THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY 

(Italian title: Il Buono, Il Brutto, il Cattivo ("The Good, The Ugly, The Bad")
(1966 - Italy, Spain)
With Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach
Directed by Sergio Leone
Reviewed by JB
 

     THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY marks the moment where Sergio Leone turned from "talented novice" to "important new director", albeit one who would only make two more major films in his career. There are levels of visual poetry and thematic depth in THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY only hinted at in Leone's previous two westerns, FOR A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE.  For one example, there is Eli Wallach's race through a cemetery to find the grave in which a fortune has been hidden, an increasingly frantic scene which eventually feels like a race against death thanks to Leone's editing and camera.  The entire civil war battle scene near the end of the film is a textbook model of how to set up, build and sustain lengthy film sequences.  A deftly edited "shootout" featuring only cannons is a visual highlight.

     Although Clint Eastwood returns as "The Man with No Name" (The Good) and Lee Van Cleef plays a ruthless gun for hire (The Bad), it is Eli Wallach's film all the way as Tuco (The Ugly), a lowlife bandit whose loyalties to the two other characters depends on which one he thinks will get him closer to the gold he is searching for.  Hilarious, dangerous, and at times touching, Wallach walks away with the film, leaving Eastwood and Cleef in the dust, metaphorically speaking.

     Unlike FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY never lags, even at a three-hour running time.  Scenes tend to go on at length, but they do so in ways which reveal character or build atmosphere.  The film is greatly is greatly enhanced by Ennio Morricone's classic score which includes the famous over-the-top theme music ("ooo-wee-ooo-wee-ooo - wah WAH waaah") that perfectly captures the epic, operatic nature of the film.  A classic then, and a classic now. ½ - JB

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