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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Collector's Set

Review Written by: Jack Gattanella
Film: A+
Video/Audio/Extras: A/A/A

Directed by: Sergio Leone
Written by: Sergio Leone, Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli and Luciano Vincenzoni
Produced by: Alberto Grimaldi
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach, Aldo Giuffre, Luigi Pistilli, Rada Rassimov, Enzo Petito
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it!

Arguably this is one of, if not the most, ambitious and spellbinding of Sergio Leone's films and one that has inspired (i.e. Quentin Tarantino, Sam Raimi, Robert Rodriguez) and will most likely continue to inspire filmmakers and fans into the 21st century. There's something in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly that's nearly mythical in its craft, as certain scenes come off as being more than relevant and exquisite for that scene/sequence- it transcends into aspects of humanity. The set-up and main core of the story in the film is just about three guys on the hunt for a huge loot of gold (200,000 dollars worth). However, the film goes beyond the boundaries by way of how the locations are used, the score, the use of all those Spanish and Italian extras and the director himself. Some sequences are the most staggering of any western.

For example, in the first part of the film (this is after the extraordinary introductions to Tuco, played by Eli Wallach, Sentenza or 'Angel Eyes', played by Lee Van Cleef and as Joe, young Clint), Joe gets Tuco out of a hanging, which is something of a regular practice for them, but Joe decides to leave his 'buddy' out in the desert to walk the rest of the way back into town. A little later, the situation gets reversed, as Tuco has a horse and water and Joe doesn't and they both go to cross the desert. Leone decides to not follow Tuco coming back to town as much as he follows in earnest Tuco and Joe going across that desert, as Joe starts to burn and dry up, going towards a story that will soon unfold. There is something to these scenes that I can barely describe, that they're executed in the mind-set of a Western, but in the abstract Leone lets the audience know this is a story that is bold and bigger than life.

The three main players who take on the screen have their own chops to show off: Eastwood, technically, was playing a Joe that took place before Fistful of Dollars, yet by this film had it down to a T (it's still my favorite performance from him, despite having few words and reactions); Cleef's cold, cunning Angel Eyes steals the scenes he's in; ditto for Wallach, who gets under the skin of his co-patriots as much as he sometimes does under the viewer's. Overall, The Good, the Bad and Ugly, is an entirely satisfying western, and it's an endearing bravo to all who were involved. The editing, too, is unique in many sequences (the climax is the most noted and memorable). The score, with usual collaborator Ennio Morricone, is one of the landmark movie scores and themes of not just in the western genre but in all movie history.

The DVD package for this film, released just last year, is quite remarkable. There may be sides that viewers may take as to their preference in the versions (some may still love the 161 minute version more as it's been the only release available in America for decades). But this newly restored, extended edition puts back in nearly 20 minutes of deleted scenes, with Eastwood and Wallach returning to dub in their own voices. Critic Richard Schikel provides some good background on the making of the film, and Leone's styling alongside Eastwood's machismo. There are also three documentaries on the making of the film with insightful, amusing and mostly adulatory takes on what it was like to work on the film by its actors and crew and by critics. There is a nifty documentary on the civil war, for those interested, and a mix of trailers, actor/director bios, and nice interactive menus.

What makes much of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly such a success is the trust Leone had in his own style he has spun into his own after his first two westerns (Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More), his trust in his collaborators and in his leading players as well. I, for one, had to mistakenly figure out that it is near depressing to watch this film on a regular VCR tape due to the pan & scan process (Editor's Note: Agreed! Down with Pan and Scan!). There is such a clear, distinct visual scope that Leone and camera director Tonino Delli Colli achieve that it's practically a must to get the DVD.

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