By Marc S. Sanders

Sergio Leone closes out his Dollars trilogy with the epic The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly, respectfully portrayed by screen legend Clint Eastwood, tough as nails Lee Van Cleef and one of the great scene stealers, Eli Wallach.

It’s clear from the start that Leone had at least triple the budget he had when he made A Fistful Of Dollars. This installment offers broad landscapes, gutted out old west towns, locomotives, and an infinite amount of extras to capture an extraordinary Civil War battle over a bridge.

For the three main characters, the Macguffin is $200,000 buried in a grave, yet each one knows a different piece of information relative to its location.

Eastwood’s quiet temperament takes a back seat to Wallach’s boorish ugly bandit and the film stays on a fast pace trajectory because of it. Wallach is given great moments whether he’s hanging by a noose or taking a bath (“If you’re gonna shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.”) It is one of the all time great roles.

While Van Cleef was a huge attraction in a For A Few Dollars More, he surprisingly isn’t given much material here. That’s okay though. He makes the most of what he’s given and again he plays the man in black as cold and calculating. I’d like to uncover more films with Van Cleef. Such an interesting guy with as great a voice as say James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman. Fortunately for him the Dollars films revived his career following a bout with alcoholism.

Eastwood just does his thing, and it’s great entertainment to see him in a standoff followed by a twirl of his pistol back in his holster. He just has such a presence. The legend he’s become was truly recognized with The Man With No Name.

Leone recruits Ennio Morricone to compose what has become one of the most recognized scores in film history. The whistle harmonica that pursues the three players is as familiar as Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme or John Williams Jaws opening. Morricone is fortunately still working and he is partnering up with Quentin Tarantino again (first time with The Hateful Eight) on his upcoming film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. It makes sense really. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly is one Tarantino’s favorite films.

Leone made a gorgeous looking film. It’s any wonder that his resume consists of only 9 films altogether.

Sergio Leone was an inspiring master filmmaker and it’s easy to recognize elements of his films that appear to have inspired some of the greatest box office hits of present day. Funny, but whenever I see Eastwood blow an outlaw away with no questions asked, what comes to mind is Han Solo taking out Greedo in an off the map, lawless cantina. Those that know me, know what a high compliment that is for Leone’s efforts.


By Marc S. Sanders

The bloody landscape of the Wild West continued in Sergio Leone’s second chapter of his Dollars trilogy. For A Few Dollars More improves upon the first installment, A Fistful Of Dollars. The plot is cleaner and joining Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name is a very cool fellow bounty hunter dressed in black. Lee Van Cleef plays Colonel Mortimer, a former soldier armed with an array of weapons.

Mortimer and the Man form an uneasy alliance in order to track down the vicious Indio and his gang. The prize $10,000 for just Indio; a whole lot more for the entire gang.

Leone reminds audiences of the techniques he used in the first film. Yet he makes the tension grander with cut away close ups at his gunslingers’ eyes before a quick draw. A great middle moment occurs with a bank robbery. Leone strategically uses sharp edits on Eastwood, Van Cleef, Indio’s gang, the exteriors of the bank and the precious vault inside. Accompanied with Ennio Morricone’s whistler ballads, Leone continues his back and forth close ups of all involved in the scene only he speeds up the edits to build more tension and suspense. Finally, the scene is blown wide open with a moment I never expected. Great fun.

Eastwood does not invent anything new here. His costume is even the same as before. That’s the legendary image and that’s fine by me. Van Cleef is especially good. A real scene stealer with his crackling voice that tells of a past where his Mortimer character protected his boundaries by being the sharpshooter that he is.

Watching this for the first time only tells me that action films today work too hard throwing everything at you. Films today often don’t give enough about the character or the heroes. You don’t see what makes them tick. You don’t see a raw talent to the character. In this film, it is quick draw gunslinging. Look for a great scene where The Man and Mortimer meet for the first time in a quick draw duel of wits at night in the center of town. When you see how good they are with a six shooter, you believe it all.

Today, a hero’s talent is inherited by something gone awry normally. Leone leaves the mystery open as to how guys like Mortimer and The Man With No Name acquired their abilities. Why waste time on character background? Let’s just see what these cowboys can do.


By Marc S. Sanders

Sergio Leone’s A Fistful Of Dollars is a pioneering classic. It set the standard for the spaghetti western. It made Clint Eastwood a household name and it set a trend for tension filled violence in cinema often imitated by directors like Robert Rodriguez (Desperado) and Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill, Django Unchained), as well as even Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry, High Plains Drifter, Unforgiven, Magnum Force) who regarded Leone as well as director Don Siegel as his inspirations and teachers in filmmaking.

The set up is simple. A desolate town plagued by two warring factions is met by the antihero, only known as The Man With No Name (Eastwood). The Man plays the best interests of the Mexican Rojas family against the Baxter family. In the midst of it all, he continues to collect bounties from both sides.

Leone seems to have invented trademark shots that have become routine staples in films like the protagonist appearing from behind a cloud of smoke, the zoom in camera during a quick draw duel, the surprise survival against the odds, and even the memorable one liner (“Get three coffins ready”…”My mistake. Four.”).

It’s exciting entertainment and it paved the way for a different kind of western. The good guy no longer rides a horse named Trigger while dressed in white. Here he welcomes the violence because he knows he’s the only who can eliminate the threat of bloodshed.

Eastwood’s character is a man of few words to keep the viewer curious. Where does he come from? Who is he? How long has he been traveling? It’s one of the all time great movie characters that leads threads hanging and inspired future favorites like Dirty Harry, Rambo, Wolverine, Neil McCauley (Michael Mann’s Heat played by Robert DeNiro), Batman and even Boba Fett, as well as some early Han Solo.

The first of the trailblazing Dollars trilogy still holds up despite the dubbed in English of most of the players. They might be hard to understand at times. Yet the craftsmanship of Sergio Leone makes sure all the elements are easy to follow with seamless control of the camera.

A great Western.