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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Film Review: For a Few Dollars More (dir. S. Leone, 1965)

Where life had no value, death, sometimes, had its price. That is why the bounty killers appeared.

I'm sorry to have to say this, but Clint Eastwood is simply the coolest person who has ever lived. Now, like many stars with such distinctive film personae, his later career consists largely of self-parodies of his coolest roles (Pacino is really the worst of the lot on this score, but de Niro has been challenging him lately). But in his prime--the spaghetti Westerns, Dirty Harry, a few other films--wow. Eastwood is the man.

But equally good here is Lee van Cleef, probably the funniest looking actor ever--including Steve Buscemi. I mean, his nose makes mine seem small and non-pointy, and his overbite? His teeth? But as Col. Mortimer, a real stand-out performance.

Eastwood and Van Cleef play two bounty hunters--or "bounty killers," the term often used here (must be translated from the Italian?), and more appropriate in the days of "wanted dead or alive." They are rivals, but they team up (Eastwood rather reluctantly) to go after El Indio, a ruthless gangleader and bank robber. When Eastwood and Van Cleef meet up in El Paso, home of the biggest bank jackpot in the area, they join forces. Eastwood goes "under cover" to join El Indio's band. (The band includes a young Klaus Kinski as an evil gun-slinging hunchback. Really.) There are lots of plot twists, but the film gets us to the point where Van Cleef and Eastwood get caught but then get away with the loot, based on a scheme by El Indio . . . to stage a massive gun battle, where El Indio plans his own men to get gunned down by the bounty killers . . . so El Indio and his number two get away with all the money, no sharing. (The film leaves no question that El Indio is a psychopathic madman but something of an evil genius. I guess the phrase, "he's quite mad," comes to mind. But given the rape-suicide flashback . . . egad.)

Like most plots, El Indio's is too clever by half. El Indio gets a good whatfor, and he's double-crossed. But then the loot is missing . . . Van Cleef and Eastwood return to get the loot, where El Indio and the double-crosser wait.

This section of the film is almost dialogue-free acting. An example of the challenging dialogue:

Van Cleef: "Leave Indio to me." [Expression says "this is non-negotiable."]

Eastwood: "Alright." [Expression says "OK."]

El Indio gets the drop on Mortimer, and they square off for the shoot-out. "Try to shoot me, Colonel. Just try." It's at this point that El Indio has clearly lost it; but Mortimer has lost it too, for reasons suggested in the picture, which I will omit here. And then Eastwood comes out . . . and El Indio is stuck, with Cint's rifle bearing down on him . . . "Now we start." Cue the music . . . and the final quick-draw. Can there be any doubt what happens when the good bounty killer faces off against the evil psycho?


It turns out in the end that van Cleef is after more than money, or at least something other than the money, in this case. Clint takes El Indio, and his dead men, loaded in a wagon, in for the bounties. (Clint counts the "cash" in the wagon . . .) Plus the loot from the El Paso robbery. Cue the theme music. I should also note: The music in the film is truly great, including the musical watch . . . if you don't know what I'm talking about, rent the movie. The musical watch is very important to the plot.

Btw, this is not the one based on Yojimbo. Or, if it is, it's loosely based. I think that the one based on Yojimbo is The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.


At 4:00 AM, Blogger Wilson Freeman said...

man those spam comments are LAME.

Eastwood is actually the coolest guy alive and you are absolutely right about that. I must say, it was your recommendation in Judicial Politics of Dirty Harry that got me started, but you were absolutely right and I've seen probably half a dozen of his 'classics' since.

My favorite is Dirty Harry, but I really liked Hang 'em High and The Unforgiven. I don't think I'm as schooled as you but I'm hoping to get there because I really do think his movies are amazing.

At 8:21 PM, Blogger Number Three said...

Wilson isn't losing his mind--I deleted the previous spam comments. I swear, spam comment is the lowest form of low. I'll try to find a solution to prevent this in the future.

Let me add, Wilson, that High Plains Drifter and Pale Rider are also quite good. But Unforgiven may be the best Eastwood movie ever.

"We all got it comin', kid." Oh, man,

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Curat Lex said...

Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. (This is the sound of me hyperventilating.) No he ditint.
I know I serve as the annoyingly uninformed not-so-comic relief on this blog, but on this issue there can be no debate. I'm right.
HPD - good. Unforgiven - good. Pale Rider - good/great.
The Outlaw Josie Wales - perfection. The only thing that might drag that masterpiece a little below perfection is the irritating Sandra Locke, but I've even come to appreciate her appearance in the last few viewings. (I think Bug would like it just for when the 'crosses' carved into the windows pointed out by granny are in reality gun ports). In a decade of supposed fine movie making, this is the best one of the decade. Better than Deer Hunter (which sucked, by the way, every time I saw it), better than Chinatown (which is still good), better than Star Wars, better than anything.
You've got your Dying Ain't Much of a Living, you've got your Missouri Boatride, you've got your How's it at Stains, you've got your Pay Me When You See Me Next, Josie Wales, you've got your I Think I'll Tell Him the War's Over, you've got your host of I Reckon So's, you've got everything a Western needs, including crooked Feds. Simply the greatest.


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