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.