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Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (DVD)
Member Name: wampyrii
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (DVD)
Date: 19/09/02, updated on 19/09/02 (154 review reads)
Advantages: Everything, it's excellent
Disadvantages: Eastwood's last film with Leone :o(
Released in 1966, Leone?s movie was certainly not afraid to court controversy and revelled in a dark nihilism which led to it being slammed by many contemporary critics. Critics eh? Sigh. Or at least we?ll sigh and then smirk at those critics across the pond because Leone?s movie rips quite horribly into certain aspects of American history, makes a mockery of the conceptions of good and evil and by filming in Spain was quite happy to jump into bed with a certain General Franco which it seems few of them were too happy about but gives a delicious opportunity for the rest of us to smirk at their discomfort...
The story they had so much difficulty with is set against the backdrop of the US Civil War and has three renegades - Blondie(The Good - Clint Eastwood), Angel Eyes(The Bad - Lee Van Cleef) and Tuco(The Ugly - Eli Wallach) - seeking out buried gold. Tuco and Blondie are first introduced to us as being in a twisted partnership where Blondie hands over wanted criminal Tuco to the authorities and then rescues him from hanging shortly afterwards, both then splitting the ever increasing reward money between themselves before trying the same stunt in the next town. These two have a love-hate relationship however and when the stakes rise with the tales of buried gold being delivered to them by a dying soldier the partnership disolves and its every man for himself.
Professional killer Angel Eyes also hears of the gold however and is willing to kill to get it. The paths of these three cross constantly as the Civil war rages around them in what is, at it?s simplest, just a plain treasure hunt with little more to speak of in terms of straight plot. Leone?s sprawling vision does however take three hours to get to it?s conclusion which offers more than enough time for countless twists and turns in the plot, some striking visual imagery and for Leone to develop the strong anti-war subtext which put so many US noses out of joint. It also gives us three hours of fantastic entertainment.
Leone makes these three characters so morally reprehensible that it?s a little difficult to work out just who is meant to be ?good, bad or ugly? here which incidentally is a problem which befell the US trailer as it mixed up Van Cleef and Wallach as the Ugly and the Bad respectively! All are so deliciously morally corrupt that there are no heros in this view of the old West which was so often glamourised in the past but you?ll be strangely drawn to their socially detached greed nonetheless. It's not the old West which is the subject of most of Leone?s biting criticism though, but rather the Civil war which rages around the three socially detached treasure hunters. Leone rips into the futility of this war and by doing so passes heavy comment on the Vietnam conflict which was in full swing at the time. Every comment he passes on the Civil War, which saw more people killed in a single day than the whole Vietnam conflict, reflects bitingly upon events of the day, so it's little wonder that some critics were miffed!
Leone takes great pains for example to present the Union victors as no better, if not in fact, much worse than the losers. In one scene Tuco salutes a marching column of Confedorate soldiers only to have their commanding officers ride forwards and beat the dust off his uniform with his gloves to reveal them as Yankees n
eatly illustrating how he feels there is little to choose between either side. Later he bases a viscious Union prison camp here where Tuco and Blondie are tortured while a band plays upon the Georgian Andersonville camp which was run by the Confedorates and was apparently the scene of all kinds of inhumane barbarism including torture and even cannibalism. By making this a Union run camp and by drawing some very obvious parallels with Nazi concentration camps he once again slams the victor?s view of history. Later again, Tuco and Blondie discover a huge and bloody battlefield where both sides risk and lose countless live to take or defend a bridge over a river which is less than 4ft deep. If ever there was a symbol of just how pointless this or any other war is, then this is it and scenes with double and triple meanings continue throughout as if to point out that America should have learned something from it's brief history and has in fact learnt nothing. Have any of us? It would appear not...
The acting here is exemplary, all three main characters performing out of their skins, or perhaps all are just brilliantly cast. Lee Van Cleef redefines the word ?Bad? as just outright evil and Eastwood was of course born to play this kind of role. Incidentally it would be the last time he would work in front of Leone?s cameras after they fell out, rather fittingly considering the character played here I think, over money shortly after this movie was completed. Wallach however is the star of the show, out-performing Eastwood as he had apparently feared he would do but in many ways lucky to have escaped the set of the movie alive! One scene in which a train is used to cut off his handcuffs almost lead to him being dragged headfirst onto the tracks and in another foul up someone very cleverly left acid in a water bottle which he almost downed! Wallach may have a totally reprehensible character to play, but he injects so much humanity, no matter how twisted, into the
part to be almost lovable with his greed and stupidity so often leading him into the worst possible situations. Eastwood?s character is the only one who really offers any shred of decency however and he too injects a kind of dry, but cruel humour into things. Some would argue also that it?s a role he reprised for The Unforgiven in the 90s, it?s certainly a character which has defined his career and one he is perhaps still the most associated with many years and many movies later.
Superb acting, fascinating subtexts or otherwise however, it is Leone?s skill as a director which makes this movie fascinating for it?s entire 3 hour running length despite it?s otherwise rather thin plot. Half the power of Leone?s movies comes from the slowly paced, confident build up of his story and the way in which he utilises those moment when no one says anything to deliver some striking and beautiful wide angled shots and panoramas of the land in which all this chaos is unfolding or extreme zooms, disjoint camera angles and snappy editing to convey more emotion and tension than any actor could possibly manage on their own - the graveyard ending is an absolute visual treat. Couple this with Ennio Morricone?s soundtrack and it?s stunningly effective. And what a sountrack! Even if you haven?t managed to catch this movie you?ll have had to have been living in a cave to escape it. An old schoolfriend of Leone, Morricone?s soundtracks are generally quite awesome but arguably aside from that found on Once Upon A Time In The West this is the finest. Attempting to recreate the cry of a coyote apparently it is easily one of the most recognisable riffs and even made it to Number one in the UK singles charts when Hugh Montenegro covered it some time later.
I think I?ve blathered on enough anyway. It?s a superb movie and one which shows little sign of ageing at all even though it?s now over 35 years old now. It?s a rather dark vision of the old West and takes a fair few viscious
stabs at history and the events of the time, whilst also managing to remain consistently funny and hugely entertaining throughout. 3 hours is often a chore to sit through with some movies, but certainly not this one which is a fitting end to an excellent trilogy of movies and one which deserves a place in anyone?s video/DVD collection.