on June 3, 2001
We rented this because the trailer was so impressive (see dialogue above). Before watching it, I read a short review that said it was "the epitome of spaghetti westerns." Sold me. Man, I just love that term and the ring it has to it: Spaghetti Western.
In all fairness, I will admit, right off the bat, a couple of things. First, I've only seen maybe 10 or less of the classic ones in this genre. Second, I confess that I kind of have trouble following the exact plot of most SW's (though this could also be due to the fact that, when a character is explaining crucial plot points, they have such a thick accent and talk so fast that I have to hit rewind--this probably has something to do with the dialogue dubbing). Also, Clint Eastwood never has too much dialogue, and he's usually one of the few who isn't dubbed and is actually clearly understandable. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make here is to let you know that this review is written by someone who is a fan rather than a completist or an expert source on the genre.
But as far as the plot points go, it’s pretty easy for you to get the idea. CE plays the proverbial Stranger in Town, who Has a Score to Settle. If you’ve seen more that one Clint Eastwood Western, you know exactly the type of character I mean. He gets called "Gringo" a lot. This is not the kind of guy who comes to town just kinda to kick back and relax, or hang out and visit buddies because he's on vacation. He doesn't take kindly to characters who shoot an unarmed man (especially in the back), or kill an innocent -especially a child, because he seems to have a soft spot somewhere in that hardened soul of his for kids--and his creed usually makes the wrong people, AKA the Bad Guys, mad. The aforementioned wrong people usually are a corrupt authority figure such as a sheriff, or the kind of Lowdown Dirty Gang that would kill a baby or a woman for money/gold, or just for kicks.
You either dig this kind of movie or you don't. No middle of the road. It is, however, possible to develop a taste for this kind of movie-I can say this because it happened to me. Maybe this genre is something you have to develop of taste for, the way you do with lobster. Maybe it’s just that I realized (after watching Hang ‘Em High) that I really enjoy a killer opening scene, the cool credits with the Morricone score, or hearing dialogue like, "Kill them like dogs!" or "Bring him in alive...I want him alive!" Maybe I acquired a taste for these movies while watching the way there's a build up when the Man With No Name enters (usually by showing a shot of his boots moseying into the frame, or his shadow), or someone being shot on a balcony and then crashing through the railing and plummeting a few stories to the dust below, or seeing something (or someone) getting spectacularly blown up or set on fire, or scenes where, even though they take place at night, it seems to be 110 degrees because there isn't one character's face that isn't shining or dripping sweat. Maybe I just secretly get a kick out of some character saying something along the lines of, "Please don't shoot, OK? I'll give you whate--" BLAMMO! I also like the extras that are missing key teeth and have pitted skin and look like they actually really are career criminals, Or, almost best of all, I love moments where a character either jeers at or beats up CE and you think/say, "OK, he's dead" or 'that guy just signed his own death warrant." and you can't wait for the moment when the character is riddled with bullets by CE.
Other than the fact that I had slight trouble following the plot (maybe it was so simple that I was reading too much into it), it's hard to find much negative to say about Fistful of Dollars. Some of the dubbing isn't so great- there's a child whose voice doesn't match at all, and is obviously an adult just talking in a whiny annoying voice. I also get the sneaking suspicion that the movie didn't exactly have the ASCPA's seal of approval. Hopefully those were stunt horses trained to fall down on cue, and they gave them plenty of water to drink between takes. One actress in particular had obvious mid-60's eye-makeup including liquid eyeliner and tadpole eyebrows that looked pretty dated, though now that I think of it, this wasn't necessarily a negative point for me.
This movie didn't have a high budget, but you would never know it from watching it. It didn’t look at all like it had low production values. I know I'm not exactly a groundbreaker in saying this, but If Clint Eastwood hadn't been born, someone would have had to invent him. I have to give credit where credit is due. . He’s in top form in this film. He sleeps in the same clothes he wears in the daytime. He almost never takes his hat off. He has a cigarillo clamped between his teeth half the time. He has two facial expression-angry and pis$ed. He has almost no change of expression in his face at all when he plugs someone full of lead. Women love him, but of course, he's a Ramblin' Guy and can't settle down. He could probably still manage to look cool while riding a unicycle, and never shows fear-he could have a noose around his neck, be about to be set on fire, and pushed off a cliff all at the same time and still look mean. Let's face it-his style as the Man with No Name his often been imitated and emulated, but no-one even comes close to touching him. Lance Henrickson is the closest I can think of (if they were to- shudder- remake any of his westerns, he would be the best to fill CE's shoes) but really, CE is simply one of a kind....