Newest Review: ... stash for each of themselves, pulling every trick in the book to make sure it happens that way. Still travelling together, Blondie an... more
'When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk!'
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (DVD)
Advantages: Beautifully made, good performances
Disadvantages: Actors speak their own languages, so lip synching poor
Westerns are very far from being the type of film that I enjoy. However, I like to challenge myself every now and again by watching something outside of my comfort zone. In addition, I was intrigued to find out a bit about the background to spaghetti westerns directed by Italian director Sergio Leone, of which this is one. So The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was filmed in Spain, by an Italian director with a cast of international actors and yet is supposedly based in the American Old West. On top of that. Sergio Leone's work was apparently influenced by Japanese director, Akira Kurosawa - certainly the first film in the Dollars trilogy was legally challanged by the Japanese director for being very similar to his own film, Yojimbo. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is the third film in the Dollars trilogy; the first being A Fistful of Dollars, the second, For a Few Dollars More. (Facts in this paragraph are taken from Wikipedia).
As Blondie, Angel Eyes and Tuco all pretty much share the top billing for this film, it is hard to claim that one is better than the others. However, I think Lee Van Cleef, who plays Angel Eyes, probably gives the best performance as far as I'm concerned - simply because everything about him just screams evil. The amazing thing is that he doesn't even speak all that much - most of his evil comes from his facial expressions - and of course, the fact that he has a tendency to shoot everyone he meets without a second thought. The only thing missing for me was a little more background to his character - but as the film is quite long enough as it is, it is perhaps just as well that the film wasn't dragged out any longer. Not being a fan of Westerns, I'm not really that familiar with Van Cleef's past roles, but I'm looking forward to seeing him in A Few Dollars More, the second in the trilogy.
Blondie is played by Clint Eastwood. Probably the only reason that Van Cleef stood out more than Eastwood for me is that I've seen the latter in roles like this time and time again, and, although it is an outstanding performance, it just didn't feel that fresh to me. Obviously, for people watching when the film first came out in 1966, this wouldn't have been the case (although Eastwood did appear in both A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More), but for me, he didn't exceed the high expectations I already have of his acting. Nevertheless, it was good to see him looking so much younger and marginally less craggy. And there was a gentle hint of humour in his performance, which Van Cleef didn't have, and was good to see - he didn't exactly crack a smile, but the humour was there all the same.
Eli Wallach plays Tuco in another performance that is just outstanding. Tuco, The Ugly, is not a very nice man. Howevever, whereas Angel Eyes is just plain nasty, Tuco is a bit of a clown and is a lot more likeable for it. He has some of the best lines in the film too - my favourite scene involving him is where he is in the bath and an enemy suddenly appears, gun in hand, ready to shoot him, taking the time to tell him so. Quick as a flash, Tuco pulls his own gun out of the bath, shoots the guy and says: "When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk!". There is no doubt that the man is untrustworthy; nevertheless, I found myself half hoping that he would last out until the end just because he is so cheeky.
Visually, this is a very attractive film. The set looks exactly as you would expect the Wild West to look, despite the fact that it is actually Spain, and Sergio Leone makes the most of the barren landscape with some sweeping shocks that are strangely beautiful - although living there must be a nightmare. What I liked most about the visuals though is Leone's emphasis on faces. The camera is forever zooming in on people's faces and lingering there - and not just the main characters - highlighting wrinkles, warts and all. The way that it is done almost gives a glimpse into the characters' souls and I found myself glued to the screen, even when the character in question was doing nothing but staring straight ahead.
There is a huge amount of violence in the film; in fact, there is little other than violence. The only women that appear in the film are on-screen for no more than a minute, so there isn't even any respite in a little bit of romance. People are shot, beaten around the head, hung and left to die in the noonday sun. However, the camera doesn't dwell on any of the dead and their injuries, so it isn't as graphic as it could have been. The only moment that made me cringe was Blondie's badly blistered and sun-burned face - this looked incredibly realistic and very very painful.
A lot of people talk about the final scenes in this film and how stunning they are. I'm not usually that impressed by hype, but I have to admit, they are amazing - not just because of what happens, but because of the way that it is filmed. I would never have thought of watching a Western as a thing of beauty, but actually, it really is a work of art. And there isn't much hope of trying to guess who, if anyone, is going to get away with the money - it is anyone's game until right at the end. Even then there is a twist in the tale that I didn't quite see coming.
There are a couple of things that had a slight impact on my enjoyment of the film. First of all, all the actors spoke in their own language and were dubbed, depending on where the film was shown - so for the English language version, the three main characters are speaking English, but many of their co-stars are speaking Italian or whatever. This means that much of their lip movements are out of synch. Even the main characters lips are slightly out of kilter. Thankfully, this isn't a dialogue-based film, so it didn't really matter all that much - plus, the main focus is on the three English speakers. The fact that the film is three hours long is another factor that needs to be considered. I watched it on DVD (although I bet it is fantastic on the big screen) and was able to stop for breaks every now and again - thank goodness.
I don't usually notice the music scores to films. However, it would be hard not to notice this one, just because the music is so very familiar. Composed by Ennio Morricone, I should think that there are very few people, and that includes the younger generation, who would not at least recognise the music. It is very distinctive, not just because of the tune, but because of the special effects that Morricone used to help make the music fit the actions - these include gunfire at one point, also whistling and vocal effects. I'm not sure I would want to own a copy of the soundtrack, but it certainly fits the film brilliantly.
My version of the DVD is the special edition, which comes with a whole disc full of special features. The majority of them are documentaries on the film, the director, the Civil War backdrop and the reconstruction of the film. All of them are really interesting. I particularly enjoyed hearing Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach's take on making the film; it is just a shame that Sergio Leone and Lee Van Cleef are long dead and cannot comment. I also enjoyed hearing from the man who was tasked with ensuring that the speech patterns were as well-synched as they could be. There are some features that focus on specific scenes in the film - these were really fillers for me, although I can understand that huge fans of the film would find them interesting. Then there are a couple of features on the music score by Morricone and his collaboration with Leone. Finally, there is a trailer and a photo gallery.
A word on the quality of the film. It is outstanding. One of the special features mentions the work that went into remastering the film - it is so good that it makes the film look as if it were made recently, never mind 1966. The colours are crisp and the shots are clear as anything. So don't let the date of the film put you off watching.
Overall, I was really impressed with this film. I don't think it has entirely convinced me that my new favourite genre is going to be Westerns, but I will certainly be less apprehensive about watching a Western in future. I already have the first two films in the Dollars trilogy to watch - I watched them out of order because I understand the stories are completely separate - and am looking forward to seeing them. Obviously, if you don't like violence, you won't enjoy this, but if you like to watch well-made films, you can't go wrong here - considering it was made in 1966, the film looks incredibly fresh. Just be prepared for a long film. Recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £4.99.
Running time: 2 hours 51 minutes
Thanks to BerliozII for persuading me to watch a spaghetti western.
Summary: A surprisingly beautiful film