GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, THE
In the midst of the American Civil War, three very different gunmen - ‘Blondie’ (Clint Eastwood), ‘Angel Eyes’ (Lee Van Cleef) and Tuco (Eli Wallach) – the good, the bad and the ugly – learn that a stolen treasure of $200,000 in gold coins has been hidden in a remote southern cemetery. Blondie and Tuco have a dangerous scam going but part ways in anger, each with one part of the location of the gold, useless without the other. Meanwhile Angel Eyes joins the army, where he finds a chance to discover the secret location. The three men chase the gold until a final confrontation in the blazing sun.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Ennio Morricone’s iconic musical motif haunts this film, and much like Maurice Jarre’s score for Lawrence of Arabia, plays a pivotal role in the completeness of Sergio Leone’s complex yet simple story of greed, friendship, betrayal, moral selectivity and anti-war sentiments. The latter is inserted into the story as part of the adventure of the journey of treasure hunters, but is unmistakably the film’s clearest moral marker. Blondie and Tuco get caught up in a riverside battle between Yankee soldiers and Southerners and the sequence lasts a good half hour, including the all important set-up.
But the film is most remembered for its many other achievements, including the exceptional performances, especially of Eli Wallach as the ugly Tuco, a brilliant characterisation of a snaky con man and self serving rogue who manages to retain a splinter of humanity – the splinter that saves his life when he double crosses Blondie. He also manages to make us sympathise with him on some grubby level. The relationship between these two opposites makes the film a character study as much as a western actioner. Although he’s ‘the good’ of the title, Blondie is not much gooder morally than the other two; he is, however, more handsome. And more cool; Eastwood’s Man With No Name in this third of Leonie’s series, is the iconic western hero, darker and less morally upright than the old cowboy heroes of the Hollywood westerns.
Other achievements include the cinematography and the production design. Leone makes good use of every square millimetre of the giant screen and fills it with unprecedented detail, driving the film with lots of cross cutting and whiplashes of ironic, laconic humour. And to its great credit, the film wears its genre on its sleeve, from the opening titles to The End slate. One of the most memorable films of my 20s, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is a milestone of cinema, and not just of the spaghetti western genre. This restored and extended English dubbed version shows off Sergio Leone’s epic in its best light.
Review by Louise Keller:
Whether you have seen this quintessential spaghetti western classic before or whether you still have the pleasure ahead of you, The Good The Bad and The Ugly remains the most haunting film of its genre. And there’s plenty to reflect on and cogitate over in this moody big-scale western, beginning with its trademark music by Ennio Morricone and its masterful motif that sounds like an itchy trigger finger. In fact, prepare yourself, because the modulated screaming theme will be replaying over and over in your head for days to come, with its electric guitars, horns and wailing choir. It was Morricone's attempt to recreate a hyena's wail, and its pure energy is a powerful motif indeed.
Generous splashes of red, green and blue titles wash over the screen in the opening credits, heralding the stars Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach and of course writer/director Sergio Leone, who will be forever remembered for this film, the third part in his “The Man With No Name” trilogy. The characters are rough, tough and have a mean look in their eyes, and we can almost smell the match that Eastwood strikes to light his cigar. Powerful use of imagery and music is the master tool used throughout, and a scene like the one when Wallach runs around and around the cemetery while the camera records the dizzying blur and Morricone’s music heralds bulls in a bullfight, is more potent than words can express. This is a commanding and dazzling scene towards the end of this 180 minute marathon, but despite its length, our interest never abates, nor does our fascination in the characters. This is the story of three men bound together by greed and the complicated relationship between them, as they relentlessly pursue a stolen cache of gold. There’s no love lost between any of them, but they each develop a need for the other, and the essence of that need is constantly changing.
Eastwood – tall, enigmatic and very handsome – in the film that made him into a huge star, is riveting as The Man With No Name (The Good). Or ‘Blondie’ as Wallach’s character Tuco (The Ugly) calls him. Wallach is brilliant as the unshaven rogue whose cunning surrounds him like a cloak, while Lee Van Cleef’s Angel Eyes (The Bad) has the kind of commanding presence and piercing eyes that you will never forget. I love the way the dialogue is peppered throughout with references to how “the world is divided into two kinds of people”. The tagline varies to suit the occasion – the context of which can only be appreciated from seeing the film. Then, there are other classic lines such as ‘When you have to shoot, don’t talk… just shoot.” Makes perfect sense, of course. Those intimately familiar with the film will know each and every new scene that has been added in this new print with never-before-seen footage and digital sound, and restoration expert John Kirk’s meticulous work pays off. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is an experience to savour – don’t miss it on the big screen. It really is a treat!
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JOHN KIRK INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban - on the restoration
GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, THE (MA)
CAST: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach, Aldo Giuffrè, Luigi Pistilli, Rada Rassimov, Enzo Petito, John Bartha
PRODUCER: Alberto Grimaldi
DIRECTOR: Sergio Leone
SCRIPT: Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Leone (Luciano Vincenzoni & Sergio Leone - story)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tonino Delli Colli
EDITOR: Eugenio Alabiso, Nino Baragli
MUSIC: Ennio Morricone
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Carlo Simi
RUNNING TIME: 180 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Chapel Distribution
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: (restored English dubbed version) Melbourne: August 28, 2003; Sydney: January 2004