A Fistful of Dollars
When the mysterious stranger (Clint Eastwood), arrives at the little Mexican border town of San Miguel, an innkeeper, Silvanito (Jose Calvo), tells him about the bitter feud between two families vying to gain control of this town.
On the one side, are the Rojo brothers: consisting of the eldest, Don Miguel (Antobio Prietto) - the impudent, Esteban (Sieghardt Rupp) - and the smart and ruthless, Ramon (Gian Maria Volonte).
Whilst on the other side, are the Baxter family: consisting of the matriarchal wife, Consuelo – the younger son, Antonio – and the placid father and town sheriff, John (Wolf Lukschy).
Now sensing an opportunity to make some money off of this situation, the Stranger decides to play both families against each other. Firstly, he instigates this by killing some of the Baxter’s bandits (in which he gets paid by the Rojo’s). Next, he ply's the Baxter family with some information relating to a cunning ploy Rojo is involved with, concerning Mexican gold and dead American solders (in which he gets paid by the Baxter’s). And finally, he inadvertently arranging an exchange between the Baxter’s and the Rojo’s, one where Ramon’s mistress / hostage, Marisol (whom the Stranger kidnapped) is swapped for Antonio (whom the Rojo’s took during the Mexican gold kafuffle).
Unfortunately, though, during this latter 'exchange', the Strangler starts to realize that what he is doing, does have some drawbacks - not financially of course. Therefore, that is why what next transpires is a beginning of the end of the future of the west. As hostages are freed - Strangers take heed - Chico (Mario Brega) is attacked - and evil men fall flat on their backs.
Now this 'cinema of squints’ begins with Sergio Leone’s remake of a Chinese classic, Yojimbo, where he aptly replaces sword-fighting with gun-fighting, and warriors with ambiguity. Also known as 'A Fist Full of Dollars'.
Personally speaking, I found that this was the film which set the standard for the Western idiom during the sixties and the seventies - nigh on revitalizing a whole genre of cowboy films in its wake. You see, just prior to this movies release, Westerns had been done to death within the proceeding years - mainly due to the amount of them being made. Moreover, the style of this proceeding idiom, always had a similar tone, style, and structure, to it - hero goes into town - hero fights the bad guys - and hero leaves the victor.
'A Fist Full of Dollars' changed all that - the hero was a mysterious conniver - the town did not want saving - and who win's at the end of this film? Clint perhaps?
Well, Clint does what he does best in this film, squint – sneer – stride – and then scorn at all who oppose him - presenting upon the screen an archetype that many have tried to copy since. Conceptually, Clint’s acting style is pure reacting - thus making his performance seem natural and benign – even in the face of danger.
However, to juxtapose Clint’s acting style, was that of Gian Maria Volonte (a.k.a Ramon), whom appears to overreact as if he was performing on stage. In addition to this, the other actors in this film were all of 'stage variety' also - and likewise contrasted their styles to those of Clint's.
Please note, this is not a criticism on my behalf, oh no, as this style seems to fit the overall operatic panache that the director, Sergio Leone, wanted to capture on film – allowing on display to be a literal crescendo upon the celluloid.
Oh! And while I’m on the subject of ‘crescendo’ - my god - what a film score! Film composer, Ennio Morricone, music complements this film so much, it’s as if he was conducting his composition to the characters choreography, and harmonizing the human drama with an orchestration of abundance.
Phew! Try saying that last sentence backwards! Or better yet, check out these facts: (1) This film was a remake of Akira Kurosawa film, right? So why didn't Sergio pay them for this then? That's why they he was sued. (2) The whole film was overdubbed [i.e. shot without sound] and that is why some of the 'non-American' actors come across as being too mannered and bold. (3) Sergio's first two choice's for this film, was Henry Fonda and James Coburn - but they was too expensive [please note, he worked with them on other films]. (4) Most of Clints wardrobe was from his time in 'Rawhide'. And (5) This film is bloody great.
Well, I am right, right?
THE RATING: A