"Monco" is officially not the same character as "Joe" in A Fistful of Dollars (1964). This was the finding of an Italian court that adjudicated the lawsuit brought by Jolly Films, producer of "A Fistful of Dollars". After the release of the first film, director Sergio Leone had a falling out with the producers and made this sequel with a different producer, Alberto Grimaldi. Jolly Films sued, claiming ownership of the "Joe" character, but lost when the court decided that the western gunfighter's persona, characterized by the costume and mannerisms, belonged to the public domain's folklore.
Sergio Leone broke many 1960s Hollywood rules with this film, although he did not know any of them at the time. Among them: showing the shooter and the victim in the same shot, a horse being gunned down, marijuana use, and a rape scene.
The town of El Paso, designed by Carlo Simi in Almeria, was the biggest set that Sergio Leone was responsible for at the time. It would be re-used the following year for several scenes in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) in which it stood in as several different towns. It's still standing to this day and is called Mini Hollywood.
Director Sergio Leone did not want to make a sequel to A Fistful of Dollars (1964), but it was such a huge hit that Jolly Film--the production company--refused to pay Leone what it owed him from that film unless he made a sequel to it.
The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood) calls himself Monco in this film. "Manco" is Spanish for "lame of one hand", "one handed" or "one armed", which is pretty appropriate considering his habit of fighting, drinking, etc with his left hand only. His right hand always remains on his gun underneath his trademark poncho.
Sergio Leone wanted Henry Fonda for the role of Col. Mortimer, but Fonda turned it down. Leone next approached Charles Bronson, who wasn't interested, and Lee Marvin, who refused it because he had just signed to make Cat Ballou (1965). It was then that Leone offered the role to Lee Van Cleef, who hadn't worked in films since How the West Was Won (1962), although he had worked fairly steadily in television. Van Cleef thought that Leone only wanted him for a few scenes, and was astounded when he discovered that he was actually to be the co-star.
During filming, Sergio Leone felt that Gian Maria Volontè was sometimes too theatrical as Indio and would often use many takes as a way of trying to tire the actor out. Volonte became so angry with Leone's methods that he eventually stormed off the set. Unable to get a ride across the desert he returned to resume filming but swore he would never make another western again, which he felt was a tired genre.
Although Clint Eastwood's poncho was never washed during the production of the "Dollar" trilogy, it was mended. In the final scene of A Fistful of Dollars (1964), the poncho is pierced by seven bullets from Ramon's Winchester. In the sequel, Eastwood wears the same poncho back-to-front and the mending of the bullet holes is clearly visible in several scenes. The mended area, originally on the left breast, is now worn over the right shoulder blade.
Clint Eastwood was not ready to commit to the film when he had not even seen A Fistful of Dollars (1964). Quickly, the filmmakers rushed an Italian-language print (a U.S. version did not yet exist) to him. The star then gathered a group of friends for a debut screening at CBS Production Center and, not knowing what to expect, tried to keep expectations low by downplaying the film. As the reels unspooled, however, Eastwood's concerns proved to be unfounded. The audience may not have understood Italian, but in terms of style and action, the film spoke volumes. "Everybody enjoyed it just as much as if it had been in English", Eastwood recalled. Soon, he was on the phone with the filmmakers' representative: "Yeah, I'll work for that director again", he said.
Despite having a successful acting career for many years, this was Lee Van Cleef's first major role in a movie. He'd starred in a few famous Hollywood westerns prior to this but always played small roles.
As all of the film's footage was shot silent (i.e. without recording sound at time of shooting), Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef returned to Italy where they dubbed over their dialogue, and sound effects were added.
Although it is explicitly stated in the movie that Colonel Mortimer is originally from the Carolinas, Lee Van Cleef opted to perform his dialogue using his native New Jersey accent rather than a Southern accent.
Lee Van Cleef was very grateful for his part in the film as he had fallen on hard times due to his heavy drinking. The film effectively marked a resurgence in his career. Van Cleef had taken up painting in the interim as a way of making money.
Gian Maria Volontè played two different roles in this movie and its sequel A Fistful of Dollars (1964) (A Fistful of Dollars). In the original, he played Ramon Rojo and in this movie he played El Indio.
Mario Brega appears in all 3 of the Dollars Trilogy movies, and in all 3 movies, his character meets an unfortunate demise. In this movie, his character of Nino is stabbed in the back by a fellow member of Indio's gang.
Several scenes were allegedly shot, but it is debatable if they were shown in any version of the film. They include Monco looking at the reward poster for Red Cavanaugh, and later taking the poster of El Indio off a wall. When Indio has broken out of jail, he baptizes his gun. Monco beds the hotel manager's wife, Mary, in El Paso. Monco shoots 3 of Indio's men by a river, transposed into a desert setting instead. In Agua Caliente, Indio and his gang relax with some women from the village. Stills exist of all these sequences. In 1967, the censor removed Indio's rape of Mortimer's sister and her suicide, but it has been restored for DVD and Blu-ray.