A Fistful of Dollars
Release year: 1964
Director: Sergio Leone
Screenwriter: Adriano Bolzoni, Víctor Andrés Catena, Sergio Leone
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volontè, Marianne Koch, Wolfgang Lukschy, Sieghardt Rupp, Joseph Egger, Antonio Prieto, José Calvo
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #305, week 17 2020
A stranger (Eastwood) comes into a desolate town torn apart by the constant battle between two rival families. Instead of fleeing like most strangers do, this one stays and starts playing the two families against each other to help make peace in town.
Determined to resurrect the western genre Sergio Leone made this, the first of the later named ‘Man With No Name’ trilogy, and introduced the world to the sub genre ‘spaghetti’ western all the while setting the standard for most western following it. Silent scenes, close-ups, Mexican stand offs and theme music scored entrances, it all began here. But the movie is famous for another important fact, it introduced the world to the name Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven, 1992) and Eastwood would hereafter forever be united with our image of a tough hero with narrow eyes and deadpan deliveries of insults. Like most Italian movies of the time, the movie was filmed silently with the voices later dubbed. It shows a bit but somehow adds to the charm and the fact that most of the cast were Italian and therefor only able to communicate with the lead through an interpreter doesn’t show at all. The town looks dry and dead, a fact only enhanced by the population hiding behind walls to avoid being caught in the middle of the ongoing war and the effective score by legendary Ennio Morricone is a constant accompaniment setting the mood in every scene while reminding you why his scores regained cult status enough to have him collaborate with Quentin Tarantino later in life. The cast is surprisingly good for a low budget movie with of course Eastwood taking the main focus and making the most of his lead ensuring he will stay lead material. He is a star her as he is now and his stranger is cool, collected and terrific. A must for western fans and for anyone who is curious where Eastwood began.
The film was unofficially a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 film Yojimbo which resulted in a law suit that was settled out of court.
Clint Eastwood helped in creating his character’s distinctive visual style. He bought the black jeans from a sport shop on Hollywood Boulevard, the hat came from a Santa Monica wardrobe firm and the trademark black cigars came from a Beverly Hills store. Eastwood himself cut the cigars into three pieces to make them shorter. Eastwood himself is a non-smoker.
This has been described as the first “spaghetti western”, but when this movie was made, there had already been about twenty-five such westerns produced in Italy. This was, however, the first to receive a major international release.
Picture copyrights: MGM