The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly (1967)

The definitive Spaghetti Western, Sergio Leone’s GBU satirizes classical western heroes and clear good vs. evil boundary lines in a blazing whistle-tuned, stylishly-gunsmoked masterclass of filmmaking. One of the greatest films of All-Time. 10/10.

Plot Synopsis: Set in the Southwest during the Civil War, a mysterious man named Joe (Clint Eastwood) and a Mexican outlaw Tuco (Eli Wallach) form an uneasy partnership where Joe turns in the bandit for reward money then rescues him as he is about to be hanged. When Joe’s shot goes awry during one of their escapades, a furious Tuco tries to have him killed. However, when word gets out about a hidden gold box a soldier buried in the desert with $20,000, the two rejoin forces to beat other parties racing there.

*Possible spoilers ahead*

Official Cinema Lovers Club Review

A Genre On Its Final Sunset

From The 1930’s-1960’s, Westerns Captured The Spirit Of The New Frontier For A Classic Era – But Lacked A Masterpiece Retrospective

Photo Courtesy Of: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Desert-sands, gunsmoke-haze, cowboys-on-stallion, bounty-hunting saloons, morality-plays of antiheroicism, whistle-tunes, rattlesnake timbres, & living-on-a-prayer masculine ego’s coalesced to become one of the most iconic genres of 20th-century moviemaking: westerns. From the 1930’s first popularizing the style to legions of young-cowboy fans looking for their slice of clean-cut, Wayne-brand Americana to the high-1960’s perfecting the craft with multiple All-Time classic entries, the genre captured the spirit and struggle of life on the new frontier & enjoyed breathtaking heights. After a ~50 year hiatus, resurrection came by high-profile modern directorial talents looking to recreate the magic of the sunbaked-badlands – like Quentin Tarantino, Tommy Lee Jones, and The Coen Brothers. One cannot truly appreciate the majestic adobe genre, however, without mention of its greatest accomplishment: Leone’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1967). The definitive Spaghetti Western, Sergio Leone’s G/B/U satirizes classical western heroes, clear good vs. evil boundary lines, and Old-West Romanticism in a blazing whistle-tuned, stylishly-gunsmoked, evocative masterclass of filmmaking amongst the greatest and most influential of All-Time.

The Cinematography

A Juxtaposition Of Vast Natural Landscapes And Hyper-Violence With Zoom-Intensive Facial Expressions; A Psychological-Gambit

Photo Courtesy Of: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Tonino Delli Colli’s epic widescreen cinematography in G.B.U. is breathtaking and extremely-innovative. The film stages impossibly-grand natural western landscapes and epic action sequences of hyper-violence within Leone’s signature long-drawn and close-up duality-paradigm. The juxtaposition of long-shots to zoom-intensive facial/eye expressions of the characters involved builds tension and suspense by evoking the visceral life-and-death stakes of the film’s many gunfights & taking us right inside the action (dialing up the adrenaline taking us much closer than other films – and we’d like to comfortably go). Also achieved through this balls-to-the-wall methodization is a psychological-trick on our evolutionary-wiring that makes us feel the emotions of its subjects 10x over – empathy and the ability to recognize our species’ feelings through primal facial expressions alone, here being forced to bear witness every scene. The diversity of landscapes from endless fields of Civil War corpses to rattlesnake-timbred Death Valley-deserts and clever exhibition of trick-shots displaying the marksmanship of its antiheroes able to bullet-sever a hangman’s noose adds to the canvas of grit, machismo, & intimidation – while still painting high emotional-expressionism.

The Performances & Characterization

A World-Class Trio Of Diverse & Morality-Questionable Antiheroes – Led By A Classic, Yojimo-Inspired Masculine Eastwood-Lead

Photo Courtesy Of: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The performances of GBU are world-class and timelessly-iconic. First and foremost, Clint Eastwood’s Blondie/Man-With-No-Name is one of the greatest performances in the history of cinema – while, impossibly, accomplished without traditional dialogue for long sequences. Defined by his actions rather than words, Eastwood’s masculine, brooding, Yojimbo-inspired antihero lead is perplexingly-mysterious with a strong-but-unorthodox externalization of justice (titularly-referred to as ‘Il Buono’/The Good but not oftentimes-so in the bounty-hunting multi-interpretability of his actions’ true benevolence) and proficiency with a weapon of choice: his trusty 1851 Navy Colt Revolver. Eli Wallach’s Tuco Benedicto Pacifico is absolutely hilarious – a comic-relief down to his nicknames (‘The Rat’ and ‘The Ugly’, unbeknownst to him), physicality, and desperation to humiliate his wrongdoers – while also being the only of the 3 to be given a backstory revelation by brother-cameo to explain why he became a bandit. Finally, Lee Van Cleef’s Angel Eyes is blood-curdlingly terrorizing – a ruthless and sadistic killer taking pleasure in the acts most bounty-hunters and people with basic morality conventions reject/atone the primal-and-devilish excitement of – earning every bit of his name ‘The Bad’ to complete the mythic trio easily the best in moviemaking.

The Score

One Of The Greatest Cinematic Soundscapes Ever By Ennio, Thematizing Its Trio With Coyote-Mimicry, Diegetics, & Native America

Photo Courtesy Of: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The score of Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo (The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly) is one of the greatest cinematic soundtracks of All-Time. Ennio Morricone delivered a masterpiece score that has become one of the most famous and iconic soundscapes in moviemaking (along with Jaws’ ostinato, Psycho’s screeching strings, Superman ’78’s theme, & Star Wars’ Imperial March) – defining the western genre worldwide for 50+ years and stoking an arms-race by composers to find that signature sound that will forever reverberate/echo the themes of its genre like Ennio. The main theme is coyote/eagle-onomatopoeic, imitating the howling and screeches by its diatonic trill in different octaves to thematize the animalistic nature of its characters hunting for survival/resources against the elements and each other to draw parallels. Also appreciated are the nuanced differences between each character by using new instruments and timbres for each’s version of the same theme (flute for Blondie, Ocarina for Angel Eyes, human voices for Tuco) and a painting of their surroundings as equal in morality-bankruptcy. The score also evokes Native American-reminisces – encapsulating another important theme in the genre and history of westerns, as well as highlighting the cultural and populational genocide native peoples faced at the hands of United States-settlers for bleak social-commentary on our country’s foundational darkness. The stricture of budgetary limitations Morricone faced in the Dollars trilogy culminating with G/B/U makes the film even more of an impossible accomplishment, necessitating creativity and innovation like utilizing whistles, gunfire, crackling whips, and yodeling merged into original orchestration compositions to complete this one-of-a-kind score there’s nothing else like in experience.

Themes In G/B/U

A Perfectionist Leone Satirizes Classical Westerns With Brutality, Hyper-Violence, Deconstruction Of Old-West Romanticism

Photo Courtesy Of: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Themes in G/B/U elevate it into a stratosphere of cinematic intellectualism. Leone was a famed perfectionist in every sense of the word – even to the point of alienation of the cast itself wanting to do things like capture the same scene from 5-10 different angles to find that perfect version. The film is a complex satirization of classical western films that places heavy emphasis on the brutality of violence, survival, and deconstruction of Old West romanticism. These characters are far from the American-way, heroic cowboys John Wayne used to personalize to roaring applause and children’s looks of comic book level-endearment – none of the characters are morality-pure; they even amplify sin by negative themes like cruelty, torture, and greed. The eardrum-shattering revolvers, omnipotence of death, moral depravity, and cheshire grins of its protagonists are enough to evoke a visceral repulsion to the acts of violence everywhere – yet they’re part of an ecosystem that’s fierce and merciless while demanding that from its (few) survivors, fighting for sustenance & resources like the wild animals and survival-of-the-fittest Darwinism its screenplay thematizes perfectly. The film reverberates Italia folk traditions of honoring mafiosos/vigilantes who gain justice outside the law when a broken or corrupt system deprives its people of their basic rights, but plays both sides for a philosophical wax of epic proportions. Finally, Leone furthers his sardonic criticism through GBU’s anti-war theme, painting wars with a rough-and-barbaric esthetic that destabilizes entire regions and infrastructures of people as byproducts – making its trio’s violence look mild by-comparison and thus begging into question: why?

Flaws – N/A

A Catholic-Iconographical, Low-Budget, Whiskey-Laden, Limitlessly-Stylish, Fresh South-Italian Pietà of Cultural Innovation

Photo Courtesy Of: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Flaws in Leone’s masterpiece are non-existent. The Catholic-iconographical, low-budget-twisted-as-a-plus-&-means-of-innovation, hyper-violence-used-thematically, whiskey-drunken, complex, theatrical/dramatic, limitlessly-stylish, and cinematographically-visceral film is one of the Greatest Of All-Time. As with many great works of art, it was not appreciated in its time – even racistly-discredited by many ‘critics’ on the grounds it was a pejoratively-named ‘Spaghetti Western’ inferior to American ones because of its heritage alone, that could never become great cinema. Evolved has a society finally ready to atone for the sins of our fathers and legions of critics who never deserved those pens and quills: G/B/U has been crystallized in All-Time great movie lists across the cinematic world today and has an everlasting legacy of showcasing the masochistic/sadistic hyper-attractiveness of dark social-commentary and satirical-reimagining of the type of film you’re making on a molecular basis.. as well as cementing the progressive notion that minorities and people outside Hollywood could make great movies in traditionally-American genres – emphatically.

Conclusion

One Of The Greatest Films Of All-Time

A Masterpiece Of Genre-Definitive, Morality-Thematized, Stylistically-Attractive, Brilliantly-Acted/Directed, & Hyper-Violent Western Cinema That Stands Test Of Time

Photo Courtesy Of: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly is categorically one of the Greatest Films Of All-Time. Non-appreciated in its time and racistly-rejected on heritage grounds that pejoritavely-named ‘Spaghetti Westerns’ could not be true art and cinema, society has finally evolved to the point of re-evaluating past sins and recognizing masterpiece works – regardless of era or culture. Now, it’s time we reclaim the term for positivity and satirize it as brilliantly as Leone did classical westerns. Themes of hyper-violence & morality-questionable antihero protagonists, juxtapositions of cinematography between high-intensity facial expressions and wide landscapes to evoke a psychologically-visceral reaction from audiences, and one-of-a-kind score boasting one of the most famed orchestrations in history in whistle-tuned/coyote-onomatopoeic theme make G/B/U the best western and a monumental piece of moviemaking history. The definitive Spaghetti Western, Sergio Leone’s GBU satirizes classical western heroes and clear good vs. evil boundary lines in a blazing whistle-tuned, stylishly-gunsmoked masterclass of filmmaking amongst the greatest and most influential of All-Time.

Official CLC Score: 10/10