A Fistful of Dollars (1964) Review : The Arrival of Spaghetti Western
It has been a long time since I watched Sergio Leone’s Dollar’s Trilogy or Man with No Name Trilogy. But with recent passing away of the great maestro Ennio Morricone, I decided to revisit them. Starting with A Fistful of Dollars which is unofficially adapted from Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, is a story about a stranger arriving at a small town of San Miguel where he gets to know about the feud between two smuggler families, Rojo Brothers, and the Baxter family who are trying to gain control of the town. The stranger decides to make a profit from this feud by playing these families against each other.
Directed by Sergio Leone, to state his arrival in town the stranger displays his shooting skills with killing the four men who insulted him. He meets Silvanito who owns the diner and forges a friendship with him. When an opportunity falls into his lap when the Rojo’s massacre a detachment of Mexican soldiers who were escorting a chest of gold. The stranger plays the two families by selling each of them information that two soldiers have survived the massacre as they race to the cemetery with Baxter’s trying to save them and Rojo’s to kill them. The stranger also learns how Ramón Rojo has taken Marisol as a hostage by framing her husband Julio for cheating at a card game.
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The world of Spaghetti Western is something quite so hot and violent. From the moment the stranger steps in the town the first thing he is reminded is that in this town he will either be rich or be killed. The sound of bullets escaping the gun is a constant part of this movie, the sound just doesn’t stop until the film ends. You are watching and wondering who should you root for? As every person in this movie is fueling with violence with no remorse. Until Man with No Name saves Marisol.
Leone takes quite a unique way in terms of storytelling which drifts from the American Westerns which were the soul of the industry. Leone disrupted that with this movie, especially with the visual telling and how in the old wild west no one is dry cleaned well. The close-up stares are one part you will point out and recognize, the cuts with the sound effects, Morricone’s score which is forming its own melody, blending right in. The Man with No Name emerging in the final duel with Ramón. Steadily everything becomes breathtaking as you get so invested in it about what is going to happen when kill or be killed remains the only option. The violence only ends when only one man stands alive.
Clint Eastwood brings in a performance that is not only memorable but something so iconic that you want to be him. The way he takes in the character from the way he dons the poncho, the cigarette in the corner, even the way he stands and walks. It is something quite so stylish and impressive to look at.
A Fistful of Dollars is the first step into a trilogy that today you can say is one of the greatest trilogies ever made. Sergio Leone’s raw and rustic take on the old wild west, Clint Eastwood’s badass performance as Man with No Name, the uncompromising violence, the sound of the bullet escaping the gun, the close-up stares, the epic finale that makes you hold onto your seat and whistle when it ends and Ennio Morricone’s score. What more do you need when you ask to watch a western.