“The Good” Blondie (Clint Eastwood), “the Bad” Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) and “the Ugly” Tuco (Eli Wallach) are in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery in a time when the American Civil War brakes out, in the final installment of the Dollar Trilogy directed by Sergio Leone.
This is it. If you ask anyone, fill buff or not, which spaghetti western to watch, they will say The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Even if you’ve never seen it, you know the music. Yes, that music. The one that is undeniably synonymous with western. This marks the third and final collaboration between Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood, but both will make excellent westerns in the years after. I probably should say not as good as this one, though. Because for most, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the greatest western ever made, I who am I to argue with that. There’s definitely plenty to praise.
First off, characters introductions. This time, we get proper introductions, in the sense that each character is introduced with their title written on screen. We start with Tuco, as three bounty hunters are after him. He flees the vicinity by a window, not before shooting one of his assailants. The image froze, “the ugly” is printed on screen. Now Angel Eyes, he invites himself to dinner in a family. Of course the wife and kids leave the house, and Angel Eyes sits himself at the table, facing the father. He has a quick talk, then kills him. Then he goes to someone else’s and kills him too. The image froze, “the bad” is printed on screen. Now back to Tuco, who’s about to be hanged. Fortunately, Blondie arrives and saves the day. The image froze, “the good” in printed on screen. Only he delivers Tuco to the authorities to get the $2000 bounty off him, and then saves him afterwards for the hanging to deliver him again to other authorities and collect the bounty once more. You get the idea, not so good after all.
I would say, if you have to watch a western in your life, this is the one.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has clearly more themes that A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More combined. It is significantly longer too, clearly thought as an epic rather than as a contained story. The characters are neither defined as good nor as bad, despite their titles. Well, Angel Eyes clearly is the villain here, but Blondie is not as good as it seems and Tuco wanders between both sides. Each of them tries at some point to double cross the others to get his hands on the $200000. The film is also much larger in scope. The Civil War broke out, and with it hundreds of soldiers on screen raging war. We see the first train, the first bridge being dynamited (though it is quite cheap, I’ll give you that), and many more locations. The film is particularly well written and delivers great lines such as “You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people…” It is interesting to see that Leone mocks the war, when a Union Captain asks if Blondie and Tuco can drink before enrolling in the army.
I was talking about the music. It is as great as you can hope. Unforgivable. Ennio Morricone gained popularity with his works on the films of Leone, and this is his greatest and most popular work to date. The beginning to end, the music is a marvel to listen to. I can’t think of any of the scenes in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly without themes or cues popping out in my head. This, of course, was largely due to the infamous final of the film, in which the trio is facing one another in the longest stares in the history of cinema. I would say, if you have to watch a western in your life, this is the one.