The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

*****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

If you watch one western in your lifetime, make it The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.

Opening with a dizzying sequence showing a man trying to escape from a gun battle, this is a film full of jaw-dropping moments intercut with scenes of sweeping emptiness. Twenty five minutes in, we see the same man threatened with death on the gallows. The camera sweeps round to reveal a long gunman taking aim, apparently at his head. This is Blondie, 'the good', and he has known the condemned man for a long time. He knows he is a liar. He knows he is a thief. And he knows that he just might know the location of a legendary stash of gold.

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This is the sort of stunning sequence which comes along once every five years at best, and it is followed by more of the same. Meet Angel Eyes, 'the bad', Lee Van Cleef at his most elegant and imperious, laconic and treacherous, a sharp shot who just might be the best in the West - if Blondie weren't played by Clint Eastwood, also on top form. Tuco, 'the ugly', engaging played by Eli Wallach who makes no effort to court the viewer's favour, has no such talents, but manages to make his way in a tough world through a combination of cunning and sheer toughness. Sergio Leone directs - the man whose work came to epitomise the western genre - and this is his masterpiece. Add a breathtaking score by Ennio Morricone and the result is a film you just can't miss.

With its sweeping desert vistas and big, punishing skies, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is a film which was always intended for the big screen, so see it on the biggest you can. Recently remastered, it's doing well for its age, and the odd blemish can easily be forgiven on account of the sheer scale of its visual endeavour. It's a must-see for anyone interested in the craft of filmmaking, with every shot calculated to perfection, and though its story rambles and is at times deliberately slow, it's hard to tear one's eyes away. None of the characters is entirely likable but they all have a certain charm and as we learn more about them they only become more intriguing.

There are certainly other great westerns out there, but none of them sums up the essence of the genre so completely. It's man against man and man against the desert; gold is all that matters, but gold won't save you when you're dying of thirst. If you're thirsting for cinematic treasure, dig this.

Reviewed on: 31 Jul 2008
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The Good, The Bad And The Ugly packshot
Classic western in which three men variously scheme, save and double-cross each other in the search for a legendary stash of gold.
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Director: Sergio Leone

Writer: Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Leone

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach, Aldo Giuffrè, Luigi Pistilli, Rada Rassimov, Enzo Petito, Claudio Scarchilli, John Bartha, Livio Lorenzon, Antonio Casale

Year: 1966

Runtime: 186 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy, Spain

Festivals:

Leeds 2008

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