A hard but mediocre cop is assigned to escort a prostitute into custody from Las Vegas to Phoenix, so that she can testify in a mob trial. But a lot of people are literally betting that they won't make it into town alive.
An anonymous, but deadly man rides into a town torn by war between two factions, the Baxters and the Rojo's. Instead of fleeing or dying, as most other would do, the man schemes to play the two sides off each other, getting rich in the bargain.Written by
Andrew Hyatt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
There were times when the production was almost shut down due to cash shortages but Sergio Leone prevailed, shooting multiple takes on each camera setup in case the Italian film labs damaged the footage and improvising when necessary. See more »
When Ramon shoots the escaping soldiers, by the river, in their backs, he does so with a Gatling Gun. Yet, when the "shot" soldiers cry out and fall to the ground, no blood or even small holes can be seen in their clothes. A Gatling Gun would rip them (the soldiers, as well as their clothes) to pieces. See more »
[Having said "get three coffins ready" earlier]
My mistake. Four coffins...
See more »
Perhaps remembered more for its influence than for its intrinsic merits
Although "A Fistful of Dollars" was not the first Spaghetti Western, it was the first to bring the genre to international attention. "Spaghetti Western" was originally an insult coined by US critics who were offended by the temerity of Italian film-makers in daring to tackle this quintessentially American genre, but later became a more neutral description of Westerns made in Europe. Actually, as most of these films were Italian/Spanish co-productions, and many of them were filmed in Spain, the title "Paella Western" would have been just as appropriate.
This was also the film that made a major star of Clint Eastwood. It was the first film in Sergio Leone's "dollars trilogy"; Eastwood was to star in the other two, "For a Few Dollars More" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". His character in all three films is billed as "The Man with No Name", although here that is not quite accurate as he is referred to in the film itself as Joe, and represents a new breed of Western hero.
Most previous Western heroes, as played by the likes of John Wayne, Alan Ladd or Gregory Peck, were heroic in both senses of the word. They were not only physically courageous but also morally virtuous, standing up for ideals of honour and justice against the villains. Some films had heroes who were morally flawed, such as Howard Kemp, James Stewart's character in "The Naked Spur", but the films themselves still took a moralistic line, with these flaws condemned as moral weaknesses. By the end of "The Naked Spur" Kemp has undergone redemption though a change of heart.
The Man with No Name, by contrast, was deliberately presented as an amoral anti-hero. He is courageous, but does not stand for any idealistic moral principles. He is occasionally capable of altruism, but most of the time is motivated by self-interest. He is a hard-bitten, mercenary, laconic loner. Eastwood also gave him a distinctive physical appearance, characterised by his trademark poncho and cigar. He also sports a beard or stubble, whereas most earlier Western heroes had been clean-shaven.
The plot of "For a Fistful of Dollars" is said to be based upon the Japanese film "Yojimbo", although I cannot comment as I have never seen that film. Joe arrives in the Mexican border town of San Miguel. The town is dominated by two rival families, the Rojos and the Baxters, who make their money out of a lucrative trade in smuggling contraband into the US. Joe, a skilled gunfighter, sees this as a business opportunity, and plays the two sides off against one another, undertaking various jobs for both families while showing loyalty to neither. His mistake comes, however, when he for once performs a good deed. Ramon, the most violent of the Rojo brothers, has taken as his mistress a young married woman named Marisol, forcing her against her will to abandon her husband and young child. Joe helps her and her family to escape, and Ramon vows vengeance.
"A Fistful of Dollars" is one of those films which is perhaps better remembered for its influence on later films than for its intrinsic merits. It is one of the first "revisionist "Westerns", marking the start of a trend towards not only moral ambiguity but also a more realistic depiction of violence, shown not only in the shoot-outs, more messy and less clean-cut than those in many previous films, but also in the scenes where Joe is tortured by Rojos' thugs. This revisionist line was to become commonplace in the Westerns of the late sixties and early seventies; Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch" is a good example of a film which shows the influence of Leone's work.
The film was originally shot without sound, with a soundtrack being dubbed on later. This was common practice in the Italian film industry and this time, as it allowed versions to be produced in different languages for the home and foreign markets. (Even in English the film is sometimes referred to by its Italian title "Per un Pugno di Dollari"). The dubbing, however, is not always convincingly done, and it is all too obvious that some of the characters are mouthing words which bear no relation to what we actually hear. The action is also at times over-leisurely and difficult to follow. Although Eastwood shows the talent and charisma which would make him a major star, the film today seems little more than a run-of-the-mill Western. Nevertheless, in the sixties it must have seemed to American audiences like something fresh and exciting. 6/10
8 of 9 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this