The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Clint Eastwood classic out on Blu-ray
The horseman at the heart of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966) says little but casts a long shadow on the face of the rocky desert. Sometimes the only sounds are absent-minded humming and the jangling of spurs—until a rifle shot cracks the stillness. The perspective is like that of an uncaring god, mirroring the director’s vantage on his material. For Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone, the American West was not his heritage even if it was his fascination. Unencumbered by any romanticized, Davy Crockett notions of frontier life, Leone was free to portray the West as it sometimes was—a nasty brutal field for avarice.
Leone was not the first to direct a “spaghetti Western,” but was the first to enjoy any success in the nascent genre. Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (1964), a Spanish-German-Italian co-production at a time when filmmaking was becoming less tied to national cinemas, was a runaway hit on the European continent and in Japan, where its similarity to Kurosawa’s Yojimbo was evident before its 1967 release in the U.S. and U.K. It was followed by A Few Dollars More and the final installment in what came to be called “The Man With No Name Trilogy,” The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The latter has just been reissued on Blu-ray.
Although the spaghetti Western genre produced little else of note, Leone’s trilogy elevated an American television actor, Clint Eastwood, into an international star. The unnamed characters he played spoke tersely and were endowed with the deadly glare that would serve Eastwood well in the future Eastwood’s characters are supremely self-assured, a confidence born out by an amazing proficiency with guns and ability to instantly size-up any situation.
The downbeat yet supremely cool mood for Leone’s film was set by the remarkable score by Ennio Morricone, who conceived Western music for an era of electric guitars—a sound as lonesome as the desert wind stirring the sage on the bad lands of the imagination.