Wednesday, 12 December 2018

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Il Buono, il Bruto, il Cattivo) (1966)

Den gode, den onde og den grusomme
There is an exclusive group of movies on the List that stand out as my personal favorites and these I have been anticipating for years now. One of those movies is “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and now it is time.

Seriously, I have been looking forward to revisiting this movie for a long time as I have held off watching it since I started on the List. Before that I watched it frequently but taking a break does wonders for anticipation.

So, there are no surprises here, this is exactly the movie I know and love with one exception: watching all these movies chronologically has provided context and a better appreciation of what Sergio Leone did with “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”. This is not just one helluva Western, it is a piece of art.

“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” is one of the most iconic Westerns ever made. It is the western that give the look, the feel and pace and the sound of what a Western is supposed to be. And then it is not even American, but shot in Spain by Italians. A similar claim can be made of Kurusawa’s “Seven Samurai”, but at least that was a transplanted Western. “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” is the real deal.

Sergio Leone takes his time. He loves panoramic shots, ultra-closeups of eyes, sweat tickling down stubble and flies buzzing around unwashed faces. Leone frames his shots like Ozu, he composes paintings, so scenes work as tableaux. Slow pace, fast violence, pathos and disarming humor, Leone is the maestro orchestrating the opera.

Clint Eastwood takes up his already established quiet man-without-a-name persona and makes it iconic. Dirty Harry exists because of “Blondie”. Eli Wallach, in his later years a sweet, soft spoken, old man, is this crazy Hispanic banditos with wild eyes and a foul mouth. Nasty, but strangely likable. And Lee Van Cleef, Angel Eyes, amoral, cunning, vicious and striking. Three characters larger than their roles, or is it simply Leones orchestration that makes them so? He makes them the stuff of legends and not just for their shooting skills. They are, objectively, terrible people, but Leone makes them a lot more than that.

And then there is Ennio Morricone. His name speaks for itself, but was there only one movie for which he should be remembered it would be this one. Of course, Morricone did a vast number of scores and great ones too, but even my eight-year-old son knows the “AIAIAaa – da-dah-da” theme and that is not even the best part of the score. To me this is the sound of a Western and yet it is completely different from classic Western scoring up to this point, with the exception of Leones earlier films.  Take the scene where Tuco realizes he has found the cemetery; the music is so much part of that scene I could not imagine it without.

It is a simple story of a treasure hunt and shifting alliances between bandits, but it is also a story that moves in a world of madness, where thousands of people die meaningless death and normality is suspended. In this world our three characters make more sense than anything around them and looking for some gold seem fair enough.

I love this movie. I love everything about it. I love it more now than ever before.  

When you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk.

Just watch it, again.


  1. Probably my favorite western. Prequels (especially with Star Wars in the title) often underwhelm but Leone proves can be done well. It's very cinematic, the scene in the desert, the ending, etc. At some point I'll follow your advice and watch the trilogy chronologically

    1. I did not know this was a prequel to the other two movies, but now that you mention it I can see that it could be so. This is definitely a movie you can watch again and again.

  2. Hey, Thomas! I can now comment on your blog via Firefox! Fantastic review I'm with you all the way.

    1. That is awesome, Beo. Just a technical glitch then.
      Thank you for the compliment, I mean every word, I totally love this movie.

  3. I'm not sure if I would pick this one or Once Upon a Time in the West. But I do love them both. An underrated Leone that you may want to check out if you haven't seen it is A Fistful of Dynamite (Also know as Duck, You Sucker).

    Also, if you are so inclined,check out the Danish National Symphony and their version of Morricone's theme.

    1. I have yet to find a Sergio Leone film I do not like. Once upon a time in the West has the best opening of any Western ever.
      I know of those shows. There is also a Star Wars suite and one covering a number of computer games. However the Morricone one is the best.