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on February 15, 1999
You can still purchase both Sister Act movies, yet as of this review, Fistful of Dollars is still unavailable to the quality movie buying public. Oh well, we've still got Whoopi! Give me a break. One could only dream that it was Whoopi or any of her "nun too funny" cohorts who had laughed in Clint's face when he asked for an apology to his mule. Undoubtedly they would have met with the same fate that befell those five (not four!) snickering cowpokes, and anyone else who was foolish enough to cross paths with "The Man With No Name" in the first of the Leone "Dollars" trilogy. Contemporary audiences who fall over themselves for a chance to watch a Tarantino flick may first wish to view one of these masterpieces for an original treat in violence, humor, and style. While they're at it, they might as well check out the mesmerizing original score by renowned film composer Ennio Morricone. The film that catapulted Eastwood to international superstardom still stands as a visionary masterpiece, and patterned many an Eastwood character to follow. So on May 4th, ride, don't walk to your local video retailer (or and pick up a copy of this five-squint flick!
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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....
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on September 9, 2001
Though the Wild Bunch is often considered to be the first truly modern western, with it's fatalistic, and soon to be very seventies approach to film making, I think there are some claims to be made for A Fistful of Dollars. Though it certainly has a lot less to say than that other classic, Fistful is just as unyielding in it's remote and dark view of the west. And despite Wild Bunch's claim to being revolutionary when it comes to violence on film, Fistful, (though certainly less gory) is by no means a lightweight. The body counts and carnage are sometimes reminiscent of eighties action flicks like "Commando" or "Rambo 2". though it's certainly much better.
The minor milestone of this film is in it's creation of the spagetti western genre. So called because it was brought to life by Italian director Sergio Leone and his impressive visual style. Like many of his Italian filmmaking peers, Leone has a sense of visual style that can very nearly, (and quite often completely), overwhelm a film. Sweeping and breathtaking camera movements, claustrophobic close-ups and so-on. It is often done well, but can be over done. Fistful straddles that line but only occasionally steps over.
Helping to maintain that grip is a story removed from another film classic, Akira Kurosawa's "Yojimbo". Two rival gangs square off with the "Man with no name in the middle", playing them against each other. Clint Eastwood makes this one of the most gripping characters in western history. We find out almost nothing about this man, but that seems to suit his nearly mythic qualities. Unfortunately the same can't be said for the other characater's in this movie. Real story development is something of a weakness here. Luckily Eastwood is pretty much a one man show. He makes every scene he's in gripping and his cat and mouse games reveal him as exceptionally crafty and intelligent loner.
The other stars here are Leone's cinematography and Ennio Morricone's score. They complement each other expertly in creation of mood and suspense. A stare down never had as much gravity as this. By the time the bullets fly, beads of sweat have begun to form. They do manage to go a little overboard into stylized, gun blazing ecstacy from time to time. This is probably due to the fact that Sergio, for all his technical expertise, was just beginning to get his feet wet in this genre. Things can get a bit overblown and he hasn't quite mastered the ability to maintain complete control as he would in later outings. Yet sometimes things gell so perfectly that it's unable to sit, mouth agape at the utter beauty of his creations. When Eastwood uses a stick of dynamite to create a smoke screen and walks in amidst the billowing dust, I really started thinking that it was probably one of the most awe inspiring pieces of visual cinema created to that point. And all of this just helps the story seem larger than the dusty, isolated world it inhabits. And certainly helped Eastwood become the legend that he is today.
Another notable performance here is Gian Maria Volante'. He is good here as the head of one of the rival groups, but he is much better appreciated by his more well rounded baddie in the next in this series, "For A Few Dollars More". Though he happens to play a completely different character.
Even if you like westerns. you won't necessarily like this film. It's an about turn from what came before. Even if the Man with no name does retain some of those noble desperado qualities from the past, (the "Wild Bunch" managed to drain those away completely), Fistful's tone seems to have much more in common with modern action movies. Nonetheless, it is a great western. And maybe even more notable as a first in a rather small sub-genre.
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on September 23, 2002
In the small dusty border town of San Miguel, two gangs of "criminals and smugglers" are both trying to take over the town and be the "bosses". Out of nowhere enters our hero, the very dangerous(but very cute) gunman with no name(Clint Eastwood). In this first of the trilogy directed by Sergio Leone
Clint decides to play the rival gangs against each other, first working for one then the other. Why? Because there's money to made here. In the process, there are deadly shootouts, Clint saves a family,gets his face bashed in (I hated that part) and well I wont give away the end.
This film was followed by "A Few Dollars More" and "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly". All three a must see's for the Eastwood fan. This one was based on the Japaneese film "Yojimbo" and was also the basis for the more recent "Last Man Standing" starring Bruce Willis.
Billed as "A New Breed of Western" (more commonly called spaghetti westerns, although it was shot in Spain), it is a cinematic treat you wont want to miss. The actors performances are terrific and the scenery stunning.
The DVD(by MGM) is a must have. The picture is crisp, the colors are sharp and the widescreen excellent. The sound is Mono,(only reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5) but it still sounds good, the horses and guns are crisp and the dialouge is fine.(The film is nearly 40 years old )
Not a whole lot of extras, but for me This movie was the extra!
What the DVD has is the Original Theatrical Trailer, Scene Selection, and a very informative booklet that talks about the making of the film. It also has subtitles, English and French which could be helpful for hearing impaired viewers, and a standard film format on the other side for those who might prefer it to the widescreen.
If you have never seen it and you like westerns, you'll love it. If you have already seen it and know you love it, you will enjoy the DVD.
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on February 8, 2001
This film is a double myth. The myth of the Far West, here the border with Mexico, rather on the other side of the Rio Grande. Violence, black market, smuggling, trafficking, etc. Two families in this village that have a total hatred for each other. A century old hatred in a community that is hardly fifty years old, at least that those families took over about fifty or maybe even as few as thirty years ago. And there comes the nameless cowboy who will clean up the plate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Nameless like God almighty who can kill as much as he wants, since he shoots faster than his shadow . One family will be exterminated like cockroaches by the other and the other will be eliminated like so many pawns on a losing chess board by the nameless hero. Then the myth of the cinema, of spaghetti westerns, of Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone. This film is a matrix from which so many other films will be invented, so many TV series will be extracted. It is a caricature, but it is so simple that its speaks to our deep primitive survival instinct. The music has become the acme of western film music. Clint Eastwood the best mute actor of the talking cinema. Does he really know how to speak ? A word here, a grumble there, a moan further on, and nothing else or so little. Maybe a yell or a scream, but probably not from him, rather from some impressionable woman lost and wasted in these waste lands of nowhere. Pure pleasure but also so much out of time that it becomes a true torture for our reality. We have to extract ourselves from the real world to be able to contemplate this mythical world. And, mind you, it is not an easy task to be the last gunslinger of the world, even if Stephen King has invented a new one in his Dark Tower. Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, Paris Universities II and IX.
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on May 1, 2000
I remember not long ago, there was a time when westerns made me gag... In my eyes, if John Wayne defined this genre, not a single film was worth watching.... Then I saw "High Plains Drifter" and I was TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY (nice pun, huh?)...... I fell in love with the Clint Eastwood western, and he became my Western Icon. I HAD to watch the Man With No Name trilogy that I had heard so much about... and I was NOT dissapointed....
If you are a true film lover, and if you appreciate film as the artisitic form of expression that it is, then you love the Man with No Name trilogy with every fiber of your being, and it's opening chapter, "A Fistful of Dollars" will grab you by your neck and draw you into the world of Sergio Leone "spaghetti" westerns.
Eastwood is the aesthetic hero, the existential wanderer motivated by pure self-interest...but he has his own code of honor which he upholds... He is the reincarnation of every solitary warrior that has ever ridden in every age of history. And with his entrancing and supremely fatal skill, he leads us through the desolate landscape of the REAL American frontier; This time we're entrenched in a feud between two rival gangs in a small Mexican ramshackle border village known as San Miguel. As the shopkeeper says "Every woman is a widow"...the only people with jobs are the bell-ringer, who tolls for the dead, and the eccentric old coffin-maker.... Gian Maria Volonte is superb as the murderous Ramon, a person who must have been typical in his day.
This hypnotic film will make you drool for it's sequels, "For a Few Dollars More" (my favorite of the three) and "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly". It is a true landmark film, unlike anything you have ever seen. Even the title sequence is enticing!
DVD Verison: While the picture quality is far superior to any VHS version, and I imagine, even better than the picture quality of the original theatrical release, it's still not up to par with more modern films. It's the best you can get from this film, though (remember, it was very low-budget!)
As for the sound, it is quite bad when compared to other DVDs. But again, that's the low-budget of the original sound on the original version. But I imagine that this is the best you can get out of the sound quality for this film.
It certainly doesn't take away from your film experience, though!
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on May 20, 2004
I am a HUGE fan of Kurosawa and Leone. Both directors are quite unique and breakthrough. This film is not loosely based on Kurosawa's "Yojimbo" it's almost Scene for scene! just watch the opening of both films and you'll see how similar they are! Leone decided to pay homeage to "Yojimbo" with this film and it shows. Its NOT a rip off but pays homeage in the way it should be! I don't look at this film as my "favorite" because there are two more in the series and it feels more like one big film starting with this and moving to "For a few dollars more" and finishing with "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly". Each film is watchable alone but one after the other makes them all the more enjoyable. This is a classic film in every way, the acting, the directing and cinematography. Some deem this a "cheapo film" but just because it was low budget doesn't mean its not fantastic! Its a classic and incredible in EVERY way!
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on June 9, 2004
The film that catapulted Clint Eastwood to worldwide fame is a western classic and an enjoyable adventure, a European oater that packs a wallop. The dialogue is spare, the dubbing leaves a lot to be desired and the plot of feuding families here is a bit stilted and contrived but the story has pace and excitement, plenty of gun-play and Eastwood's lighting-fast draw. The rugged scenery of southern Spain adds to the film's beauty and there's a nice build-up towards the explosive climax when Eastwood's "man with no name" reappears to settle old scores. This western makes use of sweaty close-up shots, gritty facial expressions and has large doses of violence that were not often seen in oaters. Ennio Morricone's music score is a flavorful accompaniment to the movie and is a departure from the traditional music cues that were used in western films. This picture raised the bar for the many "spaghetti westerns" that followed during the next few years.
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on February 28, 2000
I am a fan of Clint Eastwood and I really liked this movie. The story is based on the samurai film by Akiro Kurosawa, "Yojimbo," which was adapted as a Western and made into this movie. Eastwood plays a lone gunfighter/bounty hunter who gets involved in a dispute between two warring families and plays both sides for his own personal gain. The bad guys are great, especially Gian Maria Volonte, as the main villain. The last fifteen minutes are really classic, in the climactic showtown between the Man with No Name and the villains. The music by Ennio Morricone is also great. The only drawback of this movie is that the gun battles are rather cartoonish and there is no sign of blood on the victims who are shot.
That aside, I enjoyed this movie. If you are a fan of Westerns and of Clint Eastwood, you would really like this movie. This is the first of the "Man with No Name" trilogy.
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on August 9, 2000
From the opening gun battle (get three coffins ready) - (my mistake, four coffins) to the final showdown with Ramone, this movie rattles along, never losing pace. It serves as a prequel to "For a Few Dollars More" and "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" and its status as a prototype shows in the way that Leone has yet to perfect his extended set-piece battles and the build up of scenes to such an extent that they only just fall short of the ludicrous. This serves as the (very good)opening chapter, the later installments being near perfect. Without the later films, this would be the bottom line in western adventures. It is through no fault of this film that it is overshadowed by its own sequels, but it is, and it suffers because of it. A major gripe, however, is the almost complete lack of extras on the DVD.If you own the others, buy this to complete the set. If you don't, buy them first.
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