In the beginning of the Sixties a new genre arose in Europe, the Spaghetti-Western, a collaboration between a Italian director, a Spanish cinematographer, a falling and/or rising American film-star, with an Italian supporting cast, the whole thing shot in Spain. Although a response as well as a tribute to the classic John Wayne American western, the low budget, minimalist and overly-violent cinematography gave these films a B-movies status.
It wasn’t until Sergio Leone teamed up with composer Ennio Morricone and rising actor Clint Eastwood, that this branding began to change, though not right away. Being the final chapter in the ‘dollar trilogy’ “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” or “Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo” as it was originally titled was the first Spaghetti-Western to have a considerably big budget. This, however, didn’t change its reception. The reviews weren’t bad, but critics concentrated on the flaws more carefully, as some of them would admit years later. Since its release, the movie slowly found appreciation, garnering the praise it deserved.
For this film, Leone reunites with Clint Eastwood, who played in the previous two movies of the ‘dollars’ trilogy; this final chapter being a worthy ending to their fruitful collaboration. For Lee van Cleef it wasn’t his frist Leone film either, but the villain he is interpreting is in high contrast to the romantic hero he played previously. For Eli Wallach it was the first and last collaboration with the director, though his character will remain one of the most memorable from Leone’s films.
Perhaps too lengthy for the young modern audience, the movie seems to have come up with the perfect entertainment formula for the western/action genre: a fast-handed, tough yet good-hearted hero, ’the Good’; a selfish, cruel, yet highly intelligent villain who has no regard for human life, ‘the Bad’; and the comic-relief figure, a wannabe villain, not the most pleasant character, yet his opportunistic/ optimistic way of looking at life makes him a favorite with the audience, ‘The Ugly’. These three characters are combined with numerous action sequences through the desert, including the blowing up of a bridge, a few comic moments, some dramatic ones and all ending with a spectacular three-way stand-off. All of these elements create a gripping and highly entertaining film, which keeps the audience asking for more.