Monday, 21 May 2018

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966)

The action, the characters, the humour . . . how do you even begin to write a review of arguably the greatest, and most famous, Western ever made? Probably very, very badly. And it would certainly be superflous, compared to the many essays and tributes and articles already devoted to this masterpiece. But anyone who knows me already knows that I never let that stop me from adding my own witterings to the pile.

Clint Eastwood is the good, Lee Van Cleef is the bad, and Eli Wallach is tagged as ugly in this epic tale of bounty hunting, treachery, and a quest for a buried fortune. And that's all you need to know.

Although downright zippy compared to many other films from director Sergio Leone, this is another grandiose affair that allows the director plenty of moments to stretch out certain shots and scenes to almost unbearable degrees. It runs for just under 150 minutes, and if you're not grinning for at least 140 of them then I don't even know how to speak your language, because this is as rewarding and wonderful as cinema gets. It may not be sci-fi but you still feel transported to another world. It's live-action that sometimes feels wonderfully cartoonish. You get comedy, thrills, action, and some wonderful lines of dialogue alongside the standard Leone style of telling so much through actions and reactions. I tend not to mention the writers as much when reviewing Leone movies, because of how much is said without really being said, but the script here

Eastwood does some of his best work, as does the brilliant Wallach, while Lee Van Cleef seems to enjoy sinking his teeth into a role that is much more dastardly than his previous appearance in the trilogy. The supporting cast is bigger than in any of the previous films, but that doesn't mean there are many other central characters. This is all about our lead trio, even if we do also manage to get a fine, fleeting, turn from Luigi Pistilli.

And what would the lead performances and all of these gorgeous visuals be without an accompanying score from Ennio Morricone? They would still be gorgeous, no doubt, but Morricone's iconic music (can music be iconic? I am going to say yes) brings everything together with a score that is nigh on perfect. It doesn't matter how many times you hear it, "The Ecstasy Of Gold" should rightfully give you goosebumps, and that's only one section of a score that never puts a foot wrong.

For the artistry of it, and the themes explored, I only slightly prefer Once Upon A Time In The West, but I wouldn't argue with anyone who picks this as their favourite Western of all time. It is a classic, and a fitting swansong to one of the greatest cinematic trilogies ever made (and, yes, that even includes The Mighty Ducks).


I recommend buying this set.
Americans might want to try out this set.

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