A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS
(Sergio Leone, 1964, Italy/Spain, 99 mins., Rated R) 35mm
Clint Eastwood can take a joke, but unfortunately his mule can’t, and mayhem ensues in the first of Leone’s “Man With No Name” series, with the non-eponymous hero hiring himself out to each of the trigger-happy factions battling in the same desolate, seemingly unpopulated desert town. This is where it all began … the iconic kick-off for the wildly-popular ‘60s Spaghetti Western cycle, and the star-making role for erstwhile Rawhide actor Eastwood. Borrowing more than a bit from Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, Leone’s violent thriller forever changed the way we thought about westerns, and in the process gave “spaghetti” a whole new meaning!
FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE
(Sergio Leone, 1965, Italy/Spain, 132 mins., Rated R) 35mm
An atypically weak moment for Eastwood’s Man With No Name, as Lee Van Cleef’s steely, black-clad ex- Rebel officer proves range can beat speed in a gunfight — but then they team up to hunt ruthless killer Gian Maria Volonté and all that bounty money. The most openly parodic of the entire trilogy, Leone pokes bloody fun at Western conventions and ratchets up the stylization to something approaching grandeur. Highlights include Volonté’s electrifying prison breakout; Eastwood keeping score — by bounty money tallies — of the body count; and Van Cleef striking a match off the hunched back of … Klaus Kinski!
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY / Brand-New Digital Restoration!
(Sergio Leone, 1966, Italy/Spain, 161 mins., Rated R) Digital
“If you’re gonna shoot, shoot! Don’t talk.” Lee Van Cleef’s icy bounty hunter (“The Bad”), Eli Wallach’s Mexican bandito (“The Ugly”) and Clint Eastwood’s con man (“The Good”) contend with each other and with battling Civil War armies in their relentless search for buried gold.
Leone’s epic, trilogy-capping Western (accompanied by — Hwah, WAH, Wah — perhaps Ennio Morricone’s greatest score) conjures up operatic excess, existential cowboy crisis and the blackest of black humor. Who can forget the climatic stare down showdown, Wallach’s endearing (and frequent) use of the term “Blondie,” and that kick-in-the-head closing shot?