Sunday, September 9, 2012

#755. For a Few Dollars More (1965)

Directed By: Sergio Leone

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Gian Maria Volonté

Tag line: "It's the second motion picture of its kind! It won't be the last!"

Trivia: Before the opening credits, the whistling heard in the background is actually director Sergio Leone

After a bit part in High Noon, Lee Van Cleef went on to appear in dozens of movies and television shows (mostly westerns) throughout the 1950s and into the ‘60s, proving time and again that he was a solid character actor. The two films he made with Sergio Leone, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, would finally make him a star.

Monco (Clint Eastwood) is a bounty hunter, hot on the trail of the notorious bandit, El Indio (Gian Maria Volonté), a murderer with a huge price on his head. But there’s more than one gunslinger after this particular reward. Col. Douglas Mortimer (Van Cleef) is Monco’s chief rival in the hunt, and the two even try joining forces to track down their elusive prey, though it’s a tentative partnership at best. Will they find Indio and bring him to justice, or will Monco and the Colonel end up shooting each other before they finish the job?

Leone is no stranger to staging a quality showdown; the opening of Once Upon a Time in the West and the ending of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly are proof of that. For a Few Dollars More features a handful of exciting showdowns, including the first meeting between Monco and Col. Mortimer (while there’s no blood shed, each one inflicts some fairly heavy damage on the others hat before it’s through). Of course, a Leone gunfight wouldn’t be complete without the great music of composer Ennio Morricone, whose whistles and trumpets always set the perfect mood.

The role of Mortimer was originally offered to several actors, including Charles Bronson (who wasn't interested) and Lee Marvin (who had already committed to Cat Ballou). In a pinch, Leone hired Van Cleef, despite the fact the actor had only worked as a bit player to that point, and almost always on the wrong side of the law (Ride Lonesome, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance). Though more at home portraying criminals, Van Cleef succeeded in bringing a heroic charisma to the part of Mortimer, and is really quite excellent. But his turn as a good guy would come to an end, albeit temporarily, with For a Few Dollars More. In a year’s time, he’d again share the screen with Eastwood in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, playing one of the most ruthless characters in his long career.

And in the process, a Spaghetti Western star was born.

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