“Where life had no value, death, sometimes, had its price. That is why the bounty killers appeared.”
For a very long time, America loved classic Westerns. In 1964, an Italian director shook things up with A Fistful of Dollars, an amazing Western that actually got noticed in America. In 1965, director Sergio Leone (Once Upon a Time in the West, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) followed up on his smash hit with another amazing Western: For a Few Dollars More. Starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Gian Maria Volante (two of whom starred in the previous movie), this showed the world that Leone was more than a one-hit wonder and was one of the masters of this American genre. The first film of the trilogy, A Fistful of Dollars, had an excellent plot, and the third film in the trilogy, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, had superior atmosphere. For a Few Dollars More was right in-between. This sadly means it wasn’t quite as good at either of these things, making it something of a weak link in the trilogy. But the mixture of elements was excellent and this is, in many ways, the quintessential classic Western. It holds up very well today.
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“When a man with .45 meets a man with a rifle, you said, the man with a pistol’s a dead man. Let’s see if that’s true.”
By the 1960s, the Western was becoming a tired genre. In 1964, an Italian director, Sergio Leone (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West) set out to change the genre. And, to some degree, he did. A Fistful of Dollars was different than the classic Westerns: it was darker, grittier, and more morally gray. Revisionist Westerns had been produced in America, but this is the first time a European Western got America’s attention and went on to be a worldwide success. It spawned a whole sub-genre, the “spaghetti Western” (named for its Italian roots), and it showed that it really was time to evolve the Western genre. The plot is clever (although it basically rips off Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 film Yojimbo), the dialogue is as cool as any vintage movie ever was, and it introduced the world to Clint Eastwood as a leading man. There’s lots to love here.
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“You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig.”
I’ll admit, until recently, I had never watched a legitimate western movie—they just didn’t really appeal to me. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, directed by Sergio Leone (Once Upon a Time in the West, A Fistful of Dollars) and starring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef, changed my mind. It tells a great quintessential western story while turning many of the tired tropes, like the good guy in the white hat, on their heads. The story draws you in and the characters are fascinating. The tone is fun with just the right amount of camp. After watching this, I actually want to go and check out some more classic westerns, and that’s saying a lot.
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