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For a Few Dollars More (1967)

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Score: 10/10

Genre: Spaghetti Western Running Time: 2 hrs. 12 min.

Release Date: May 10th, 1967 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Sergio Leone Actors: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Gian Maria Volonte, Mario Brega, Luigi Pistilli, Aldo Sambrell, Klaus Kinski, Mara Krup, Benito Stefanelli

B

lack-garbed Colonel Douglas Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef), preacher-like in appearance until he reveals the gun holstered in his belt (and renowned as the best shot in the Carolinas), forces his train to stop in the small locale of Tucumcari. He’s one of many unemployed bounty hunters now scouring the countryside for a living. He picks up a quick $1,000 on Guy Calloway before setting his sights on Baby “Red” Cavanagh, another man wanted dead or alive by the law. Before Mortimer heads to the town of White Rocks, where Cavanagh was last seen, he’s warned that a man by the name of Manco (Clint Eastwood) also inquired about the criminal’s whereabouts.

American gunfighter Manco (Clint Eastwood, still sporting a poncho and his familiar accoutrements, though now possessing a more specific sobriquet), already in White Rocks, is forced to gun down three of Cavanagh’s gang before similarly killing his target to collect a $2,000 prize. Meanwhile, the ruthless El Indio (Gian Maria Volontè) is busted out of a jail and immediately seeks revenge against his betrayers (slaughtering a mother and child without a hint of remorse). A $10,000 reward finds both the American and the Colonel pursuing Indio to El Paso, where a heavily guarded, fortress-like bank with a million dollars is itching to be robbed. Indio’s band of 14 ruffians is a bit much for a single hunter, inspiring Manco and Mortimer to team up, with a desideratum of infiltrating the group assigned to the American – through bringing Indio a peace offering of his old pal Sancho Perez (Panos Papadopoulos), tucked away in the Alamogordo jail.

The gunplay here is even more focused and violent, expanding on the themes and imagery from “A Fistful of Dollars” the year before (or months before, depending on the location of release). It effectively reinvigorates the Western genre, infusing it with greater intensity, viler villains (who spew gobs of saliva as a regular pastime), crisper cinematography, snazzier editing, and more vivid bloodshed. Even Ennio Morricone’s music has become more aggressive and clamorous (though still possessing an unshakable vigor and a specific theme melody). An unsubtle bit of humor edges its way in, with biting oneupmanship, fused with the palpable tension of a duel turning deadly. The presence of backstabbing; last-minute switching of plans; statuesque standoffs; uneasy alliances; and underlying, unaffiliated self-preservation keep things taut and engrossing. There’s truly never a dull moment and nothing is predictable.

As with many of director Sergio Leone’s films, the opening scene shows significant dimension. By having a character offscreen positioned near the camera, while a lone rider on a horse approaches from across a desert, the audience can hear whistling and breathing, foreshadowing the eventual gunshot that takes down the horseman. It also aptly makes use of the widescreen aspect ratio. His framing is exceptional and bizarre, with faces butting into shots of activities in the distance, nearly all dripping with sweat or brandishing moist eyes and glistening lips. This overt stylization is further aided by repetition, numerous parallels to “A Fistful of Dollars,” and a symbolic musical timepiece, adding poignancy to the unexpected rendezvous in Agua Caliente and the riveting final showdown. This Spaghetti Western masterpiece would only be bested by its own follow-up, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” – a feat as unpredictable as the “Man with No Name’s” intentions.

– Mike Massie

 

 



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