Saturday, August 02, 2003

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Metallica concert I attended last month inspired me to finally pick this one up at the video store (prior to taking the stage, the band plays a clip from the film), and am I glad I did. The final film in Sergio Leone's "Man with No Name" trilogy (preceded by A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More) is simply the greatest western I've ever seen. First off, that title sequence -- whoa! Beautiful images accompanied by Ennio Morricone's legendary score (one of the best I've ever heard). Leone shows remarkable patience in delving out his story -- the main plot of the film isn't even introduced until nearly the halfway mark -- instead choosing to let his characters interact with one another and the landscape. We've got Clint Eastwood as Blondie, "The Good"; Lee Van Cleef as Angel Eyes, "The Bad"; and, in by far the best performance in the film, Eli Wallach as the cunning Tuco, "The Ugly." The three take turns double-crossing one another over the course of the film, all heading towards a showdown in a graveyard over $200,000. At times, Leone reaches levels of Hitchcockian suspense, like a scene where some goons Tuco hires sneak up on Blondie in his room while the Confederate army marches outside; at others, the film achieves an incredible epic grandeur -- an extended sequence in the desert, for instance, or the Civil War battle that Blondie and Tuco stumble into late in the film (this also gives Aldo Giuffre a chance to shine in a brief but wonderful role as an alcoholic Union captain). For me, the best moment in the movie was also the most beautiful: Tuco finally finds the graveyard, the best piece of that gorgeous score swells, and Tuco, ecstatic, runs through the graves, hunting for his fortune. It's a stunning scene, instantly one of my favorites. And I'm not alone -- that happens to be the scene Metallica shows before going on stage. Now, maybe Godsmack can start showing clips of High Noon....


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