The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966): Italy

Reviewed by Kathleen Amboy.  Viewed at the TCM Film Festival in Hollywood, CA.

Sergio Leone’s third installment of his Dollars Trilogy, is a cross-genre of satirical Western, epic war film, and just about the best buddy picture ever made.  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly  is a grand masterpiece in storytelling.

Three gunslingers paths intertwine on their quest for buried Confederate gold.  Tuco “the Ugly” (Eli Wallach) is a bandit, wanted in several states for murder, robbery, perjury, bigamy, kidnapping, extortion, and worst of all, using marked cards.  Angel Eyes “the Bad” (Lee Van Cleef) is a gun for hire outlaw, and Blondie “the Good” (Clint Eastwood) is a bounty hunter.

Blondie captures Tuco, collects the bounty, and then rescues him just as he’s about to be hung.  They split the bounty and repeat their performance in another town, until one instance in which Blondie’s aim is not so good.  Tuco is enraged and hollers at  him “when that rope starts to pull tight, you can feel the devil bite your ass.”  Becoming weary of Tuco’s mouth, Blondie abandons him in the desert.  The two play cat and mouse through the entire film, but manage to stick together.

Angel Eyes has been paid $500 by Baker (Livio Lorenzon) to find, interrogate, and kill Stevens.  Once he finds him, Stevens (Antonio Casas) then offers Angel Eyes $1000 to double-cross and kill Baker.  Angel Eyes takes all of the money and kills them both, telling his victims “when I’m paid, I always see the job through.”

The three guns become entangled throughout the picture, and wind up in a showdown that is staged somewhat similar to a bullfight.

Leone’s unique stylized filming involves slow, methodical pacing, extreme close-ups, and wide-angle long shots all blended with facetious dialogue and Ennio Morricone’s haunting Andalusian soundtrack.

Eli Wallach steals every scene he is in.  With his over the top reactions and facial gestures, the eye cannot help but focus on him.  Tuco is a once in a lifetime role which Wallach plays to the hilt.  He is given humorous, unforgettable dialogue, which rolls from his tongue with ease.

The spry 94 year old Wallach, who was in attendance to introduce the film with Robert Osborne, brought along a birthday card someone had sent him, and upon opening it everyone could hear “na na na na na, waa waa waa” – it was Morricone’s familiar tune.

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