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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

For three men the Civil War wasn't hell. It was practice.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
While the Civil War rages between the Union and the Confederacy, three men – a quiet loner, a ruthless hit man and a Mexican bandit – comb the American Southwest in search of a strongbox containing $200,000 in stolen gold.
Title The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Release Date 1966-12-23
Genres Western
Production Companies United Artists, Constantin Film, Produzioni Europee Associati (PEA), Arturo González Producciones Cinematográficas S.A.
Production Countries United States of America, Italy, Spain, Germany


John Chard
I'm looking for the owner of that horse. He's tall, blonde, he smokes a cigar, and he's a pig! It's debatable of course, since there are legions of fans of the first two films in Sergio Leone's Dollars Trology, but with each film there not only came a longer running time, but also a rise in quality - debatable of course! Here for the third and final part of the trilogy, Leone adds Eli Wallach to the established pairing of Lee Van Cleef and Clint Eastwood, and brings all his tools of the trade to the party. Plot is slight, the three principals are on a collision course to find some buried gold, with each man having varying degrees of scuzziness, so how will it pan out? Such is the genius of the narrative, it's a fascinating journey to undertake. The characterisations are ripe and considered, the various traits and peccadilloes beautifully enhanced, and with Leone being Leone, there's no shortage of cruelty and humour. He also brings his style, the close ups, long shots and some outstanding framing of characters in various situations. The story encompasses The Civil War, which pitches our leads into "The Battle of Branston Bridge", where here we get to see just how great Leone was at constructing full on battle sequences. It's exciting, thrilling and literally dynamite, whilst Aldo Giuffrè as Captain Clinton turns in some memorable support. The Euro locations pass muster as the Wild West, superbly photographed by Tonino Delli Colli, and then of course there is Ennio Morricone's musical compositions. It's a score that has become as iconic as Eastwood's Man With No Name, a part of pop culture for ever more. It mocks the characters at times, energises them at others, whilst always us the audience are aurally gripped. There's obviously some daft coincidences, this is after all pasta world, and the near three hour run time could be construed as indulgent. But here's the thing, those who love The Good, The Bad and the Ugly could quite easily stand for another hour of Leone's classic. I mean, more barbed dialogue, brutal violence and fun! Great, surely! From the sublime arcade game like opening credit sequences, to the legendary cemetery stand-off at the finale, this is a Western deserving of the high standing it is held. 9/10
Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is a classic Western film. Clint Eastwood is the Good, aka the Man with No Name, a taciturn wanderer who follows his own sense of justice. His opposite is Angel Eyes (Lee van Cleef), the Bad, a brutal mercenary who kills anyone who stands in the way of making ready cash. The film's comic relief is Tuco (Eli Wallach), the Ugly, a Mexican bandit wanted in several states who ends up inadvertently doing some good turns. At the height of the Civil War, as Union and Confederate armies battle each other in the West, these three men vie for an abandoned cache of gold coins. The film is especially memorable for its pace and cinematography. The opening scene, for example, juxtaposes closeups of anxious faces with vast panoramas of the Western landscape, and 10 minutes passes before a single word is said. It is like Tarkovsky transplanted to a vastly different setting. That's not to say it's all so serious, though. In a sense the film is a "two buddies on the road" movie, with Tuco the wisecracker and Eastwood's character the straight man. It is also a war film, with Leone apparently sparing no expense in presenting a realistic image of hundreds of men charging each other on the battlefield. This is not among the greatest films I've ever seen, but it's very well-made. Because this is a "spaghetti Western", an effort in the genre realized by a joint Italian-Spanish production team with American lead actors, the film has some curious qualities. Because of the use of locals, all the faces of Civil War soldiers are so clearly Italian, even though Italian immigration into the US picked up only later. The Mexican bandit Tuco is played by a Jew from New York, and furthermore Leone mocks the character's Catholicism in a way that Americans of the era would, although the faith would be in no way foreign to his Italian audience.

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