Friday, December 17, 2010

The Potentially Good, the Sadistic and the Mildly Repellant

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Woot, I finished the "Dollar" trilogy before the end of the year! Despite coming third in order, this film is actually a prequel to the other two: firstly, it is only at the end of the film that the Man With No Name gains his trademark poncho, which he wears in the other two films, and also only then that he becomes genuinely The Good. Likewise, there is nothing to entirely deny the possibility that Lee van Cleef's Angel Eyes (The Bad) is in fact Colonel Mortimer from For a Few Dollars More: in the latter film, Mortimer admits to having done some pretty bad things in earlier years; Angel Eyes is an officer in the Union army; Morricone's score plays the Mortimer clock-chime theme over the climactic standoff between the three protagonists of TGTBATU; and, although Angel Eyes is apparently shot dead at the end of the film, it's possible that he was in fact only severely wounded, and survived to team up with the Man With No Name years later (though the name "Mortimer" suggests the living dead, and it wouldn't be the only time a character in a Leone Western turned out to be a vengeful ghost; not insignificantly, the hoard of gold which the protagonists are after is buried in a grave marked UNKNOWN, also linking the Man With No Name with wealth and death). Finally, The Ugly, a comedy Mexican bandit of dubious loyalty, can be seen to foreshadow the more serious Mexican bandits of the other two films.

TGTBATU is a good film which would be an excellent one if it could lose about thirty minutes; part of its conceit is to weave the action in and around the American Civil War, which, while it nicely contrasts the absurdity, brutality and venality of the protagonists' pursuit of riches with the absurdity, brutality and venality of war and allows Leone to explore his trademark bleakness-of-the-West theme (never before has a Western included so many amputees), also leads to a couple of set pieces which slow the main action down far too much. If you're rewatching this, fast-forward through them and you'll probably enjoy it more.

Movie count for 2010: 123