Manco (Clint Eastwood) and Colonel Douglas Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef), both gunslingers, join forces when they learn they’re both after the same bounty: El Indio (Gian Maria Volontè) who just escaped prison and plans to rob the highly secured El Paso bank in the spaghetti western directed by Sergio Leone.
A Fistful of Dollars introduced Clint Eastwood and the cinematic style of Sergio Leone to the world, For a Few Dollars More confirmed they were among the greatest western filmmakers that walked the earth. The plot is thicker, the landscape is larger and the film is highly entertaining even today. In the time span of only a year, Leone went from small and contained western film were the story was limited to a town, to a story of bounty hunters and bank robbing. It is a personal favorite. In fact, I enjoy watching this one at least as much as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which is saying much.
In my Fistful review, I talked about how interesting it is to analyze how Leone introduces his characters. Well, in For a Few Dollars More, he has three of them. And each of them got their proper introduction, staring with the Colonel. He is after a $1000 bounty, which he kills at rather great distance with a modified pistol. That’s how you properly introduced one bounty hunter. Now it’s Manco’s turn. He walks into a bar, plays some poker, wins against his $2000 bounty and takes him. On his way out of the bar, he is stopped by three guys walking in with their pistols aimed at him. He looks at them in the mirror, turns and kills them three. His bounty tries to get his hand on a gun behind his back and Manco kills him without even turning to him. This gunslinger can take on three guys with drawn pistols without blinking. That certainly tops what you just saw with the Colonel. And yet the two of them will have to join forces to capture El Indio and his gang, because they just can’t take on them alone.
I sometimes ask myself why Leone’s films gained popularity rather that those of, say, Sergio Corbucci. But when I watch For a Few Dollars More, it becomes clear.
El Indio is introduced in prison, his gang comes to the rescue and frees him. With a pistol in hand, he coldly kills his cellmate before shooting everyone on his way out. And when he’s out of bullets, he laughs at the poor guy and tells him to tell everyone who just got out of prison. That’s a guy who’s not afraid to be wanted by the law. Cut to his face on a poster with a $10000 bounty. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this guy’s worth more that the preceding two combined. Both Manco and the Colonel face the poster. We get to see the first of the infamous stares of the film, as it cuts back between the poster of El Indio and the Colonel. The villain’s motives are also more explained. In a flashback, we learn that he lost his mind when a girl he was raping killed herself instead of trying to kill him. This incident haunts El Indio and he keeps a pocket watch from the girl which plays the now famous tune of the film. Ennio Morricone returns as the definite composer of spaghetti westerns with themes that rival with those of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
I sometimes ask myself why Leone’s films gained popularity rather that those of, say, Sergio Corbucci. Take The Great Silence for example, while the setting is clearly different, Silence takes place in the snowy north of the United States, it shares actors and even Morricone as the composer. Yet, For a Few Dollars More is known of the general audience while The Great Silence is known only of the film buffs. But when I watch For a Few Dollars More, it becomes clear: it is unforgivable. The music is unforgivable. The characters are that too. The plot is highly engaging. The villain is despicable, but understandable. This makes one of the greatest westerns ever made.