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

A “spaghetti western” refers to films of that genre produced in Italy, a subgenre born in the ’60s that would later burgeon under such talented directors as Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci among others. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is considered the apex of that subgenre, and, although I believe Once Upon a Time in The West is the superior film (simply because I believe it’s the greatest of all films), The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is truly a staggering achievement. Stylistically, it remains a cornerstone, its own island. You can’t do a Mexican standoff or a close-up on the eyes during a stare down without referencing this movie. Directed by the aforementioned Sergio Leone, the film features Clint Eastwood as The titular “Good” (at times during the movie, I found myself questioning that status), a bounty hunter and one-time partner of Tuco, Lee Van Cleef as The Bad, a Union soldier and merciless killer, and Eli Wallach as Tuco, The Ugly, a bounty hunter whose skins peels after being stranded in the desert. They are all after a lost treasure. This is a three hour movie. Every scene is about 2 minutes of action and/or dialogue extended to 9-10 minutes with Leone’s trademark flourishes. If this sounds like a negative, perhaps it’s something that has to be seen to be understood. In this, the culminating scene, the climax, the three meet and square off for the right to the treasure. Shot in a series of close-ups and then extreme close-ups, the scene has been copied and parodied so often that the scene itself feels like a parody.

-Walter Howard-


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