Epic Spaghetti Western film | Sunday Observer

Epic Spaghetti Western film

4 October, 2020

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a 1966 Italian epic Spaghetti Western film directed by Seirio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood as “the Good”, Lee Van Cleef as “the Bad”, and Eli Wallach as “the Ugly”.

Its screenplay was written by Age & Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni and Leone (with additional screenplay material and dialogue provided by an uncredited Sergio Donati), based on a story by Vincenzoni and Leone. Director of photography Tonino Delli Colli was responsible for the film’s sweeping widescreen cinematography, and Ennio Morricone composed the film’s including its main theme. It is an Italian-led production with co-producers in Spain, West Germany and the United States.

The film is known for Leone’s use of long shots and close-up cinematography, as well as his distinctive use of violence tension, tension, and stylistic gunfights. The plot revolves around three gunslingers competing to find fortune in a buried cache of Confederate gold amid the violent chaos of the American Civil War (specifically the New Mexico Campaign in 1862), while participating in many battles and duels along the way. The film was the third collaboration between Leone and Clint Eastwood, and the second with Lee Van Cleef.

Dollars triology

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was marketed as the third and final installment in the Dollars Trilogy, following ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ and ‘For a Few Dollars More’. The film was a financial success, grossing over $25 million at the box office, and is credited with having catapulted Eastwood into stardom. Due to general disapproval of the Spaghetti Western genre at the time, critical reception of the film following its release was mixed, but it gained critical acclaim in later years.

Like many of his films, director Sergio Leone noted that the film is a satire of the western genre. He has noted the film’s theme of emphasis on violence and the deconstruction of Old West romanticism. The emphasis on violence being seen in how the three leads (Blondie, Angel Eyes and Tuco) are introduced with various acts of violence. With Blondie, it is seen in his attempt to free Tuco which results in a gun battle.

Angel Eyes is set up in a scene in which he carries out a hit on a former confederate soldier called Stevens. After getting the information he needs from Stevens he is given money to kill Baker (his employer). He then proceeds to kill Stevens and his son. Upon returning to Baker he kills him too (fulfilling his title as ‘The Bad’).

Tuco is set up in a scene in which three bounty hunters try to kill him. In the film’s opening scene three bounty hunters enter a building in which Tuco is hiding. After the sound of gunfire is heard Tuco escapes through a window. We then get a shot of the three corpses (fulfilling his title as ‘The Ugly’).

They are all after gold and will stop at nothing until they get it. Richard T. Jameson writes “Leone narrates the search for a cache of gold by three grotesquely unprincipled men sardonically classified by the movie’s title (Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach, respectively).

Complex antiheroes

The film deconstructs Old West Romanticism by portraying the characters as antiheroes. Even the character considered by the film as ‘The Good’ can still be considered as not living up to that title in a moral sense. Critic Drew Marton describes it as a “baroque manipulation” that criticizes the American Ideology of the Western, by replacing the heroic cowboy popularized by John Wayne with morally complex antiheroes.

Negative themes such as cruelty and greed are also given focus and are traits shared by the three leads in the story. Cruelty is shown in the character of Blondie in how he treats Tuco throughout the film. He is seen to sometimes be friendly with him and in other scenes double-cross him and throw him to the side.

It is shown in Angel Eyes through his attitudes in the film and his tendency for committing violent acts throughout the film. For example, when he kills Stevens he also kills his son. It is also seen when he is violently torturing Tuco later in the film.

It is shown in Tuco with how he shows concern for Blondie when he is heavily dehydrated but in truth, he is only keeping him alive to find the gold. It is also shown in his conversation with his brother which reveals that a life of cruelty is all he knows.

Richard Aquila writes “The violent antiheroes of Italian westerns also fit into a folk tradition in southern Italy that honoured mafioso and vigilante who used any means to combat corrupt government of church officials who threatened the peasants of the Mezzogiorno”.

Pursuit of wealth

Greed is shown in the film through its main core plotline of the three characters wanting to find the $200,000 that Bill Carson has said is buried in a grave in Sad Hill Cemetery. The main plot concerns their greed as there is a series of double crossings and changing allegiances in order to get the gold. Russ Hunter writes that the film will “stress the formation of homosocial relationships as being functional only in the pursuit of wealth”.

This all culminates in the film’s final set-piece which takes place in the cemetery. After the death of Angel Eyes, Tuco is strung up with a rope precariously placed around his neck as Blondie leaves with his share of the money.

Many critics have also noticed the film’s anti-war theme. Taking place in the American Civil War, the film takes the viewpoint of people such as civilians, bandits, and most notably soldiers, and presents their daily hardships during the war. This is seen in how the film has a rugged and rough esthetic. The film has an air of dirtiness that can be attributed to the Civil War and in turn it affects the actions of people, showing how the war deep down has affected the lives of many people.

As Brian Jenkins states, “A union cordial enough to function peacefully could not be reconstructed after a massive blood-letting that left the North crippled by depopulation and debt and the south devastated”. Although not fighting in the war, the three gunslingers gradually become entangled in the battles that ensue.

An example of this is how Tuco and Blondie blow up a bridge in order to disperse two sides of the battle. They need to clear a way to the cemetery and succeed in doing so. It is also seen in how Angel Eyes disguises himself as a union sergeant so he can attack and torture Tuco in order to get the information he needs, intertwining himself in the battle in the process.