In a tale familiar even to those who have not already seen this classic movie (based, as it is, on Yojimbo, which itself was based on previous material which has since been recycled and revamped in so many different incarnations that it's almost impossible to keep track . . . . . . if ONLY there was some kind of website to make things easier . . . hmmmmm), Clint Eastwood stars as the famous Man With No Name (although a couple of the characters call him Joe, and he is listed here as such) who rides into town and begins clearing up a big mess by making a bigger mess. he does this with great ingenuity and balls of steel, putting himself in between two warring families and playing one off against the other while pretending that his loyalties are beyond question.
Everything is present and correct here that would go on to be improved upon and made completely iconic in Sergio Leone's future movies: the camera moving in for those close-ups of the eyes, the dusky damsel in distress, the gruff and economic speech from Clint, the sharp-shooting and moments of intermittent brutality. From the very beginning, with some lively animation and the first sounds of the wonderful Ennio Morricone score, you just know that you're in for a treat.
Clint is quintessentially Clint in a role that (alongside Dirty Harry) firmly established an iconic image for him. He may not have everything perfected yet (there's still a freshness to him and a slight hamminess in his laid-back manner) but he gets it almost spot-on and, of course, would just get better and better with the trilogy. The rest of the cast? Well, I would be lying if I said they were all memorable and how much I adored each performance but they all do a very good job at playing, essentially, ducks ready to be shot in a barrel. The friendly barman and eager coffin-maker are definite highlights but nobody really disappoints, despite maybe not searing themselves onto your psyche.
With a grandiose landscape just hovering by the edge of every framed moment, this starting point for (arguably?) the greatest Western trilogy ever made actually impresses all the more thanks to its ability to overcome any limitations with a smart, economical approach. It's clear in the scripting, in the moments of action and in the general details that the resources were definitely limited but that in no way detracts from the fun to be had while Clint smokes cheroots and cleans up the town.
The only real negative points here are, as already mentioned, Clint's growth into the role, the mixture of baddies (some are great, some aren't), and a child who appears just enough to annoy in the first half of the movie and who wouldn't seem out of place wailing amidst any Manga cartoon. Which marks this movie down from perfection. Which, ironically, kind of makes it better while you tag along for the ride.
I recommend buying this set.
Americans might want to try out this set.