#8: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

When and how did I watch this?

June 12th and 13th, 2017, on Amazon.

Had I seen this film already?

Nope.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

It’s the finale to the Eastwood spaghetti Western trilogy, and obviously the most popular. I was troubled by the blatant plagiarism of A Fistful of Dollarsand taken aback by the picturesque For A Few Dollars More. This installment’s extremely high ranking is promising. I’ve enjoyed Eastwood’s gritty no-nonsense no-name characters, and it’s refreshing to see Van Cleef reprise.

What do I know about it now?

This movie almost makes me like Westerns. Each character is introduced in freeze-frame fashion, starting with “The Ugly” and going in reverse.  Seeing Eastwood as “The Good” is cheerworthy, but somewhat unsettling when we discover that he achieves his means unethically.  But it’s the “Old West”; we’re required to follow their rules, and what we find morally questionable might be considered noble and even necessary. Eastwood (dubbed “Blondie”) and Tuco (Wallach) have a bizarre relationship: Blondie collects a reward for Tuco at various towns, lets him get wrangled up to the point of being on the noose, and then shoots him down and helps him escape. The story takes a turn due to two factors: Blondie is tired of the shenanigans, and there’s some money buried at a soldier’s grave. Angel Eyes (Van Cleef), a deadly and vicious debt collector, is also looking for the money. Through numerous twists, they cross paths a couple of times and finally collide at the grave site. Here lies the true beauty of the film. Through all of the sweat, grit, and blood under the New Mexico sun, the three engage in a draw-or-die scenario that lasts nearly half an hour.  The music and cinematography reach a high point here — in fact, they sweep you away. But it never breaks the melodramatic threshold, never getting too romantic.  And that’s the beauty of this film: it’s so good, yet it’s still bad and still very ugly.

What are some themes in the film?

Pride, revenge, greed, trust, Civil War, violence

Did this affect me personally?

Several moments were shocking and more gruesome than I expected.  The desert scene with Blondie and Tuco was grinding.

Why is this ranked #8?

Eastwood and Leone collaborate again in the penultimate Western, and it’s the best written and directed yet, featuring tremendous long shots, high tension, and dirty, entertaining characters. It’s really what Once Upon a Time in the West aspires to be. Even if you don’t care about Westerns, it’s hard to be bored or unaffected. While composing this blog, I ran into someone that told me it was on TV quite often in her childhood.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She did, and had a considerably lesser opinion of the film than I did.

Would I watch it again?

Yes I would.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

Yes indeed.  It’s the roughest, bloodiest, and most profane of the three films in the series, as a warning, but it’s also the most satisfying and entertaining.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

Clint Eastwood is a film legend now.  I’m more familiar with his leather-faced old-but-still-tough on-screen persona, but I’m guessing he’d be a B-level name and face without the help of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I’m only remotely familiar with Dirty Harry, which is basically these westerns in a modern setting, complete with snappy dialogue and lots of shooting, but it’s not on this list — whether it’s less popular or of a lesser quality is irrelevant.  It’s the western Eastwood that has been copied and pasted ever since: the violent and vengeful, yet respected and even beloved no-nonsense dude, always smarter and quicker than the other guy.  In The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, he pops off the glorious screen, and props up an already nearly perfect screenplay and setting to make it immortal.

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