Directed By: Sergio Leone
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef
Tag line: "For Three Men The Civil War Wasn't Hell. It Was Practice!"
Trivia: Clint Eastwood wore the same poncho through all three "Man with No Name" movies without replacement or cleaning
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was the third and final chapter in director Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy”, a series that included 1964s A Fistful of Dollars and ‘65s For a Few Dollars More, and in the opinion of fans and critics alike, this last entry is easily the best of the bunch.
As the American Civil War rages on, three gunslingers search for a hidden fortune in gold. Tuco (Eli Wallach) knows the money is buried in a graveyard, yet his old partner, Blondie (Clint Eastwood), whom Tuco tried to kill at one point, is the only person who knows which headstone it’s under. Their tenuous partnership carries the two miles in every direction, always one step ahead, or one behind, the violent war that’s devastating the territory. Before long, the duo discovers a third man, the tight-lipped assassin named Sentezza (Lee Van Cleef), is also after the gold, ready to kill whoever stands in his way. Blondie and Tuco must now beat Sentezza to the cemetery, all while looking for new and exciting ways to stab each other in the back. In fact, the only certainty in this whole fiasco is that before any one man can walk off with the loot, he’ll more than likely have to put a bullet in each of the other two.
I realize it’s a cliché to say a film is “chock full of action”, but in the case of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, it’s the absolute truth. Within the first hour, there are twelve shootings, three failed hangings (and one that’s successful), four getaways, two paid bounties, a showdown and a robbery. What’s more, the Confederate Army pulls out of a town just before Union cannons reduce it to rubble, and a complex double-cross leads to a manhunt that brings about a brutal revenge under the hot desert sun. All of this in a single hour, or approximately one-third of the film’s running time. And rest assured, the remainder of the movie is every bit as thrilling, featuring further run-ins with both the Union and Confederate armies (in a humorous scene, Blondie and Tuco, disguised as Confederates, try to flag down what they believe is a small troop of southern cavalrymen, only to be taken prisoner when the soldiers dust off their grey uniforms to reveal they’re actually blue underneath), and a final showdown between the three main characters that might be the most dramatic in movie history, with plenty of extreme close-ups punctuated by the stirring score of Ennio Morricone.
While I’ll always be a fan of Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is clearly his crowning achievement, an epic adventure that’s surprising, engaging, poignant, and electrifying.
And that’s just the first hour!