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  Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Triple Threat
Year: 1966
Director: Sergio Leone
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, Aldo Giuffrè, Luigi Pistilli, Rada Rassimov, Enzo Petito, Claudio Scarchilli, John Bartha, Antonio Casale, Sandro Scarchilli, Benito Stefanelli, Angelo Novi, Antonio Casas, Aldo Sambrell, Sergio Mendizábal
Genre: WesternBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 4 votes)
Review: A small desert town in the United States, a country suffering civil war, and three bounty hunters make their way towards a restaurant with guns drawn. But they don't last long as their target, Tuco (Eli Wallach) is far too quick for them, gunning them all down and leaping through the window to escape: he is The Ugly. The Bad, meanwhile, is Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef), who has tracked this man to the out of the way home he shares with his family with a view to gaining some precious information from him. What he wants is the alias of a man who has hoarded away a great amount of gold coins - and he's willing to kill to get his hands on it...

But what of The Good? He was, of course, The Man with No Name, played by Clint Eastwood in the role which made him a superstar. This was the third and final movie he made with writer and director Sergio Leone, and it's incredible to think it was only in 1966 that it was first released, so long ago in light of how Eastwood went from strength to strength ever afterwards, although many movie buffs don't believe he ever appeared in a better film. Of course, by the time it was released outside Italy he was a star worldwide thanks to the groundbreaking previous instalments in this loose trilogy, but for many it was an overwhelming experience to see such hysterically heightened drama unfolding on the big screen.

Indeed, for many now the experience is much the same, and if there is a fourth character who is just as meaningful to the story, it would be Ennio Morricone's music score. This had actually been written before the filming even began, and it was clear that Leone had in his mind how the imagery would match the sound of the blaring orchestra while he was on the set; the opening piece, which recurs throughout, is possibly the most famous Western theme of all time, and rightly so: it's impossible to think of this without that playing through your head. And in the lesser well known music, Morricone still displayed his genius: watch how the scene of Tuco being beaten is contrasted with the strains of a sad and beautiful song sung by the prisoners.

The Civil War is the backdrop for this, though if anything it's an inconvenience to the insanely selfish three main characters who remain unwilling to take sides for the duration. What they are out to get is not a better world, but a fortune to make their world better, and that's speaking personally, so all their efforts are centered upon getting hold of that gold, an ambition which is easier said than done especially as these three are well nigh invincible otherwise. Therefore there's a sense that when the trio clash, they are reminsicent of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object, and something is going to have to give way so we can see who gets the treasure. They all have their strengths, but the hints are that The Good deserves it more, and not merely due to the moniker he is given at the outset.

Much has been made over why each main character is called the Good, the Bad or the Ugly, with some professing not to be able to perceive the difference between them. However, from the outset when he shoots dead most of a family in spite of getting the information he wants, it's clear that Angel Eyes is a villain, and he continues in that vein for the rest of the film, seeing to it that he is walking over the bodies of the fallen to get what he wants. Tuco, being more comical, is the Ugly not simply for his appearance, because he gives in to his baser desires, though he's not rotten to the core (Wallach was patently having a field day upstaging anyone he shared the screen with). And the man Tuco names Blondie is the Good thanks to the acts of kindness he bestows, easy to miss in the hubbub, but who else would have blown up that bridge as much to soothe the harried Captain's soul as for his own gain? The whole thing is preposterous, but Leone lets us in on his glee, as if to ask, "Can you believe how far we're going with this? Isn't it great?" Once you reach the graveyard for the finale, you may well be agreeing, yes, it is great.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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