Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
1966/ Italy, Spain, West Germany
Director: Sergio Leone
When looking back through my favourite films there is only really one that I could write about. It was the obvious choice, the masterpiece amongst them all. Its profound it really is. I can remember everything about the day I first sat on my bed to first watch it. The light of the sun going down, the smell in the air… everything.
As the closing chapter in director Sergio Leone’s epic spaghetti western trilogy, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is truly Leone’s vintage master class in red hot revolver action and amazing cinematic technique. Clint Eastwood returns as “The man with no name” and is at his very best, his cool sense of calm in even the most desperate of situations. Whether facing up to six armed bandits all on his own or being dragged by horse across a vast expanse of desert Eastwood really is the definitive point of this film. No other actor has come close to embodying the true ‘spirit of the West’ like Eastwood does here.
His two supporting actors give the film a better dynamic than the two previous chapters ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ and ‘For a Few Dollars More’. Lee Van Cleef returns as Angel Eyes playing the part of The Evil forgetting his ties with Eastwood from the previous film and transforming into a demonstrative and devious turn coat playing both the Confederate and Union armies off against each other. He plays a withdrawn part at times allowing Eastwood and Eli Wallach’s Tuco to fight between themselves without realising they are forming an uneasy alliance which will pay off for them in the future.
Tuco himself is the light relief, the joker of the pack, The Ugly. He is comparable to Joe Pesci’s Tommy is Goodfellas. A bit of a loose cannon but someone who we can rely on to provide us with a smile when the film reaches darker points. And at times slightly unbalanced, revelling in the torture of others and striving for self-preservation.
Then there is the music. It’s probably fair to say that this is the best scored film of all time. Ennio Morricone returns for the third film like Eastwood and creates those classic sequences of film music that have resonated ever since they were first written. Can I get a “whaa whaa whaaaa” anybody?
Amidst all the great characters and stunning music it’s easy to forget the beauty of Leone’s cinematography. The director really stepped up a gear on his third instalment to show us something beautiful set to the back drop of a tantalising story line that grips you from start to finish.
Then there is the finish. Yes, that finish. That final scene when all three characters square off for one last showdown. It’s nail-biting, it’s intense and it truly is awe inspiring. For those who haven’t seen it I won’t ruin the ending completely but it must be said that The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is the hall mark of western grit, gun wielding battles and plot twists galore. Furthermore it really is a shame that Leone felt he had to outdo himself and make Once Upon a Time in the West, there really was no need. He’d already struck gold before that, with this film, this true classic.