The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

"Essential"

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Review


Positioned in history between the earnest majesty of John Ford's The Searchers and Sam Peckinpah's doomed cowboy dirge The Wild Bunch, Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is animated by the best those classic westerns have to offer. Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western masterpiece is still committed to many of the basic conventions of the not-yet moribund genre, embracing the wide-eyed epicness of Ford's standard-bearer. But Blondie (Clint Eastwood), Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef), and Tuco (Eli Wallach), the respective title characters, occupy a brutal and complex moral world akin to Peckinpah, where women are beaten, crippled fathers are executed in their homes, and the ironically-named "good" guy earns his name for being only slightly less vile than the other gunslingers.

But Leone's mixture of seemingly incompatible elements is what makes The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly so great. Not only does he combine a Cinemascope-era outlook with an eye for grittiness, but he mingles tasteful realism with a flamboyant, self-conscious style. Freeze frames, intertitles, and point-of-view shots brilliantly co-exist with the meticulously appointed period sets and sweeping frontier vistas. This fusion, in addition to a surplus of creativity and lack of restraint, makes the third in the so-called "man with no name" series the crowning glory of his career.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly doesn't seem to have enough plot to merit its three-hour running time. But Tuco and Blondie's betrayals and grudges, the secret that bonds them together and the race against Angel Eyes to find a pot of gold is only a canvas for Leone to detail his three principals.

Indeed, the world of GB&U totally revolves around the title characters. Secondary players are brushed aside as soon as their usefulness expires. Tuco, Blondie, and Angel Eyes exist on a plane of their own: Old West superheroes whose only challenges are their battles against each other. Eli Wallach's sweaty and savage Tuco is a welcomed counterpart to Eastwood's sassy but stoic Blondie. Lee Van Cleef looks like the fastest honor student in the West, trying to come off as a bad ass with tight outfits and prancing horse -- and somehow managing to do so. But his "good at math and science" approach to evil is no match for the wily ways of the other two, who manage to form a flimsy alliance to arrive at a deservedly famous final showdown in a Civil War tombstone amphitheater.

Leone is a master a milking tension from what would be, in the hands of a lesser director, throwaway establishing shots. The opening of a door, the meeting of strangers in the street, and the dimming of a lamp all manage to move the audience to the edge of their seats. The hard thing about The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is that the Leone charges those moments with his signature techniques: increasing close-ups, accelerating montages. These methods -- and Ennio Morricone's much-whistled coyote cry and surf guitar score-- were so successful that they have entered into the pantheon of cinematic cliché.

To the contemporary audience, the spiral whine of a ricocheting bullet, the squinty eyes, the stubby cigar in the side of the mouth are all icons that distract from the profound influence of this film. But the release of the special edition DVD provides an opportunity to revisit a worth and great film.

The newly remastered DVD is an absolute must-own. This two-disc set features 18 minutes of added footage, audio commentary by Richard Schickel, a number of making-of documentaries, and -- a really nifty addition -- a packet of reprinted international posters for the film. It's all packaged in a unique little box which includes a commemorative booklet as well.

Aka Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo.



Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Tuesday 9th October 2007

Box Office Worldwide: $6M

Budget: $1.2M

Production compaines: Constantin Film, United Artists, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Constantin Film Produktion, Produzioni Europee Associati (PEA)

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Tuco, as Blondie, as Sentenza/Angel Eyes, Aldo Giuffrè as Alcoholic Union Captain, Luigi Pistilli as Father Pablo Ramirez, Rada Rassimov as Maria, John Bartha as Sheriff, Livio Lorenzon as Baker, Antonio Casale as Jackson/Bill Carson, Angelo Novi as Monk, José Terrón as Thomas 'Shorty' Larson (uncredited), Enzo Petito as Storekeeper, Claudio Scarchilli as Mexican Peon, Sandro Scarchilli as Mexican Peon, Benito Stefanelli as Member of Angel Eyes' Gange, Antonio Casas as Stevens, Aldo Sambrell as Member of Angel Eyes' Gang, Al Mulock as One-Armed Bounty Hunter, Sergio Mendizábal as Blonde Bounty Hunter, Antonio Molino Rojo as Capt. Harper, Lorenzo Robledo as Member of Angel Eyes' Gang, Mario Brega as Cpl. Wallace

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