugly”) hilariously explosive introduction, moseying into Lee Van Cleef’s sinister turn as Angel Eyes (“The Bad”), then rounding out with Clint Eastwood’s trademark cool as Blondie (“The Good”). With a generous running time of nearly 3 hours, Leone has ample room to weave their stories, venturing beyond the usual confines of saloons and ranches to cross into the epic battlefields of the Civil War.
It goes without saying that the three leads are stellar. Wallach, especially, is a scene stealer as the greedy, self-serving Tuco, whose sole saving grace in many ways is his sense of humor. He and Eastwood have fantastic chemistry as two men with a dubious but oddly endearing friendship (despite the fact that they spend much of the film tormenting or double-crossing each other).
Interspersed between the bursts of action and comedic exchanges are a few moments of solemnity as the realities of war intrude upon the trio’s misadventures. Leone, a history buff, drew from his avid research and inserted scenes of authenticity and tragedy that paint the conflict as a senseless waste of life. Allegiance to either side mean nothing to the dead — a fact that even our mercenary heroes can fully appreciate.
This is a fun romp, predictable in its conclusion but utterly unpredictable in the journey that takes us there.
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY was one of those great moments in my cinematic journey. It was a rainy day at a friend’s house when I was in high school, he had a big screen TV and he pulled out the DVD for this film and suggested we watch it. From the rousing opening credits, to the wide shots of rich landscapes and the close-ups on crater-faced men, I was completely engrossed in this movie. In that 161 minutes I was introduced to spaghetti westerns, Clint Eastwood, and essentially Italian genre cinema as a whole (of course I was aware of Eastwood, but here he became something much more than that guy in IN THE LINE OF FIRE). This is one of the movies that served as a great doorway for me, opening many more and helping to further me along in my love of film.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
This film is a benchmark in the genre known as thee western. It is so goddamn bad ass that it is almost as if Chuck Norris poured out on screen. This is my favorite film of all-time, and one of the best films ever made. Sergio Leone is god’s gift tot the western, after watching this I felt sad knowing nothing could surpass this masterpiece in this genre. And a very under-rated war film, it is a very anti-war film, but god it’s good.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
The third of the Man With No Name trilogy, though Eastwood is called Blondie in this picture. This spaghetti western doesn’t have as much of a variety of international actors in the cast compared to A Fistful of Dollars. In fact, the movie is so focused on the good guy (Eastwood), the bad guy (Cleef), and the ugly guy (Wallach) that all the other actors are lucky to have more than two lines in one scene. There aren’t really any other major characters. And the three title characters are all Americans. The sparse dialog, the panoramas, the music, the suspense all make for an enjoyable movie experience. The DVD I have has the film extended to play like the original Italian premiere instead of with a half hour of footage cut out for the slimmer American run. I don’t know exactly what footage was put back in, but it all flowed very well. This story even includes the theme of the futility of war through showing all the lives lost in the American Civil War. Yet, it is still a shoot-em-up western where a good number of people die by the anti-heroes hand. Anyways, there are some epic battle scenes, but all the fighting just gets in the way of Eastwood, Wallach, and Cleef fighting amongst themselves to be the first one to find a buried treasure.
Eastwood has good chemistry with Wallach! They share most of the movie. I loved Eli Wallach’s character Tuco in this movie! He’s so funny, energetic, resourceful, dirty, and sympathetic (you care for him more because of a couple of the scenes that I’m guessing were added back in from Leone’s Italian cut).
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.