Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, The (1966)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), directed by Sergio Leone.

In my memory, Leone westerns are all about style and sadism: looking mean, dressing sinister, callously causing a lot of pain. The start of this film justifies that prejudice: it's all about gold and revenge and whatever it takes to get both.

As it progresses, new unremembered sentiments appear: glimpses of kindness, family, even a bit of camaraderie. We also have more humor than I recall, mostly provided by Eli Wallach. It's largely his film. He gets much more camera time than anyone else and his character has a broader range. Lee Van Cleef vanishes entirely for over an hour.

It must be an epic. The plot could have been covered in a shorter film, but this is the Leone style. Long shots and wide vistas, lots of incidental episodes.

About the big three-way shootout at the end: it's masterfully done, but there is just something wrong about the whole notion of grandiose operatic ritualized dueling. It's like taking bullfighting too seriously. Also: Clint Eastwood cheats, knowing he faces only one man, not two. Doesn't that drain some of the machismo from the scene?

Dubbing is inevitable in a film like this and I would not ordinarily complain, but the minor characters all sound like Mel Blanc doing Western voices.

Famous score by Ennio Morricone.

Available on Blu-ray. This is the first time I have seen the 178 minute cut. The case incorrectly says 161 minutes, which was the length of the American theatrical release.