Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Cinema Monolith: 9/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: ***½ out of 4
Released in Italy on December 23, 1966 and in the US on December 29, 1967
Directed by Sergio Leone
Written by Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni, and Sergio Leone
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach, Aldo Giuffrè, Mario Brega, Luigi Pistilli, Al Mulock, John Bartha, Rada Rassimov, Enzo Petito, Aldo Sambrell, Claudio Scarchilli
By far the best from director Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Western trilogy featuring rising star Clint Eastwood, both of whom were fresh off their stints on the first two ‘Man with No Name’ entries, Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More. Here, the two are reunited for an epic story set during the American Civil War, centering on three gunslingers—Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach—intent on tracking down a Confederate strongbox loaded with gold coins; the trio cross and double-cross each other again and again as their paths repeatedly intersect throughout the story.
Speckled with action, humor, plot twists, and some incredibly staged deep-focus shots, this film had a great feel for the American West, and at times made you forget it was shot entirely in Italy and Spain. The widescreen imagery was stylish without being oppressive, and was enhanced by the sort of minor foreground and background touches that were so prevalent—and for me, appreciated—in Leone films.
Also a highlight were the interactions and dialogue between the three leads; Eastwood and Van Cleef were a treat to watch playing off each other, and were just plain cool, but Wallach’s perpetually pissed-off character offered some genuinely witty lines, which were delivered with such anger and exasperation, it made you wonder if they were actually scripted, or ad-libbed by the actor. And thankfully, their dialogue wasn’t dubbed; the resonance and quality of their own voices truly helped define their characters, and helped make them that much more memorable.
The movie had a running time of nearly three hours, yet amazingly, it never dragged or became tiresome, which was a credit to Leone’s mastery as a cinematic director, the compelling photography of prolific Italian cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli, and the charisma of the three leads, who were engaging, memorable, and completely bad-ass. For my money, the best and most entertaining—along with Where Eagles Dare—of Eastwood’s films of the 1960s. (9/10)
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