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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In New Mexico Territory circa 1862, a mysterious bounty-killer known as
"Blondie" (Clint Eastwood) and a shifty Mexican bandit, Tuco Ramirez
(Eli Wallach), run a con job wherein Blondie turns Tuco in for money
and then rescues him, splitting the reward money. However, the two
engage in numerous double-crossings against each other, until stumbling
across a dying Confederate soldier (Antonio Casale) who gives each man
a clue to the location of a hidden cache of gold. Tuco and Blondie
re-form their alliance to find the gold, only to find that Angel Eyes
(Lee Van Cleef), a ruthless hired gun, is already after the gold. The
three men form a frequently-changing series of alliances to get at the
gold, and they must avoid the Union and Confederate armies operating in
"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" is a landmark film in many respects. Its cultural influence is nigh-impossible to overstate, with its iconic musical score by Ennio Morricone, three memorably amoral protagonists, the close-ups, vast landscapes, and the title itself, all of which are instantly recognizable icons of cinema, having been referenced and replicated time and again in movies, TV shows, and even commercials. It is Sergio Leone's first truly great film, a transition from the low-budget Spaghetti Westerns ("A Fistful of Dollars", "For a Few Dollars More") to the big budget, artistic epics that Leone would make for the rest of his career ("Once Upon a Time in the West/America"). It is also a film of utmost importance to me; after watching this movie as an eleven year old, admiring its wonderfully quirky characters, style, music, and breath-taking cinematography, I realized for the first time that I wanted to devote my life to films, be it watching them, writing on them, or hopefully making them.
"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" is a full-blown epic, and one with an interesting subtext. We see three completely amoral characters whose crimes - robbery, murder, and racketeering - are minor compared to the brutal carnage we see the Civil War inflicting. Taking place during the little-known Sibley Campaign in New Mexico, the film is not a documentary depiction of the war, but an allegorical one. This was the first total war, and Leone uses it as a metaphor for conflict in general, with faceless mass slaughter inflicted by rifles, machine guns, and artillery. Blondie, Tuco, and Angel Eyes' transgressions are minor compared to a brutal, Auschwitz-like concentration camp, spies being executed in the streets, towns being shelled, and vicious, stalemated trench warfare over a "flyspeck" of a bridge. Even our amoral heroes have amounts of humanity which set them apart from the machine-like slaughter around them; Blondie saves Tuco's life and comforts dying soldiers of both sides; Tuco struggles with a mixture of affection and hatred for Blondie, and his troubled relationship with his brother (Luigi Pistilli), and even Angel Eyes shows disgust at the carnage he sees.
The movie is extremely episodic, the plot only secondary to the adventures of these characters. Leone's wonderful direction gives the film a fairy-tale quality, with an appearance of realism while being fanciful and at times almost surreal. The movie contains extremely memorable set pieces: the lengthy opening, with three gunmen going after Tuco; the "carriage of the spirits"; the prison camp; a shootout in a town under shellfire; an epic Civil War battle; Tuco running excitedly through the cemetery; and, of course, the unforgettable climactic "triello". Tonino Delli Colli's cinematography is simply breath-taking, with desert landscapes as impressive as David Lean's films contrasting with the most extreme close-ups imaginable. Carlo Simi's set designs, from shelled-out towns to prison camps to the cemetery, is breath-taking. And Ennio Morricone's score is, for lack of a better word, one of the most amazing ever written, the instantly recognizable theme tune and other brilliant pieces creating the movie's indescribable atmosphere.
The cast creates unforgettably iconic characters. Clint Eastwood is back as the Man With No Name, here much more human in this film despite retaining his cool, detached, shifty nature. Lee Van Cleef, who had played a likable character in Leone's previous film, now plays one of the most memorably evil characters ever. Aldo Giuffre, Antonio Casas, and Luigi Pistilli are effective in supporting roles, and Leone's usual stock cast - Mario Brega, Benito Stefanelli, Al Muloch, Aldo Sambrell, and many others - create their own iconography. But it's Eli Wallach who steals the show, as the scenery chewing Tuco, a shifty, double-crossing, foul-mouthed bandit who manages to be the most likable and human of the cast despite his faults; truly, one of the most memorable film characters ever.
"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" is one of the most well-known and influential movies ever made, and with good reason. In terms of style, it is an absolute triumph, being one of the most amazingly made movies ever made. Those only familiar with the movie for its cast, its score, or peripherally through its iconic stature, are missing out on one of the most breath-taking cinematic experiences ever. Thank you, Sergio Leone.
This is one of the few films truly deserving of the term masterpiece.
Whether you view your films looking for great entertainment or great
art, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" will surely not fail you. Just
about every aspect of the film is flawless, from the stylish direction
of Sergio Leone, the memorable score by Ennio Morrecone, and a trio of
ultra cool yet accomplished lead performances (Clint Eastwood, Eli
Wallach, Lee Van Cleef).
Some have complained this film is overlong. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is never once remotely boring or slow paced, and an epic length is needed to tell such a good story. The length is just perfect. Sergio Leone was a master craftsmen and managed to create awe-inspiring action films as good as Kurosawa. This will always be his masterpiece, even though there are many who prefer "Once Upon a Time In the West". While that is a great film also, it never managed to stick out in my mind as well as this one does. The beauty of the closing sequence of the search for gold in the graveyard manages to amaze me with every viewing.
Special note needs to go to the acting. As the Good, Clint Eastwood turns in one of his finest portrayals. Dangerous yet showing many redeeming qualities, its obvious Eastwood didn't want this to be a one dimensional character. He succeeded. As the Bad, Lee Van Cleef shows why he was such a criminally neglected character actor. As bad ass as Lee Marvin and yet as good an actor as Humphrey Bogart, its a shame he was stuck in mostly grade-b roles. And as the Ugly, Eli Wallach is also superb. Slimy, greasy, throughly unlikable yet oddly compelling all the same.
I can't forget to mention Ennio Morrecone's score. It has become one of the most instantly recognizable in popular culture, and for good reason. Its instantly memorable and suits all the action on screen perfectly.
If you haven't seen "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly", well, what are you waiting for? Its one of the few films that is truly essential. Hell, even the rest of IMDb seems to agree with me. (10/10)
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has a very basic storyline - 3 cowboys trying to collect a fortune in gold. Sergio Leone then set this story against a backdrop of the American civil war. It is visually stunning, and has enough action for 10 films, let alone 1. Okay, so its not geographically or historically correct, but seriously, if you care about those things so much that you don't like the film, then you are just plain sad. The 3 main characters are excellent; Clint Eastwood as the laid back hero, Eli Wallach as his dirty Mexican partner and Lee van Cleef as the evil gunman who kills for a living. The whole film is like a work of art, leading up to the final gunfight in a stadium like cemetery, 1 of the best scenes in film history. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly isn't one of those films that is thought provoking, but it is one of the best simply because for 3 hours it is very entertaining, and a thing of beauty.
Sergio Leone is an underappreciated talent. His skill, in most cases,
exceeds what he actually puts on the screen. This is, by far, his crowning
achievement and the culmination of both his work and Clint Eastwood's
career. After this, it is only pushing the plateau without
The primary focus of this movie is not the characters, the story winds up being the least of Leone's concerns. Instead, he is concerned about the camera and the music. Ennio Morricone, a genius in his own right, was seriously ignored by the Academy for his compilation here--certainly one of the Top 10 ever. He understands the crude editing of the mid-60s and exploits everything he can from the vision onscreen. If Leone was dissatisfied with the Ennio's final product, something MUST have been wrong with him.
The camera is another element that never lies. Modern filmmakers should study this before they try emulating MTV next time. With Leone's grandeur and a cast that understands that they aren't the real focus, how can he lose?
The story, while it isn't the greatest, is better delivered than such works as The Wild Bunch. Perhaps only High Noon understands the value of pacing and what to reveal/not reveal to the audience. Then again, Fred Zinnemann is an entirely different director. The character interaction here is certainly better than what Gary Cooper has to offer, not to mention the dialog includes some uncanny deliver by Eli Wallach.
Overall, a classic. This is a definer of the unconventional Western and visual literature. 4.5 out of 5 stars. A must see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The basic plot of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY has been done before.
In fact, the film inverts the premise of TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE.
In TREASURE, the three men searching for the gold worked as a team. The
team broke down because of external pressure (the bandits) and internal
pressure (Fred C. Dobb's paranoia). In THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY,
the three men searching for the gold never team up. They are kept apart
by internal pressure (the fact that one of them is a murdering sadist)
and external pressure (the ebb and flow of the Civil War).
In TREASURE, only one member of the team knew how to find gold. Here, the location of the gold is a secret. Two men know opposite halves of the secret. Blondie (Clint Eastwood) knows a name on a grave. Tuco Ramirez (Eli Wallach) knows the name of the cemetery. Their shared secret forces the two men into an uneasy alliance. The third seeker is Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef), a professional killer. He has learned about the gold from one of his victims.
The opening and Ennio Morricone's unique theme music set the tone: this will be a harsh, gritty, offbeat film. Freeze-frames tell us which character will be good (Blondie), which will be bad (Angel Eyes) and which will be ugly (Tuco). The difference between the three men isn't motive, since they all want the same thing. What sets them apart from each other is what they are willing to do to get it. Angel Eyes will torture and kill anybody who gets in his way. Tuco is a bully and a loudmouth, but he only kills in self-defense. Blondie is quiet and intelligent, a planner who carefully works out every detail well in advance.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY is set in a harsh, unforgiving landscape. The quest for the gold takes our characters through a desert, a prison camp, a war-ravaged frontier town, a Civil War battle and, finally the cemetery where the inevitable showdown happens. The few outposts of civilization huddle against a vast, imposing wilderness. In such places, even the best man has to be a little bit bad and ugly to survive.
I must admit that I had some doubts prior to seeing this movie,
considering its length and some people's comments that it is slow as
molasses. Well, they were mostly right about that. GB & U is indeed a
movie that does not always move very fast, and it does take a little
getting used to. Yet if you manage to look past the slowness, this is
easily one of the best movies ever made.
This is one of those movies where nearly everything comes together in exactly the right way. First of all, there is a wonderful cast of characters. Clint Eastwood is at his best as the 'Good' (even though he's not strictly a good guy but more a bad guy with an honor code), Lee van Cleef is so truly evil that you'll long for his downfall with a passion, and Eli Wallach steals the show as the 'Ugly', turning him into a character that you'll root for even though he's quite clearly the least trustworthy character you'll ever meet.
These wonderful characters engage in a quite complex plot full of twists and turns, as they are constantly trying to outwit and outshoot each other. There's quite a lot going on and in spite of the fact that the tone of the movie is actually fairly light (there is some truly good humor), it's actually a fairly good exploration of human nature and the lengths to which people will go to achieve their goals.
And then, there's the music of course. Ennio Morricone has always composed some very distinct and recognizable tunes, which unfortunately were not always that great by themselves. The music here, however, is absolutely one of the most memorable scores ever.
Of course, the cinematography is wonderful as well. The production values here seem to be a lot higher than in some previous Leone movies, and GB & U contains plenty of memorable shootouts that will truly keep you on the edge of your seat. At the same time, the gunmen here seem not nearly as invincible as in some other Leone movies, which greatly adds to the suspense.
As I said before, nearly everything comes together in this movie. Sure, it might be a bit slow, but it's got a great story of good versus evil, told in an impressive and truly epic way, with memorable characters and shootouts everywhere. Highly recommended
This movie has style - in a very elemental way - so to speak. You get
an idea of the deadly, dreary desert, the deadlier bounty hunters and
the deadliest of 'em all - Clint Eastwood - the man with no name! The
story is a simple one to follow and is brilliantly executed by Sergio
Leone using just the right landscapes along with some pretty good sets
too (like the one featuring the Civil War sequence). Some of the scenes
were meant to be symbolic (especially the Civil War scenes) and they
did their job well.
Eli Wallach is simply superb with his "Blondieeee!!!" screams and curses. Lee Van Cleef seems as deadly as the great Eastwood himself as "The Bad" guy.
Cinematography - not as continuous as one would like - but manages to convey the tension in the dueling scenes very effectively.
Also, the music - Ennio Morricone at his best! He has dished out some very innovative and brilliant stuff for all the three "great" westerns and this along with "For a Few Dollars More" seems to be his best.
Finally, the style! Sergio Leone can certainly teach a thing or two to Quentin Tarantino or The Wachowski Brothers - in fact Tarantino acknowledges Leone's great style. And then the epitome of style himself - Clint Eastwood - with a half-burnt cigar in his lips, unshaven face, tilted hat, ragged jeans, a worn out poncho and the sharpest scowl ever which can rub out any "Neo-with-million-dollar-goggles" off the face of the Earth.
Not genre-defining, surely - it was invented by Hollywood. But somebody from Europe really showed the world how to make westerns.
Most people choose 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly' as the best of Sergio Leone's superb spaghetti western "trilogy" (I'm putting trilogy in inverted commas because the three movies actually have no connection to each other, and Clint Eastwood, despite the "Man With No Name" tag, plays a different character in each). Now it's a very close call I admit, but as much as I love this movie I'm inclined to choose the one before it 'For A Few Dollars More' as my favourite. Anyway, this is still a superb piece of pure entertainment, and Leone's movies had a massive impact on not just the western genre but action and adventure movies of all kinds. Clint Eastwood is super cool playing "Blondie" just as he was as Joe in the first movie and Monco in the second. FAFDM added a strong supporting character by Lee Van Cleef, TGTBATU continues that (though Van Cleef is playing a completely different guy) and also brings in Eli Wallach as Tuco, who adds some nice comic touches. Blondie and Tuco have lots of great scenes together, but I could have done with a lot more Angel Eyes (Van Cleef), one of the greatest screen villains of all time. Having three strong roles instead of just Eastwood is one of the great things about this movie. Another great thing is the unforgettable score by Morricone. Morricone did some of his most memorable work with Leone, and this could just be the best of the lot. Certainly the main theme (a massive hit single in the late 1960s as covered by Hugo Montenegro) is one of the most recognisable and original pieces of film music ever. Another standout is the spectacular bridge scene, surely a direct inspiration for Peckinpah's 'The Wild Bunch', a movie which owed Leone a sizable debt in my opinion. It's very difficult to pick this movie apart and single out what is so great about it as it really works as a whole. There's almost nothing wrong with it. It's one of the greatest westerns ever made and a hugely enjoyable movie that is just as compelling on your tenth viewing as your first. If you haven't seen it before I still think watching 'A Fistful Of Dollars' and 'For A Few Dollars More' first is the smartest movie, despite the three movies being a trilogy in name only, and each of the three being able to stand alone. Each movie is brilliant stuff and each comes with my highest recommendation. Movies don't get much more entertaining than this!
When I was a kid, nobody liked westerns. Our fathers had fought in the
Korean War, and the astronauts were racing in space. Cowboys seemed
old, dusty, and boring. Then along came three guys to change all that.
One was good, the other bad, the other ugly. Or maybe they all had
those three characteristics in them. But they arrived at one hell of a
showdown, and it changed things.
This is not just an action filled western, but a sweeping commentary on the American character, as witnessed by an objective outsider. His aim was true.
By the mid 60s, the western formula, and perhaps the action film itself, had become too stale and conventional to evoke any enthusiastic response. Leone gave us not just a new perspective on film violence, but for the first time a director blended the most fascinating elements of American history, both mythical and real, into a traditional western story.
The storyline, involving three untitled men propelled by avarice into uncivilized territory, could serve as a fable for the expansion of the American frontier. Against the sun-blasted background we see the elements that have shaped, in different ways, the essential American character: warfare, technology, weapons, hardened individualism. Previous western films might have explored related themes, but never with the exciting visual style shown in this one.
The characters are men we really have never seen before. They are enigmatic, inscrutable, and fascinating to look at. Leone leaves their pasts unmarked so we can eagerly fill in their backgrounds on our own. As their journey in pursuit of lucre ends, we are presented with the best showdown in the history of the western. The quest, exciting as it was, culminates in one of the best endings in movie history.
The score of course is famous in itself but welded to the fascinating visuals and characters it becomes one for the ages. Amazing it took an Italian director filming in Spain to make the essential "American" western film. You don't like westerns? I urge you to try this and see things from an outsider's point of view. His aim was true.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There's this fellow with no name who is hanging around with a ne'er do
well called Tuco - No Name collects a reward for Tuco then, just as
they are about to hang Tuco, No Name shoots the rope and they escape.
This scam serves them quite well until a stolen army payroll enters the
equation at which point, together with a ferrety-faced individual, the
three of them find themselves reluctant allies and less reluctant
antagonists as, against a backdrop of the Civil War, they try to track
down the payroll.
Let me set out the bits which I would quibble with. The Spanish locations - undoubtedly photogenic - don't look even slightly like the places they are supposed to represent. The dubbing on the non-English speaking cast has some places where the English speech is hopelessly out of synchronisation with the mouth movements of the cast members. And, sad to say, it does ramble somewhat.
So what is good about it? Well, Ennio Morricon's score is wonderful, and I don't just mean the seminal theme: it is full of haunting melody and dramatic arrangements. The set pieces are brilliantly staged, especially the bridge sequence and the entire closing section. Plus, notwithstanding that this is his third appearance, it is an education to see Eastwood's seminal character cemented into iconhood, especially as his costume is assembled bit by bit throughout the film.
Take no notice of my quibbles! It is a classic!
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