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A Fistful of Clint: "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964)

 


It was high noon, and the tumbleweed were tumbling by when I first saw him... The Man With No Name... his steely glare burning into me brighter than the white hot sun reflecting off the scorched, arid dirt...

Nah... not really.  I was a teenager in an air conditioned basement...

A drifter follows the tumbleweed into a small one road town.  At one end was the Baxter family, and at the other end, the Rojo family.  Both families were fighting for control, with the average citizen suffering in between.

Seeing an opportunity to make money, the drifter proceeds to play a deadly game of tug of war with the two families...

"A Fistful of Dollars", directed by Sergio Leone, is a masterpiece of the Spaghetti Western genre.  Compared to most of the North American Westerns filmed at the time, it stripped away the idealistic sheen off of the genre.  It was gritting, sweaty, dirty, with very complex and morally ambiguous characters.  It dropped the "white hat/black hat" trope that defined what the Western hero was, and wore the grey hat marvelously.

The story is great.  Simple, while at the same time offering up complexity via the characters themselves.  In fact, the story itself could be considered- in many ways, secondary to the stark examination of the characters.  I found myself losing myself in the people on the screen- fascinated by how different they were to how they would've been generally portrayed in North American movies.

All of the characters were amazing to follow- though Ramon Rojo, and the drifter get the main focus of the movie.  They're all unique and engaging... especially for someone that grew up with mostly older John Wayne, and Roy Rogers type films.  Although you're ultimately cheering for the drifter, you do realize that he too is not really all that admirable because of his motivation: profit... and the fact that he only gets involved with rescuing Ramon's hostage because her family would eventually cause a problem.

Every single actor- from Clint Eastwood as the drifter to Gian Maria Volonte (credited as "John Wells") as Ramon Rojo, brought a vibrant, vivid, and intense life and energy to the movie.  Combined with Segio Leone's directing and Ennio Morricone's scoring, this movie helped to launch the Spaghetti Western genre in North America, and Clint Eastwood's rise to stardom.

Buy it.  Watch it.  Re-watch it.  Now.  A scorching "Good".

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