Fistful of Dollars (1964)

 

Clint Eastwood.

No matter what other films he makes, or made, He will be the man who will be forever remembered for revitalizing the Western genre, not once but twice.

The second time, is my all time favorite western, Unforgiven (1992), and the first was a small low-budget film shot in Spain, known in Japan as a macaroni (later spaghetti) western, Fistful of Dollars.

A western version of Kurosawa`s Yojimbo (so much so that the film was released in Japan as The Return of Yojimbo), Clint plays a mysterious stranger, known throughout the trilogy of films, despite the fact that he plays three separate characters, as the Man With No name.

The Man, whose name in this film is referred to as Joe, is wondering the Mexican landscape on his burro, ignoring the problems he comes across until he arrives in a small town that is run by two rival families/gangs who are barely tolerant of one another, the Baxters and the Rojos.

In a dangerous move, the Man puts himself between both parties, and begins to play them off of each other, making tons of cash in the process.

In a film where almost everyone is a black hat, Eastwood’s character is at best grey. He has no problem shooting people down, keeping the local undertaker (Joseph Egger) in lucrative business.

Through kidnapping, gunfights and sheer cool, he brings down one family but is then caught and beaten to an inch of his life by the Rojos as they cotton to what is going on.

He goes into hiding, crafting his plan for his final showdown, his .45 against Ramon Rojo’s (Gian Maria Volonte) Winchester.

Finally, using a stick of dynamite to create a huge smoke cloud, the Man appears in the middle of the street ready to face down Ramon and his men. Then follows one of the most famous showdowns in Western cinema, as Ramon fires shot after shot, aiming for the Man’s heart, but though he staggers, and occasionally falls, he keeps getting up, mocking him the whole time, until you get that awesome reveal that Marty McFly steals in Back To The Future Part III.

Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood breathed new life into the western genre with this film, and it entertains to this day.  The pacing, the editing, the immortal score by Ennio Morricone, the gritty, realistic settings and the sheer cool of The Man With No Name.

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