The Good, The Bad & The Ugly,1966, Italy/Spain/West Germany
Director: Sergio Leone
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef & Eli Wallach
The have been a number of factors this week that to a repeat viewing of one of my all time favorite films, Sergio Leone's 'The Good, The Bad & The Ugly'. The obvious reason being that it is a bonafide masterpiece and worth dozens of viewings, but the others factors were that I hadn't actually hadn't seen it in quite a while, I have been playing around 12 hours of 'Red Dead Redemption' this week and that Cappie Chamberlain, who I believe to be one of the best critics on Letterboxd, watched this film for the first time the other day and gave it a terrific review. Today I thought I would revisit this classic.
The Final Chapter of the legendary 'Dollars Trilogy' sees The Man With No Name return and strike up a working relationship with a deceitful bandit named Tuco, The two travel cross country in order to retrieve $200,000 from an unmarked grave in a cemetery. But they must deal with each others mistrust, The Civil war and a ruthless gunslinger named Angel Eyes.
In this viewing, I watched the 178 minute version of the film, I believe I have seen all three versions now. This cut was the original version that played for its premiere back in 1966, Unfortunately the film was cut down to make it more acceptable for American audiences. Now I thought the film was perfect after seeing the 156 and 164 minute versions, but I can now say that this three hour version is the definitive way to watch 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly'. This is film at its most glorious, most grittiest, most violent and most spell binding. Watching this version on Blu-Ray may be the next best thing to seeing it in a cinema.
Sergio Leone has always been one of my favorite filmmakers, I believe he is the definitive filmmaker of the Western genre, and this is his greatest cinematic achievement, which is really saying something when the man has 'Once Upon a Time in the West' in his filmography. In every one of his Westerns, Leone is able to bring out the true spirit of the west and give the landscape a life of its own. Also in this film, Leone seem to criticize the Civil War and question its whole place in human history. By doing so Leone is able to give a deeper side to this film and make it stray from the average Spaghetti Western.
While it is indeed the Greatest Western I have ever seen, 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly may also be the greatest Adventure film I have ever seen, due to the fact that it genuinely feels like we have been on a journey. I dont believe there has been a film that given me a greater sense of transporting through locations like this one. In my opinion, some of the best films are the ones that invite a sense of audience participation and this film does it as good as any.
The films famous climax in the graveyard may be the greatest I have ever witnessed. I wont go into plot details but I will say that the 15 minutes or so may be some of the greatest ever put on film and is absolutely unforgettable. The Mexican Standoff is incredibly exciting.
The Cinematography by Tonino Delli Colli is absolutely mind blowing, it may the most pristine and beautiful photography of the west I have ever seen, I highly recommend seeing this film on Blu-Ray because it does Colli's work more justice than DVD ever could. One of the greatest elements of this film is the incredible score by Ennio Morricone, this has to be my favorite film score of all time, the famous main theme is incredible but my favorite piece of music from the film has to be 'The ecstasy of gold' which I think is amazing and plays an important part in my favorite scene of the film which is when Tuco first arrives at the grave yard and runs around looking for the Grave, The camera seamlessly follows Tuco around as 'The ecstasy of Gold' blares through. Incredible!
The cast of the film is absolutely fantastic. Clint Eastwood in his third portrayal of the iconic Man With No Name and gives a great performance and its easy to see why he is one of films greatest characters and most renowned characters. It was a very ballsy decision to cast Lee Van Cleef as the villain of this film, after hes portrayal of a heroic figure in the previous film 'For A Few Dollars More', but it pays off big time, as like always Van Cleef performs brilliantly and gives a truly scary performance as the determined villain, his facial expressions (or lack thereof) are truly horrifying. Possibly the best part of the cast is Eli Wallach who gives a damn near perfect performance as Tuco. While Eastwood and Van Cleef's characters fit the mold of hero and villain, Wallach's performance is an 'Ugly' mess of both, as he is a guy full of immorality and deceit but he seems to be dealt a bad hand in life and has just tried to make the best of it, A great performance which should have won the man an Oscar.
I apologize for this incoherent and one sided review, but films like 'The Good,The Bad and The Ugly' really dont deserve criticism because they are just so damn groundbreaking and perfect. A true cinematic spectacle and Leone's greatest creation.