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
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
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