Wow. What else can I say? This is, simply put, a fantastic film. Is it the greatest film I've ever seen? No. It is also likely that age has somewhat diminished its impact, but there is no denying how utterly entertaining it is. I am sure I have seen it before, but I cannot quite put my finger on when; while I recognized parts of it, this is the first time I have truly seen it. I have now seen it a couple of times and each time reveals new information. It is a movie that keeps on giving.
Growing up I did not have much guidance in finding my hobbies. Everything I tried, abandoned, and tried again was found on my own. My family wanted me to find things that interested me, but without a lot of their influence it took me longer than most to find them. Movies are something that I came to really late, therefore I have missed a lot of time that could have been used to discover the classics and cultivate my taste. So, when I see movies like A Fistful of Dollars or Double Indemnity it is like having my eyes opened.
A Fistful of Dollars is the first collaboration between director Sergio Leone, star Clint Eastwood, and composer Ennio Morricone. To think that it almost did not happen. To read some of the production history you will find that there were many actors ahead of Eastwood, led by Henry Fonda, who had to pass before it came to him, not to mention those who did not feel the virtually unknown Morricone was right for the score. Now, it is hard to imagine anyone else filling the role. All three of these men have put their stamp on this film and, as time tells us, history.
This western, made in 1964 and released stateside in 1967, does not tell a terribly complex or original story, but it is told in a way that makes it timeless. The film mirrors Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo so closely that Leone was sued over it. A deal was eventually made which gave Kurosawa distribution rights in Japan where it was retitled The Return of Yojimbo.
Clint Eastwood plays the Man with No Name, aka Joe, a gun for hire whose morality seems to be dictated by whoever happens to be paying him. He comes to the small Mexican town of San Miguel and finds two rival crime families vying for control. Joe, as he is called by the undertaker, sets out to escalate tensions between the two while making himself a profit. Things take a turn when he decides to help a woman and her son escape. This leads to repercussions that escalate to a climactic shootout.