Review No. 575
“Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo” is really “Il classico, il bello, il cazzuto”.
DIRECTED BY SERGIO LEONE. PRODUCED BY ALBERTO GRIMALDI. SCREENPLAY BY LEONE, AGE & SCARPELLI, AND LUCIANO VINCENZONI. STORY BY LEONE AND VINCENZONI. DISTRIBUTED BY UNITED ARTISTS IN ITALY ON DECEMBER 15, 1966; AND IN THE UNITED STATES ON DECEMBER 29, 1967. PRODUCED IN ITALIAN AND ENGLISH BY ITALY. RUNS 2 HOURS, 42 MINUTES (INTERNATIONAL VERSION RUNS 2 HOURS, 57 MINUTES). NOT FOR CHILDREN, DUE TO INTENSE WESTERN VIOLENCE.
Director — Sergio Leone
Producer — Alberto Grimaldi
Screenplay — Mr. Leone, Age & Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni
Story — Mr. Leone & Mr. Vincenzoni
Clint Eastwood — The Man with No Name aka “Blondie” (The Good)
Lee van Cleef — Angel Eyes (The Bad)
Eli Wallach — Tuco (The Ugly)
Distributor — United Artists
Release Date — December 29, 1967 (USA)
Language — Italian & English
Country — Italy
Running Time — 2 hours, 42 minutes (international version: 2 hours, 57 minutes)
MPAA Rating — R (re-rating from M)
Flags (allmovie.com) — adult situations; not for children; western violence
IL BUONO, IL BRUTTO, IL CATTIVO WAS WATCHED ON AUGUST 15, 2013.
“[INSERT NAME HERE] has been found guilty by the third district circuit court of the following crimes … For all these crimes the accused has made a full and spontaneous confession. Therefore we condemn him to be hung by the neck until dead. May the lord have mercy on his soul. Proceed.”
So I hear Best Western hotels were initially Good Bad & Ugly hotels, but they thought the Sergio Leone reference wouldn’t take in too many customers. I’m joking, of course, but it’d take a hypnotist to convince me that Leone’s Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo (that’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for English speakers) isn’t the greatest western movie ever made. Every minute is breathtaking. As if that isn’t enough, it’s been almost five decades since the rise and fall of the Italian phenomenon that is the Dollars trilogy, and not one trilogy of the same caliber has come through. Per un pugno di dollari (A Fistful of Dollars) and Per qualche dollaro in più (For a Few Dollars More) had me wondering, but this third round has me utterly convinced.
This one was budgeted at $1.2 million–more than the combined budgets of the first two Dollars movies–yet not a “dollar” more goes into the look or sound of it. Nonetheless, this is set apart from the low-budget antecedents by a brilliant screenplay and Leone’s fearless directorial style. Clearly, he loved the story in Per un pugno, but that was a shallow addiction of his as opposed to Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo, which is much more a religion. Not a word is spoken until ten minutes have been spent for the intensity to build. This is him praying on behalf of his audience. The answer is a clever miracle: a staring contest that almost seems hostile. It’s equally amusing and thrilling. This happens once again at the height of the climax. Except it’s not a staring contest, it’s a Mexican standoff. It was a smiling adrenaline rush for me.
It’s not just the masterful direction that makes Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo work. Ennio Morricone’s score does much service to the movie. In fact, it’s the paragon for any way to handle a spaghetti western. In fact, Il buono is thoroughly at the top of its game, because so is everybody involved. The best here is Clint Eastwood, the star himself. In fact, he gives a name to Clint Eastwood, his own name. They’re in great actor-character bondage here, so much that they’re one person, not an actor in a different role than himself. Eastwood has perfected this personality as a grinning cross between Harrison Ford and Jack Nicholson. He’s known as “Blondie,” though he’s actually the befearèd Man with No Name who has been previously nicknamed “Joe” and “Manco.” All three names function as in-jokes for fans of Leone’s work, but the “Blondie” understatement is clearly the wittiest.
I haven’t said what Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo is about. But that’s for you to find out. To steal a quote from the great Roger Ebert: “It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it’s about.” Oh and “No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.” Thank god for moviemakers like Sergio Leone who improve not just with time, but with running time. If the title was intended to express quality, may I suggest, in rough Italian, Il classico, il bello, il cazzuto. (That’s The Classic, the Badass and the Beautiful.)
NOTE: The literal translation is Good, Ugly, Bad, not The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Similarly, the literal translation of Il classico, il bello, il cazzuto is Classic, Beautiful, Badass, not The Classic, the Badass and the Beautiful. Just a matter of order, unless I was given a wrong translation.