Pros:Incredibly stylish, truly amazing sound--and lack therof
Cons:May be too long for some (impatient) viewers
The Bottom Line: Amazing. A landmark film in the history of cinema, and one that everyone has to see at one point or another.
I'm not a fan of westerns. Up until about a month ago, when I thought of a western I thought of overly long and essentially non-exciting landscape films where little happened, and the film plodded on for a ridiculous amount of time. THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY changed all that.
Recommend this product?
Made in 1966 and directed by perhaps the biggest name in the genre, and definitely the BEST, Italian Sergio Leone, the film is just incredible. The running time does clock in at nearly three hours, but I dare you to find a boring moment in the entire movie. It simply is one of the finest crafted films I have ever seen, containing a constantly evolving storyline following three of the most interesting and charasmatic characters ever portrayed on the big screen. Another factor in how good this film is has to be the sound and music score. The music was created by Ennio Morricone, who in my opinion, is one of the best ever to put music to some of the classic films over the years. His soundtrack to John Carpenter's 1982 film THE THING was just haunting and utterly horrific, making the film that much more scary and unnerving, and here, he created one of the most recognizable and beloved themes ever in film. Besides the music, there's also incredibly innovative use of sound by Leone. At times we hear absolutely nothing, and Leone makes up for this by creating some fabulous visuals, and at others, sound is incredibly fused with these amazing visuals to create one of the most powerfully stylish and completely incredible viewing experiences I've ever seen.
The story follows three main characters; the good (played to a rough and tumble "T" by Clint Eastwood), the bad (Lee Van Cleef, in a completely menacing and downright frigtening role at times), and the ugly (Eli Wallach, who in my opinion makes the film as far as acting goes). These three characters meet up in various ways throughout the film, ultimately embarking on a race to get to a buried fortune in gold.
Another factor in how good this film is is the setting. The film takes place in the American west, but also occurs during the time that the civil war is tearing the country apart. Leone offers an interesting and decidedly different approach to the war. In one of the best scenes, there's a futile and bloody battle between the blue and the grey at a bridge. The battle really serves no purpose for either side, yet they continue to fight it out, suffering heavy casualties with every offensive move. Leone really goes off the beaten path in his depiction of the war in relation to the story in the film. It ultimately becomes a powerful, and very realistic look at the conflict, quite a statement coming from an Italian.
Besides the interesting setting, this one is chocked full of effectively filmed shootouts and action sequences. There's a great scene of Eastwood and Wallach facing off in a deserted and dusty town with a bunch of Van Cleef's gunmen as cannon shells land around them. Eastwood also suffers through what has to be one of the most brutal sequences I've ever seen when Wallach forces him to walk 100+ miles through the desert without a hat, horse, or water. By the end of this, Eastwood is literally a wreck. Excellent makeup is also used to create the revolting effect of Eastwood's face being beaten on by the hot sun, and you can literally see his skin pealing off. Nasty!
The climactic scene in a shoddily constructed cemetery is also a great scene. Wallach and Eastwood find the tombstone under which the treasure is supposedly buried, but along comes Van Cleef. It turns out it isn't the right tombstone, but does anyone even know where the money is? Anyway, this scene involves a great final shoot-out scene between our three main characters, and it has to be one of the best film climaxes I've ever witnessed. Excellently shot.
In the end, this film introduced me to a new genre of films which I am no doubt going to check out. Previous entries in Leone's trilogy with Eastwood (cast as "The Man with No Name") include a couple of other highly regarded films, A FISTFULL OF DOLLARS, and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, which I now feel completely obligated to see. THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY is simply one of the best films ever made. It deserves to be seen by everyone, and if you find yourself being bored with the length of the film, shame on you.