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THE BEST SPAGHETTI IN TOWN
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (DVD)
Member Name: Mauri
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (DVD)
Date: 16/10/03, updated on 16/10/03 (155 review reads)
Advantages: Visuals , Music, Action
Disadvantages: Not suitable for the young
This is the third and the best of the Sergio Leone's 'Dollar' trilogy, and possibly the best of the 'spaghetti western' genre. The previous films, 'A Fistful of Dollars' (1964) and 'For A Few Dollars More' (1965) were groundbreaking as part of the spaghetti western genre that reacted against the traditional Hollywood representation of the west and led to a regeneration in the western until the late 70's. Originally these movies were low-budget westerns filmed in Europe featuring mainly European actors. The Spaghetti westerns often adopted a very theatrical even operatic style and contained graphic violence leading to criticism that they were simply a cheap tawdry imitation of the classic western film genre.
The history and development of Spaghetti westerns is a fascinating subject and if you are interested in a slightly more in depth study of it do include more information in my previous reviews on 'A Fistful of Dollars' and 'For A Few Dollars More' .
By the time 'The Good the Bad and the Ugly' was made Leone had achieved worldwide success and he could afford to increase his budget for filmmaking.
This film deals with three men hunting for a dead man's gold, a simple treasure hunt set against a western backdrop.
Blondie (the Good) and Tuco (the Ugly) have a nice racket going. Tuco is a wanted criminal and Blondie will hand him over to the Law for a reward, except that just before Tuco is hanged Blondie helps him to escape so that they can collect the reward in another place. Eventually after an argument Blondie abandons Tuco in the middle of the desert and Tuco swears to get revenge. He soon gets the opportunity and after capturing Blondie he leads trough the desert denying him water and watching him slowly die. Fortuitously for Blondie they come across an ambushed carriage with only one dying survivor before passing out the dying man tell Blon
die the location of a hidden treasure of gold. Now Tuco has to keep Blondie alive and resume their partnership in order to get to the treasure. On their travels they end up being captured as confederate prisoners where they meat Angel Eyes (the Bad) who finds out about the treasure and so begins a desperate race for gold.
CAST, PERFORMANCES AND OPINION
Clint Eastwood .... Blondie, The Man With No Name (The Good)
Lee Van Cleef .... Angel Eyes, aka Senteza (The Ugly)
Eli Wallach .... Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez (The Bad)
Aldo Giuffrè .... Alcoholic Union captain
Luigi Pistilli .... Father Pablo Ramirez
Rada Rassimov .... Maria
Directed by Sergio Leone
Writers Luciano Vincenzoni and Sergio Leone
The themes in the 'Dollar' trilogy of films, especially in 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' (GBU), are not those encountered in the classic American westerns. We don't have the lone hero upholding law and order against the marauding Indians/ outlaw gangs, nor do we find settlers struggling to conquer the wild frontier. In GBU as in the previous Leone westerns greed rules the day. The West is shown as a violent lawless place, those who are meant to uphold the law are always corrupt.
In GBU Leone as the scope to explore other issues close to his heart. The title GBU asks us to question the nature of good and bad, certainly all the characters have aspects of both. Leone also uses one of the most important events in the western history, the American civil war, to make a very powerful anti-war statement. He also questions the idea that the northern states were fighting a righteous war against the slave owning south. Leone says that there were no good guys and bad guys they were all as bad as each other. He makes this point visually in the scene showing northern cavalry troops, covered in dust, and mistaken for the confederates by Tuco and Blondie. Later when they a pu
t into the priso
n camp we see confederate prisoners being forced to play instruments a direct reference to the Jewish prisoner orchestras in the Nazi death camps.
In more general terms to coincide with an increasing anti Vietnam War feeling that existed in the late 60's the movie starkly portrays the effects of war with many uncompromising scenes of tragic violence in the name of a deeply believed cause.
Despite this overall moral dimension to the film, we find very little morality in the characters. Once again Clint Eastwood is cast as 'the man with no name' by now an iconic sixties figure. He does not conform to the traditional western hero his lack of moral perspective is visible throughout and in the final analysis he is not very much better than any of the other characters in the film although Leone does allow him a certain of introspection when he comes face to face with the horrors of the civil war. Eastwood by now had grown in the role and although the acting could at best be described as minimalist it perfectly suits the tone and atmosphere of the film where men allowed their guns to do the talking for them. The musical score of Ennio Morricone a long-standing friend and contributor to Leone's films superbly compensate for the relative lack of dialogue. Once again Morricone manages to produce a soundtrack that was unique, blending traditional western musical motifs with some more innovative and almost surreal sound effect including choral accompaniment. The theme itself has become a classic.
Technically Leone once again proved what a great innovator he was. The use of the panoramic wide-angle shots perfectly conjures up the expanse of the old west and at the same time the quick cutting and close up zoom shots give the film a very personal quality and add vibrancy to the action keeping the audience on its toes. On one level the films can be accurately described as very stylised views of the frontier west but L
eone also wanted to be realistic in his portrayal of the details of the story. An elevated budget when compared to his previous films allowed him to ensure that the scenery weapons and general props were accurate representations of the time.
Leone's excellence as an epic director really shines in many key scenes in the film; the prison camp, the battle scenes and of course the final three way shoot out with its swirling camerawork and musical crescendo all serve to illustrate his skill.
Of the other performance in the film only Tuco and Angel Eyes are of importance. Eli Wallach manages to inject a lot of humour into Tuco and although we know he is a murderer and thief we warm to him and by the end of the film he is established as the most sympathetic of the there main characters.
Lee van Cleef plays the role of the Sadistic Angel eyes to perfection his trademark reptilian looks and beady eye stare make you believe in the evil of his character once again the dialogue is of secondary importance, characterisation in these film a is more about lingering malevolent stare, grimaces and twisted lips usually foretelling a violent reaction. This reliance on body language and evocative music is one reason the films achieved such a worldwide success even in countries where they were badly dubbed or subtitled. Similar in many ways to the martial arts films that followed in the 70's.
The Good the Bad and the Ugly is a very important film and a true classic. It showed the world that the Spaghetti western had evolved from the innovative but still provincial niche of Leone's previous films into a truly grand, epic genre. Later films such as 'The Outlaw Josey Wales', 'The Quick and the Dead' and 'Unforgiven' all owe a massive debt to this Leone masterpiece and I don?t think it is to much to say that other classic of recent years such as The Wild Bunch, The Godfather or Bonnie And Clyde might not have been poss
ible without Leone's groundbreaking work.
'The Good the Bad and the Ugly' is available on DVD from Play.com for £11.99 (delivered) and on VHS from Amazon.co.uk for £7.19 (+ p&p).
Thank you for reading/rating this opinion.
© Mauri 2003