Clint Eastwood returns as the Man With No Name (though this time his name is Blondie) in Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, a film which may be one of the greatest westerns of all time, not to mention a rip-roaring action-adventure.
Building on the style, and pacing he created in the first two films he made with Eastwood, Leone has crafted a wonderfully sprawling epic, that takes our characters along the periphery of the American Civil War, as they race one another to recover a fortune in gold.
Laced with humour, showdowns, and double-crosses the film has done nothing but get better with age, and has definitely secured a place in my Top 5 Westerns of all time (a list for another day).
Eastwood’s Blondie is the Good, a gunslinger for hire.
Lee Van Cleef plays the Bad, Angel Eyes, who is decidedly more vicious than he needs to be, and delights in it.
And Eli Wallach is the Ugly as Tuco, a wanted criminal who has a bit of a history with Blondie.
Blondie and Tuco have been working together, Blondie would turn Tuco in for reward money, and rescue him right before he hangs, but eventually upon realizing that he’s not going to be worth more than $3,000 Blondie parts company with Tuco, who swears revenge.
Angel Eyes is occupied with finding Confederate soldier Bill Carson, it seems he’s buried $20,000 worth of gold and Angel Eyes needs the name of the grave it’s buried in.
When Tuco catches up with Blondie, and begins to exact his revenge, they come across the very same Bill Carson, but while Tuco learns where the graveyard is, it’s Blondie who learns the name on the grave.
Making Blondie the one piece that both Tuco and Angel Eyes need to reclaim the money.
There are chases, captures, beatings, and of course gunfights. They drift across both lines of the Civil War, both the Union and the Confederacy, and we get to see the fall-out of the war on both sides.
Ennio Morricone returns, with what may be his most familiar score, that wonderful, haunting, recurring whistling theme.
The landscapes are gorgeous, the action is expansive, and all three of the leads seem to be having a great time. Wallach’s Tuco is practically chewing the scenery and is awesome to watch. He seems goofy, fun, but as more than willing to show how vicious and violent he can be when it’s needed.
Angel Eyes is cruel, and in a brutal sequence, which sees him serving in the Union army, tortures and beats Tuco, all while he has Confederate prisoners playing a folk song to hide the sounds of violence.
Eastwood actually gets a couple of costume changes in this film, unlike the other two, but by the final act of the film, Eastwood is outfitted in some very familiar trappings.
At three hours in length, it may scare a few people off, but it’s totally worth the time invested in it, and will no doubt be rewatched again very soon.
Which Leone film is your favorite?