A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (PER UN PUGNO DI DOLLARI)
director/writer: Sergio Leone; cinematographer: Massimo Dallamano; editor: Roberto Cinquini; cast: Clint Eastwood (The Man With No Name – Joe), Marianne Koch (Marisol), Gian Maria Volonté (Ramon Rojo), Wolfgang Lukschy (John Baxter), Sieghardt Rupp (Esteban), Joseph Egger (Piripero), Antonio Prieto (Benito Rojo), Pepe Calvo (Silvanito), Margarita Lozano (Consuelo), Mario Brega (Chico), Bruno Carotenuto (Antonio), Benito Stefanelli (Rubio); Runtime: 96; United Artists; 1964-Italy/W. Ger /Spain)
“The film is a no message one, but where violence is glorified by the hero who is as amoral as the villains.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A reworking of Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo (61).” This Italian made Western, filmed in Spain, began the craze of the so-called Spaghetti Westerns. Clint Eastwood plays ‘The Man With No Name,’ in the first of the three films made with the same theme (the others were: “For a Few Dollars More”(65) and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” (1966)).
Clint was on TV doing the Rawhide series and jumped at the chance to go to Europe to make these films when both James Coburn and then Charles Bronson were offered the parts by director Sergio Leone, but wanted more than the $15,000 available. The films became popular in Europe where Clint became a big star, and three years later United Artists bought all three of ‘The Man With No Name’ films and showed them with great success in America.
The film is a no message one, but where violence is glorified by the hero who is as amoral as the villains. This kind of attitude changed the way Westerns were made. It’s an entertaining film, gore and all, its only drawbacks being the poor dubbing job and that Leone hasn’t perfected all his moves yet in a smooth way. Yet this film, not as rewarding as his others in this series, still has the style of the director’s later works, plus the same themes of graphic violence, a laconic hero, and the thrill of gunfights galore.
Clint arrives in the dusty Mexican border town of San Miguel, where visitors just don’t come without wanting something illegal. An old bell-ringer tells the newcomer that in this town folks get to be either rich or dead. Clint, while riding through town on his mule, is shot at by the gunmen of the Baxter clan. He soon learns from bartender Silvanito (Pepe Calvo) that there are two warring gangs in town: the Baxters and the Rojos. They control the gunrunning and liquor business, and are in an uneasy truce. The Baxters consist of: Sheriff John Baxter (Wolfgang Lukschy), his shrewd business-minded wife Consuela (Margarita Lozano) and their dumb son Antonio (Bruno Carotenuto). The rivals are the Rojo brothers: Ramon (Gian Maria Volonté), Esteban (Sieghardt Rupp) and Benito (Antonio Prieto). The most trusted gunman of the clan is Chico (Brega). Both sides have many hired guns, but the Rojo family is the stronger clan. Clint decides he’s clever enough to play them off one against the other, and try to get all the money he can from both sides. He hires himself out with the Rojos, and to earn his pay he kills the gunmen who shot at him. Clint chomps at the end of his cigar without smoking it, says little, wears a Mexican poncho, and is always with his trusted .45s. He makes an imposing figure, as he’s tall, bearded, and mean looking.
Clint sees the possibility of big money coming his way when he witnesses Ramon Rojo and his gang kill a Mexican cavalry unit for their gold. He steals two cavalry corpses and tells each side to watch out for the other, and thereby gets them into a shooting war. This results in lots of corpses for the friendly coffin maker in town. But this scene was shot in a shoddy way, as it was hard to comprehend that the two gangs were so stupid that they would so easily believe that the stiffs they were fighting over were real.
Clint does a good deed by rescuing the beautiful Marisol (Koch), who is being held hostage by Ramon. He slays the Rojo gunmen guarding her and she’s free to go to her son and husband. For this he gets tortured by Ramon, but escapes to watch the Rojo brothers burn down the Baxter house and kill all of them. Then Clint returns to get into a shootout with the Rojos, saving Ramon for last. He then rides off with the gold, instead of with the pretty girl.
In this Western parody, there’s some humor behind all the choreographed violence and there’s also a passable Ennio Morricone’s score to instill a sense of melodrama. What makes this mythical film noteworthy, is that it serves an historical purpose as the start of a new trend in making Westerns with heroes who are not always that good.
REVIEWED ON 6/10/2001 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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