For a Few Dollars More (1965)

100 Films’ 100 Favourites #31

The man with no name is back!
The man in black is waiting…

Original Title: Per qualche dollaro in più

Country: Italy, Spain & West Germany
Language: English and/or Italian
Runtime: 132 minutes
BBFC: X (cut, 1967) | 15 (1986)
MPAA: M (1969) | R (1989)

Original Release: 18th December 1965
UK Release: January 1967 (BBFC)
First Seen: DVD, 2003

Stars
Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry, Unforgiven)
Lee Van Cleef (High Noon, Escape from New York)
Gian Maria Volontè (Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, Le Cercle Rouge)
Klaus Kinski (Aguirre, Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo)

Director
Sergio Leone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West)

Screenwriters
Luciano Vincenzoni (Death Rides a Horse, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly)
Sergio Leone (A Fistful of Dollars, Once Upon a Time in America)

Scenario by
Sergio Leone (The Colossus of Rhodes, A Fistful of Dynamite)
Fulvio Morsella (My Name is Nobody, A Genius, Two Friends, and an Idiot)

The Story
A pair of bounty hunters team up, in spite of their mutual distrust, to capture the most wanted fugitive in the Wild West. That’s the short of it — the ins and outs get complicated.

Our Heroes
The Man With No Name (who this time is called Monco) is played as coolly as ever by Clint Eastwood. This time he teams up with The Man In Black — not Johnny Cash, but Colonel Douglas Mortimer. Much older than Monco, but played with equal amounts of cool by Lee Van Cleef.

Our Villain
El Indio, a murdering, raping, bank-robbing outlaw. Has his own gang; has greater loyalty to money. May also be the first character to smoke marijuana in a major film production.

Best Supporting Character
Klaus Kinski plays a hunchback. I mean, what more do you need to know?

Memorable Quote
“Where life had no value, death, sometimes, had its price. That is why the bounty killers appeared.” — title card

Memorable Scene
It’s a Leone film; there’s a tense climactic pistol duel — surely that’s all the recommendation you need.

Memorable Music
The score is by Ennio Morricone, of course, so of course it’s fantastic. His main theme for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly may be more famous, but personally I prefer this one.

Letting the Side Down
I suppose I should mention the dubbing, which is always skew-whiff in these movies. But it is what it is.

Making of
Leone felt that Gian Maria Volontè’s performance was too theatrical, so he often subjected the actor to multiple takes in an attempt to tire him out. Volontè eventually stormed off the set… but, unable to get a ride out of the desert, returned to filming.

Previously on…
A Fistful of Dollars, also starring Clint Eastwood and directed by Sergio Leone, started both the Man With No Name Trilogy (aka the Dollars Trilogy) and the entire Spaghetti Western subgenre.

Next time…
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly completes the trilogy — not that it was intended as such by Leone: US distributor United Artists invented the “Man with No Name” concept as a way to sell the three films together. Eastwood’s character actually has a name, and a different one in each film at that.

What the Critics Said
For a Few Dollars More, like all of the grand and corny Westerns Hollywood used to make, is composed of situations and not plots [but] on a larger, more melodramatic scale, if that’s possible. […] The rest of the film is one great old Western cliché after another. They aren’t done well, but they’re over-done well, and every situation is drawn out so that you can savor it.” — Roger Ebert

Score: 94%

The Joys of Putting Different Reviews Right Next to Each Other

What the Public Say
“It’s a wacky and irreverent film, exactly the type of cheeky genre fare that you’d expect as the follow-up to a blatant act of plagiarism […] This irreverence is what makes the film fun, but it also never stops it from being intelligent. Like its predecessor was to a slightly lesser extent, For a Few Dollars More is a film about the value of life (often literally and monetarily) and the cost of our connections with other human beings (specifically men in this predominantly male society).” — Wes, Screening Notes

Verdict

Sergio Leone defined the Spaghetti Western subgenre with A Fistful of Dollars, and some would argue perfected it with The Good, the Bad the Ugly, but in between those two he made this, my favourite of the trilogy. Leone’s trademark style tells a story whose scope is in the sweet spot between the first film’s one-town tale and the third’s epic narrative, with a pair of sparky heroes going up against a ruthless villain, and a nice twist in the tail.

#31 will be… Бонд зовут. Джеймс Бонд.

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High Noon (1952)

2015 #50
Fred Zinnemann | 81 mins | streaming (HD) | 4:3 | USA / English | U / PG

On the day marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) marries his young bride Amy (Grace Kelly), hands in his badge and plans to leave town, word reaches Hadleyville that a criminal he arrested, Frank Miller (presumably Will read DK2 and arrested him for crimes against literature), will arrive on the noon train, bent on revenge. Afraid that Miller and his cronies will terrorise the town and/or hunt down the newlyweds wherever they go, Will elects to stay and face the gang. But will any of the townspeople stand alongside him to defend their home?

Well, you probably know the answer to that — it’s one of the film’s more (in)famous facets. If you somehow don’t know and want to remain spoiler free, look away now, because the answer is: no. No one will stand with Will. Interpreted by the American left as an analogy for people being afraid to stand up to McCarthy’s HUAC witch-hunt, some on the right were less impressed: John Wayne and Howard Hawks made Rio Bravo as a direct riposte. Both are regarded as classic Westerns, so in that respect there’s no ‘winner’ there. Besides, High Noon was eventually embraced by the right as well, turning it around to see it as a celebration of one man’s dedication to his duty.

Some would contend it’s impossible to engage with High Noon and ignore that political allegory; others, like Mike at Films on the Box in his eloquent take on the film, would say it’s more than good enough to stand apart from such concerns. I have sympathy with both sides: the parallels are surely there, but it’s also a fine Western thriller in its own right. You certainly don’t need to know about the contemporaneous events it was reflecting to enjoy it. As to whether that subtext is a beneficial added dimension or a needless distraction, that’s down to personal preference.

There’s plenty else going on to keep a viewer engaged, anyway. It’s not an action-packed Western, the style many people at the time were accustomed to: according to Wikipedia, it faced criticism for its shortage of “chases, fights, and picture-postcard scenery”. In its place there’s the slow-burn tension of the clock ticking towards midday and the inevitable confrontation, as well as the moral and emotional dilemmas of the townsfolk, who’ve been happy to rely on Will’s marshalling ability for so long but refuse to help when he needs them.

There are personal relationships to contend with too: Amy is a Quaker and so a pacifist, and just wants to leave rather than face a violent confrontation; Will’s deputy, Harvey (Lloyd Bridges), refuses to help because Will refuses to recommend him for promotion; and then there’s hotel owner Helen Ramírez (Katy Jurado), who’s currently Harvey’s lover, but used to be Will’s, and before that was Miller’s. She’s planning to flee town too because, well, wouldn’t you?

To top it all off, the film takes place in near-as-damn-it real time. Regular readers will know this is a plus for me, for reasons I still can’t quite fathom. In a narrative such as this, however, it only adds to the tension: you know it isn’t going to jump from 11:30 to the titular time, for instance — you’re going to live every one of those minutes with the characters; that’s exactly how much, or little, time Will has left to get ready.

Then it all culminates in a strong extended action sequence. Surely anyone feeling deprived of such thrills was satiated at that point? Maybe the now-more-familiar structure of building to a single big sequence at the end was less accepted back in 1952.

And the attitudes of 1952 do continue to surround the film. The activities of HUAC had a serious, enduring impact on Hollywood (you only have to see the footage of Elia Kazan receiving his honorary Oscar in 1999, and the varying reactions it provoked from the audience, to appreciate that), so it’s no surprise that a film that engages with those events, however allegorically, can’t wholly shrug off such an association. For those who aren’t interested in those affairs, however, it still has a tense story and powerful character drama. Either way you look at it, High Noon is a rich, well-made, rewarding picture.

5 out of 5

High Noon is on Film4 this afternoon at 2:55pm.