#278 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Watched: September 22 2020

Director: Sergio Leone

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Lee van Cleef, Eli Wallach

Year: 1966

Runtime: 2h 58min

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We must admit that there’s little we can say about this movie other than how much we enjoyed it. But we’ll give it a go!

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Yodle-odle-ooooo! Wah-WAH-waaah…

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Blondie (Eastwood) and Tuco (Wallach), a.k.a. the Good and the Ugly, respectively, have a lovely little scheme going. Blondie hands over Tuco, a wanted man, to the authorities, collects the reward, then frees his partner just as he is about to be hanged for his crimes.

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Yodle-odle-ooooo! Wah-wah-WAAH!

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While they’re doing their thing and occasionally backstabbing each other for cash, Sentenza (Cleef), a.k.a. Angel Eyes a.k.a. the Bad, is a gun for hire who by accident learns about $200 000 hidden somewhere and goes off in search of a good pay day.

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Yodle-ooAAH! WAH-wa-wa-wa…

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Eventually, during another attempt at killing each other, Blondie and Tuco also learn of the money, and since they both hold some information about its location, they must stick together in order to claim their reward. Oh, and the American Civil War is also in full swing around them.

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Yodle-odle-ooooo! Wah-WAH-waaah…

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly might be the most famous Western in the world, and it certainly delivers. There’s dust, tumbleweed, weatherbeaten clothes, weatherbeaten men, weatherbeaten horses and donkeys, and lots of beautiful landscapes filled with cacti.

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Yodle-odle-ooooo! Wah-wah-WAAH!

It’s beautiful, intriguing, exciting, funny, tense, occasionally horrific, and thoroughly entertaining, even at three hours long. Ennio Morricone’s score alone is worth the time, and we love how Sergio Leone was not scared of making three hour epics and telling complex stories. If you’re only going to watch one Western in your life, this should be it. Although why on earth would you only watch one Western? They’re amazing!

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Yodle-ooAAH! WAH-wa-wa-wa…

What we learned: Never have a bath without a gun. Also, you’ll never get rid of this earworm…

Next time: Tokyo Drifter (1966)

#252 For a Few Dollars More

Watched: December 26 2019

Director: Sergio Leone

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Lee van Cleef, Gian Maria Volontè, Mario Brega, Luigi Pistilli, Aldo Sambrell, Klaus Kinski

Year: 1965

Runtime: 2h 12min

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The Man with No Name (Eastwood), a.k.a. Manco or Monco (so… The Man with Potentially Several Names then..?) is now a professional bounty killer, roaming the wild west looking for bad guys to kill. For money, obviously. He’s not a complete psycho. He is not alone in this noble pursuit though – The Man in Black (van Cleef), a.k.a. Colonel Douglas Mortimer is a formidable rival.

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“Let’s make a deal. Whoever kills the most bad guys gets to wear the poncho for a day!”

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Notorious criminal El Indio (Volontè) escapes from jail and reunites with his followers whom he preaches to about carpenters from a pulpit… Seems like an oddly familiar pastime. Manco/Monco/TMWPSN and Mortimer alpha off and then join forces to stop El Indio’s evil bank robbing plans.

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“My name is El Indio, and these are my ten discipl… eh, gang members.”

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The Man with No Name goes undercover in the gang, and then gets into hot water – quite literally as they ride to Agua Caliente, the unfriendliest town in the west.  But who will outwit whom? What is the significance of El Indio’s pocketwatch and his flashbacks? And who will eventually Über-Alpha the other Alphas and become the one Alpha to rule them all?

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One can only guess…

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The sequel to A Fistful of Dollars, later followed by The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), For a Few Dollars More has everything you could possibly want in a western. Strong, silent men, lots of pregnant pauses and tense silences, a fantastic soundtrack by Ennio Morricone, saloons with easily distracted piano players (is there a union rule that they all have to stop every time a new person enters the room?), hat shooting duels, and lots of violence and horses. What’s not to love?

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Even The Man with No Name has upgraded from his mule to a proper horse. Well done, you!

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We loved Mortimer’s arrival in Tucumcari, Indio’s flashbacks and backstory, the soundtrack, all of Clint Eastwood, the twists and turns, and the tension. Can’t wait for the next one!

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“So, we’ll meet up again in 8765 hours for the sequel?” “Sure. Can I play a different character though?” “Well, we can certainly change our names for it if that helps.” “Dammit, I’m in!”

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What we learned: Keep your friends close and your frenemies closer. And would it kill you to call your frenemies once in a while..? They might be getting lonely you know.

Next time: Planet of the Vampires (1965)

#233 A Fistful of Dollars

Watched: June 10 2019

Director: Sergio Leone

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volontè, Marianne Koch, José Calvo, Wolfgang Lukschy, Sieghardt Rupp, Not Toshirô Mifune

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 39min

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A lone rider in the Wild West (Eastwood) arrives in a one horse town. On his mule, so he doesn’t accidentally upgrade the town’s status, mind you. He’s very considerate like that. He learns from an innkeeper that the village is plagued by two rival families vying for control, and decides to clean up the town before he moves on.

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“Where did you come from, where did you go? Where did you come from Cotton-Eye Joe”

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To get rid of the Baxters and the Rojos, the rider (a.k.a. Joe and/or The Man with no Name depending on who you ask. We strongly feel that the first option sort of cancels out the second and vice versa, so we’re very confused) will offer up his services to one family, then to the other, trick them and watch them undo each other. And he will look good doing it, dammit!

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Good luck teaching your kids that smoking isn’t cool…

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There’s the innkeeper, a coffin maker, a young mother who’s been gambled away in a game of cards, a brutal beating of our hero and a long, secret convalescence before the final showdown. Sound familiar? Akira Kurosawa thought so too…

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“So, you mean this is not an original story?” “Well, we’ve added guns, Mexicans, sheep skin vests and the most luscious head of hair this side of the Rio Grande. I think we’re in the clear.”

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The story is not just inspired by Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, but a blatant rip-off. Despite that, it is still a great movie in its own right. We love a good spaghetti western as those were the movies we grew up with, so while we still prefer the Japanese original (swords beat guns any day) we really enjoyed revisiting A Fistful of Dollars.

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It’s always nice noticing new details, such as how ridiculously happy “El Indio” is to be on a wanted poster

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We adored the young Clint Eastwood (and his luscious, luscious hair), his poncho, the noose when he rides into town, the weatherbeaten faces of the townspeople (although we think Kurosawa did even that a bit better), the dubbing, the soundtrack (by Ennio Morricone of course), and the finale. Such fun!

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“Oh man, the only thing that could have possibly improved this is replacing guns with swords. Can you imagine how good that movie would have been..?”

 

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What we learned: Clint Eastwood is cool. Very cool. But not even he is as cool as Toshirô Mifune.

Next time: A Hard Day’s Night (1964)