Revisiting the "Man with no name" series

I think most are familiar with the series of westerns directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood. And I remember watching them all back in my late teens. But it’s been some time, other then catching bits here and there on cable. So when I saw a pack of all three at the store today, I picked them up. This is a basic budget bundle, as it’s just the three movies with no extras.

So I started off with Fistful of Dollars, the first of the three. It still holds up quite well. While viewed as a violent film at the time, what stands out is how little blood there actually is in it. There are few moments, but in a day and age where we expect blood flying when someone gets shot, this film doesn’t have that. And yet it all works. You still feel like you’ve seen some violent acts. Which I guess goes to show how writing and acting still trump effects.

Another thing is how character development doesn’t really happen. Essentially, these are the same characters at the end as at the beginning, you’ve just seen their true nature reinforced again and again. It’s an interesting contrast to the almost automatic assumption of modern storytelling that insists that the characters, or at least the main one, “grow” through the events.

This is not to say that’s its all perfect. From a technical standpoint, the quality of the sound is pretty bad. I could actually hear distortion in it at times, and that was on a relatively low volume. I don’t know if there are better versions of the film out there or if this is just the reality of the audio track.

I also ended up feeling the ending was a bit odd in terms of structure. I don’t want to spoil it, but one of the villains I really found myself wanting to see taken down is dealt with in a rather “afterthought” kind of manner.

At any rate, I’m looking forward to revisting the next two films as well.

Are you gonna watch Yojimbo too?

Or Bruce Willis’s “Last Man Standing”?

“For a Few Dollars More” was my favorite in the series, for what it’s worth. I especially liked Lee Van Cleef in that one.

Must’ve watched these a dozen of times, it never gets old.
Good Bad and Ugly is one you can just view in front of a big screen TV + surround boomers while curb-ball in a blanket during a cold winter night, alongside a couple Pizza plates, and enjoy.

One thing I find interesting about these is how, over the past 25 years or so, they’ve evolved from being considered B-grade “spaghetti western” movies to being pretty highly respected in a lot of ways.

Plus being a lot of fun to watch!

For A Few Dollars More is my favourite, too, again largely down to Lee Van Cleef. I love the way he plays off Eastwood throughout.

OP should definitely watch this. It’s the best version of that movie, imo.

Dude, what? I’m a huge Walter Hill fan, but there’s no way I’d put Last Man Standing in the same league as Fistful Of Dollars or Yojimbo.

Oh, y’all might not know there was/is a Man With No Name comic being published, taking place immediately after the end of Good-Bad-Ugly:

I don’t know if I can quite put it above The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (it’s a close match!), but I also really loved For A Few Dollars More. The adversarial/not so adversarial interplay between Eastwood and Van Cleef was great. Plus the chimes!

I love these films.

They really are perfect in so many ways.

Good/Bad is my favorite, because it gives Leone a chance to be epic without spilling over into the cheese of his later films.

But God, they’re all gorgeous, and the characters are fantastic both in what they say and what they don’t.

Tonight was For a Few Dollars More. Like Cosmic Hippo notes above, the Eastwood/Van Cleef angle was great. For a sequel (so to speak), it was a brilliant idea to essentially make the movie a kind of “buddy picture.” Among other things, it reduces the need to reveal more about Eastwood’s character, something that would have been a bad idea. The Man with No Name works best the less we know about him.

The other big thing is the use of the same actor, Gian Maria Volante, as the main villain in this film after he also played the main villain (but a different character) in the first film. I’m trying to think of an example of that ever being done otherwise. While I understand that there is some debate over whether these movies are really sequels to each other, it’s still a pretty gutsy move. And Volante pulls it off reasonably well despite the similarities between the two characters.

One more to go, probably tomorrow night.

As for the sequel thing, I think it’s open to interpretation. But there are a couple of nifty bits of continuity: No-Name gets roughed up pretty badly at the end of Fistful of Dollars, and IIRC one of his arms gets banged up pretty bad. You may have noticed that, at the beginning of For A Few Dollars More, he’s only using one arm. Someone once also pointed out to me that everyone calls him “Manco,” which is Spanish for “lame in the hand” or something, but I don’t know Spanish. I think there was also a very minor character who knew No-Name in the second film and also appeared in the first, but my memory is hazy on that point.

Oh, and keep an eye out in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly over the course of the film as he picks up all the gear he starts with in the first film!

Yeah. But also the soundtrack, because as great as GB&U’s soundtrack is I like the music in FAFDM even more.

If you find yourself thirsting for more once you’ve finished the trilogy, I’d suggest Once Upon a Time in the West.

It’s sort of a slack continuity. Lee Van Cleef essentially reprises his role from For a Few Dollars More" in “The Big Gundown”, but he has a different name, and he makes a very pointed remark about how he wasn’t a colonel in the army. Otherwise, pretty much the same dude.

Easily my favorite non-Leone spaghetti western.

So night three is in the books, and that means I just watched The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. While this is the movie that probably gets the most tv play, the version I have is clearly longer, clocking in around 160 minutes. That was unexpected, but was a pleasant discovery.

In many ways I think Eli Wallach steals this movie. According to wikipedia Leone apparenty seriously considered casting Volonte (the villain in each of the first two films) in this role, but it’s hard to see how that could have worked, cool as that may have been. Wallach does a pretty damn good job with the comic aspects. But for a modern viewer with geeky tastes, one thing that kept smacking me is how much the middle-aged Wallach looks like Bruce Campbell. I mainly think of Wallach in his later roles, where he looks much different (hair loss, etc.) In that sense it was almost like watching Clint and Bruce doing a film together.

Maybe it’s the 'stache.

Of course Van Cleef also returns, this time cast as a villain. Though in some ways the boundaries between good and evil are murkier in this film then the others. All three of the main figures have their issues, though Van Cleef is clearly meant to be the worst of them.

And thanks to CH’s note, I did see the acquisition of the classic items by Eastwood. Which makes me think this story was meant to be seen as coming before the later ones.

There were some story issues in this film, though I suppose that’s inevitable given the much more complicated plot. Nothing that really breaks the movie, but just little stuff. Like how Eastwood and Wallach lose their guns when they reach the army lines by the bridge and never seem to get them back but have them later. Or how Eastwood’s character is saved more then once by dumb luck. He’s not quite the badass he is in the other films but is luckier.

Lastly, I can’t forget the classic theme. The music pretty much defines the genre in my mind.

I watched these all recently and while the pacing gets slower with each film, I found them to be surprisingly dark, well-filmed, and well-acted for what they are. Sure there’s no blood, but there’s a lot of dark, implied violence that I wonder if Hollywood would put in a movie today. definitely hold up.

I find it interesting that you say that, when I’ve always thought of Wallach’s character as a spiritual cousin of Toshiro Mifune’s Kikochiyo character from Seven Samurai, with their half dangerous/half buffoon manic swings (they even look alike in those photos you posted!). I should watch this movie again though, it’s probably my favorite spaghetti western.

If you watch “Duck, You Sucker” the fact that Steiger is playing the role written for Wallach will be obvious, and make you feel a palpable sense of loss at what might have been.