A Fistful of Dollars
★★★★★ Dir Sergio Leone Starring Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volontè, Marianne Koch Length 96 mins Cert 15
Two fistfuls in fact: two $500 payments – a gigantic amount – which The Man With No Name accepts casually from either side of a bloody feud in the sunbaked Mexican town of San Miguel. He has blown in like a strange force of nature, with a coolly amoral plan to use their mutual hate to his own gunslinging advantage. Striding towards a gunfight, he tells the coffin-maker in advance how many to knock up. This is the 1964 movie, now on rerelease, which created the revolutionary genre of the spaghetti western. It’s an Italian coproduction shot in Spain and directed with inspirational pulp passion by Sergio Leone, drawing on Kurosawa. And it made a star and a legend out of Clint Eastwood. Before this, he had been young Rowdy Yates on TV’s Rawhide, an open-faced boy with a pleasant singing voice. In this movie he suddenly, terrifyingly grew up: hat, poncho, grizzly beard, short cigar and eyes perpetually screwed up, as if staring into the sun or suppressing a grimace of incredulous disgust. The other figure that became a legend here was the composer Ennio Morricone, for the extraordinary musical score he devised for this film, with its whip-poor-will whistling cries, whipcracks, bells and eerie percussive shouts.
A Fistful of Dollars has a cult, comicbook intensity. It is the punk rock of westerns. PB