FOR A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS

(Italian title: Per un pugno di dollari; released in U.S. as FISTFUL OF DOLLARS)
(1964)
With Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volanté, Marianne Koch, Wolfgang Lukschy
Directed by Sergio Leone
Reviewed by JB

Yo, Jimbo!      FOR A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS is an uncredited western remake of Kurosawa's samurai classic YOJIMBO, itself influenced by westerns. Anyone who has seen YOJIMBO can point out the many scenes and characters in FOR A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, coming one after another in succession, that have been lifted wholesale from Kurosawa's film, so I won't go into them here.  Kurosawa himself enjoyed the film but wrote to Leone saying "It is a fine film, but it is my film," and, citing international copyright laws, he stated rather bluntly "[Y]ou must pay me."  For his troubles, Kurosawa received fifteen percent of the film's profits, while leaving Leone with a letter which, although filled with legal threats and accusations, the director would proudly show to anybody and everybody.

     Be that as it may, if you are going to rip off one of the best movies from one of the world's greatest directors, do it Leone's way - show yourself to be a talented director in your own right (despite some nods to Kurosawa's camerawork), launch the career of a new superstar (Clint Eastwood), and create a brand new sub-genre of films (the spaghetti western).  Leone also proved he was not a one-hit wonder, following up with some of the best westerns of the 1960's: FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. He would later direct the much-admired ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA.

     Clint Eastwood's laconic, tight-lipped anti-hero is in its formative stages in FISTFUL, and would blossom into a full-fledged classic character in later films.  Not as confident or imposing as Toshiro Mifune in YOJIMBO or as Eastwood himself would be in later films, the actor still became an international star with this film.  His "Man Without a Name" would return in other films such as FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER and would seem to be the prototype for Eastwood's later classic character, "Dirty" Harry Callahan.  In addition, Eastwood's status as a star allowed him to become a fine director later in  his career, helming such notable films as PLAY MISTY FOR ME, UNFORGIVEN, MYSTIC RIVER and MILLION DOLLAR BABY.  In that, FOR A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, although heavily indebted to YOJIMBO and Kurosawa, became a starting point in itself for many other good things in film history. ½ - JB

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