"The good, the bad and the ugly" Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western trilogy ends
The good, the ugly and the bad (Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo in Italian) – 4 stars (Excellent)
After enjoying unexpected commercial success with “A Handful of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More,” Italian director Sergio Leone ends his “Spaghetti Westerns” trilogy with “The Good, the Ugly, and the Bad.”
Surprisingly, even at this point in his masterful directing of Western films made in Spain, Leone would not enjoy a penny of critics’ adulation, as only the Laurel Awards would award a single award to Clint Eastwood for Action Performance, and that was as runner-up.
Hollywood and its stars ignored Sergio Leone as well as Johnny Depp. They refuse to acknowledge that even westerns or pirate movies can be cleverly made and have unique acting performances. Clint Eastwood is The Man with No Name, and Johnny Depp is the perfect pirate as Captain Jack Sparrow. There will never be another like it in these roles.
At least one film director, screenwriter and actor, Quentin Tarantino, has identified Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly as “the best directed film of all time.” It was Tarantino who gave the viewers “Reservoir Dogs.” “Pulp Fiction” and “Kill Bill (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2)” among others.
But let’s go back to Leone, who helped write the script with Luciano Vincenzoni mainly. It was Vincenzoni who came up with the premise of the film (Three Rogues in Search of Treasure in the American Civil War era) and its title.
The Rogues Triangle included The Good (Clint Eastwood, a professional gunslinger referred to as “Blondie” in this film who would become The Man with No Name in later Western films derived from his character), The Bad (Lee Van Cleef, a self-centered hit man known as “Angel Eyes”) and El Feo (Eli Wallach, a self-centered outlaw known as “Tuco”).
Simply put, the plot is to first establish the three rogues as genuine killers. Blondie then becomes a pseudo bounty hunter in association with Tuco, handing him over for the bounty, rescuing him before he is hanged, and repeating the process until Blondie leaves Tuco in the desert to die. Tuco survives and lives to find Blondie and return the favor.
When the blonde is about to die as Tuco forces her to walk through the desert, they are interrupted by a runaway, driverless carriage laden with corpses. Except one body, Bill Carson, lives long enough to tell Tuco where $ 200,000 worth of gold in exchange for water is buried. As Tuco goes for water, Carson tells Blondie the exact grave in a cemetery where the gold can be found. Suddenly, they have a compelling reason to become partners again.
Dressed in the Confederate uniforms of the dead, Tuco takes Blondie, who is on the verge of death, on a local Catholic mission led by Tuco’s brother, a priest. Blondie’s recovery is going well, but Tuco’s reconciliation with his brother is not.
Blondie and Tuco leave the mission and end up being captured by Union soldiers and taken to a prison camp where Angel Eyes (now Union sergeant) is personally charged with torturing the captives. Angle Eyes notices the gold, makes his enforcer beat Tuco senseless, and learns the name of the cemetery. He then hands over Tuco for the reward, frees Blondie (who knows the exact location) and he and his gang of 5 thugs head to the graveyard with Blondie.
Tuco manages to escape on the way to his hanging, appears in a city that the Union forces have foolishly bombed and collides with Blondie, Angel Eyes and their gang of 5. Blondie and Tuco manage to kill the 5 thugs while Angel Eyes escapes. , and now the three are heading to the cemetery.
On the way to the cemetery, Blondie and Tuco encounter a full-blown Civil War battle on a bridge that crosses a river into the cemetery. They witness the continued carnage, blow up the bridge and then the soldiers on both sides, as well as Blondie and Tuco, continue on their way.
Once at the graveyard, it is inevitable that the three rogues will face off in one of the largest Western confrontations ever filmed. The confrontation is filled with masterful panoramic shots of Leone, extreme close-ups, and a clever sequence of final events. If you haven’t seen this movie then you must, it might just be the best western movie ever made. If you’ve seen it, you should watch it again to better appreciate Sergio Leone’s masterful direction.
There are many great moments in this movie. Two of my favorites involved Tuco. In the first, while Tuco is in the bombed town, he manages to find a bathtub and take a bath. As he does so, a bounty hunter (remember Tuco still has a price on his head) confronts him naked in the bathtub.
At the beginning of the movie, the bounty hunter is one of three gunmen who confront Tuco and Tuco shoots all three. The one facing Tuco lost his right arm but lived and now shoots with his left arm. It reminds Tuco of his anguish and, as he does so, Tuco kills him with his weapon that is hidden under the water in the bubble bath. Tuco then utters this memorable phrase: “When you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk.”
The other scene that I love is when Tuco walks miles and miles out of the desert and enters a town with a gun shop in front of him. After getting wet in a waterhole, he confronts the owner, remakes a pistol with parts from three other pistols, and then goes out to test the weapon.
Hit three standing figures down, turning them sideways, and then fire three shots to cut each one in half. Two figures fall immediately and the third remains standing. Tuco takes a shot of whiskey, then jumps up and when he lands, the third target falls. This is a boy’s movie, and you really need to be a boy to fully appreciate what I’m sharing here. Tuco’s role in this scene helped invent the word cool.
Viewers watching this movie at the time were unaware that Eli Wallach (Tuco) nearly died three times while playing his role.
He was nearly poisoned on set after drinking acid used to burn the bags filled with gold coins so that they would tear more easily when struck with a shovel. A movie technician had poured the acid into a lemon soda bottle and Wallach didn’t know it. He drank a lot of milk and ended the scene with a mouth full of sores.
In another scene where Wallach was about to be hanged while on a horse, the rope was severed by a pistol shot, but the frightened horse galloped for nearly a mile with Wallach’s hands tied behind him and the rope. still taut around his neck.
In a third scene, to cut off his captor’s handcuffs, Wallach places his captor on the train tracks and waits for a train to pass and break the chain attached to the handcuffs. He was one foot from the track and lowers his head to the ground as the train passes. The entire film crew and Wallach were unaware that the heavy iron steps protruded from each car and any of the numerous iron step cars would have beheaded Wallach if he had raised his head.
Wallach would later acknowledge and complain in his autobiography that on-set safety was not one of Leone’s main concerns when directing the film.
For the record, Tuco’s full name in the film’s script was Tuco Benedito Pacífico Juan María Ramírez.
Since Sergio Leone barely spoke English and Eli Wallach barely spoke Italian, the two communicated in French. Because an international cast was employed, only Eastwood, Van Cleef and Wallach spoke in English and they were dubbed into Italian for the premiere in Rome. All the other members of the international cast spoke primarily French or Spanish and were later dubbed. This accounts for the fact that none of the dialogue in the film was completely in sync.
Here are three cool facts from the boys movie:
1) The stash of gold in the movie was $ 200,000, which doesn’t seem like a lot of money today. However, gold was $ 20 + an ounce in 1862 and $ 628 an ounce in 2006, so gold was actually worth more than $ 6 million in today’s money.
2) In the movie, Blondie (Clint Eastwood) used a Colt 1851 cartridge conversion revolver with silver snake grips and a Winchester 1866 “yellow boy” with raised sights with ladder. Angle Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) used a Remington 1858 Army percussion revolver. Tuco (Eli Wallach) used a Colt 1851 Navy percussion revolver with a lanyard. The soldiers used Gatling pistols with drum magazines and Howitzer cannons.
3) Clint Eastwood wore the same poncho without replacement or cleaning during all three of Leone’s spaghetti westerns. In the second movie (For a few dollars more) you can visibly see that his poncho was mended after being punctured by 7 bullet holes from Ramon’s Winchester in A Fistful of Dollars. The patched area, originally on the left chest, is worn over Eastwood’s right shoulder blade in For a Few Dollars More.
With virtually no praise at the time, Sergio Leone’s “The Good, the Ugly and the Bad” is now considered a classic by many critics. It was part of Times “The 100 Best Movies” of the last century, and it’s one of the few movies to enjoy a 100% Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes (rottentomatoes.com). The good, the bad, and the ugly are currently in fifth place in the top 250 in the internet movie database, all of which is not bad at all for an Italian guy directing an American western.
Even the master film critic Roger Exert gives Leone his fair share as an excellent director and recognizes two other Sergio Leone films as unquestionable masterpieces: “Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968) and “Once Upon a Time. In America”. (1984)).
Sergio Leone was born in the cinema. His father was Roberto Roberti (aka Vincenzo Leone), one of the pioneers of Italian cinema, and his mother was actress Bice Valerian. Sergio Leone was born in Rome in 1929 and died in Rome in 1989 of a heart attack. He remains one of the great directors in the history of cinema.
Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley