3/06/2011

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966) ****

I know this film is widely regarded as the best of "The Dollars Trilogy" and "should" be my favorite, but it's not.
That honor goes to For A Few Dollars More.
Don't get me wrong, I think TGTB&TU is an excellent film, features some of the best moments of the series (particularly the final standoff) and deserves all the praise it gets, but it just doesn't hit me the same way the 2nd film does.

One of my favorites things about this series are Eastwood's mannerisms, which he maintains throughout all three films, all centering around his signature cigars - the chomp, slight roll and spitting out little bits (not that I endorse smoking).

Lee Van Cleef is great as the badie "Angel Eyes", but I still enjoy his character ("Mortimer") from FAFDM more.

Eli Wallach is an obvious scene stealer as "Tuco" and really helps make the film work.

Which brings me to Eastwood, who I feel is relegated to the background a bit too much. It's also misleading to call him "The Good". While Blondie is not as brutal as Angel Eyes ("The Bad") or as nasty as Tuco ("The Ugly"), he's not that far behind and pretty unsavory overall.

The 3rd "Dollars" film does feature the best overall Morr score. The theme song is one of the most iconic pieces of film music ever written and many of the other songs are extremely memorable and vital to the film.

This is the 2nd time I've watched the extended version, which is 3 hours long. I have to say that I really don't feel like the added scenes contribute anything much to the film, barring one scene with some amusing dialog from Blondie comparing the number of bullets in his gun to rivals. The added scenes are also somewhat jarring due to the fact that Eastwood, Van Cleef & Wallach were brought in for dubbing in 2003. While it's nice that the studio took the time to get the original actors, their voices clearly don't sound the same, particularly Eastwood's (one scene doesn't even sound like him).

In fact, I think the film is already overlong at its theatrical length of 161 mins. A lot of The Civil War stuff just doesn't do it for me. I've never felt it added much to the story, other than to take the characters from point A to point B. Many scenes hinge on events that happen around or directly affect the characters, but others just make the movie drag, in my opinion. The seriousness and poignancy of some of the Civil War scenes always takes away from the amusing and entertaining tone of the rest of the film, for me at least. Maybe it's sacrilege to say so, but I think The Good, The Bad And The Ugly would have worked fine as a 2-hour film.

Sergio Leone would go on to make his best film (imo) two years later - Once Upon A Time In The West, which also features my favorite overall Morricone score (for a Leone film). Incidentally OUATITW's running time is the same as the theatrical version of TGTB&TU, but has never felt overly long. Paramount - can we get a US BD already??

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