The Magnificent Seven (1960) Review

The Magnificent Seven (1960) Director: John Sturges

“The Old Man was right. Only the farmers won. We lost. We’ll always lose.”


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The Magnificent Seven is Hollywood’s amazing re-imagining of Akira Kurosawa’s brilliant Seven Samurai (which was, itself, inspired by classic John Ford Westerns). John Sturges offers a star-studded and grippingly simple tale about seven individual veteran gunslingers who are hired to defend a rural Mexican farming village from a brutal bandit who is extorting their food supply. In watching the film we are asked to contemplate the stories and personalities of each individual gunman (i.e. what motivates him to defend these remote farmers) and also we are invited to contrast the bandit, Calvera, with our seven heroes. What is different? Why is Calvera, a profit-seeking warlord, considered evil; whereas the gunslingers, many of whom are also profit-seeking mercenaries, honored as heroes? When is a hero forced to choose the noble path?

“The fighting is over. Your work is done. For them, each season has its tasks. If there were a season for gratitude, they’d show it more…Only the farmers remain. They are like the land itself. You helped to rid them of Calvera the way a strong wind helps rid them of locusts. You are like the wind, blowing over the land and passing on. Vaya con Dios”
-closing words from the village elder to the hired gunmen.

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The lead actor, Yul Brynner, initially approached producer Walter Mirisch with the idea of acquiring the rights to the story from Toho Studios in Japan (Brynner was late unsuccessfully sued by friend and fellow actor, Anthony Quinn, who claimed they worked on the idea together). The Magnificent Seven was shot on location in a variety of Mexican locales and interestingly enough Yul Brynner was married on the set while making the movie.

The film is about a small Mexican farming village that is being extorted by a ruthless group of bandits led by a man named Calvera (Eli Wallach who also memorably appears as “the ugly” in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly). Calvera steals food from the farmers under threats of death. After a villager is killed, several men consult the village elder (played by Russian actor Vladimir Sokoloff) who advises them to fight back against Calvera. So they ride north to a town across the United States border. Initially, they intend to barter for weapons, however they soon witness a remarkable scene. A veteran Cajun gunslinger named Chris Adams (played by Yul Brynner) offers to deliver the body of a recently dead Indian to the cemetery on the hill, which is guarded by a group of racist cowboys who prevent Indians from being buried in the cemetery. Chris is then joined by another gunslinger, Vin Tanner (played by Steve McQueen). Apparently Yul Brenner and Steve McQueen had quite a rocky relationship offscreen, though they play compatriots in the movie. McQueen was upset with his minimal dialogue, and as recompense he would use various tactics to distract the audience while Brynner spoke -such as by lowering his hat, flipping a coin, or rattling his shotgun shells. Also, the actors battled over their height on camera. Brynner was slightly taller than McQueen and he would build a small mound of dirt to stand on just before a shot to highlight his height advantage, but McQueen would often kick the dirt away before the take.

At any rate, returning to the story, the villagers hire Chris and Vin, who recruit Chris’s friend Harry Luck (played by Brad Dexter) who only joins because he believes there may be riches hidden out in the hills; Bernardo O’Reilly (played by Charles Bronson), an Irish-Mexican gunslinger in need of money; Britt (played by James Coburn), an expert knife-fighter and gunner who handily wins a random duel using only a knife; and a well-dressed gentleman named Lee (played by Robert Vaughn), who is haunted by fears that death is chasing him after many gunfights over the years. En route they are drunkenly confronted by a hot-headed young man named Chico (played by Horst Buchholz) who demands to join the group, and when denied he follows them to the village and ultimately earns their respect.

Upon arrival in the village this ‘magnificent seven’ begins training the farmers to fire guns and build fortifications and traps for Calvera when he arrives. Chico discovers the women in hiding, out of fear that the gunslingers might rape them, but they are invited to join the group again. One day, three scouts visit the village on behalf of Calvera, but the seven gunslingers kill the scouts. So Calvera, himself, surrounded by a large force arrives but this time he is scared him off into the hills. In the evening Chico infiltrates Calvera’s camp and learns that Calvera’s men are starving and struggling. However when the seven plan a raid on Calvera’s camp they return to the village to find they have been betrayed by some of the farmers. Calvera confiscates their weapons and he banishes them from the village, but fearing reprisals from their friends, he lets them live and returns their weapons several leagues from the village, mistakenly believing they have learned their lesson, only for six of them to return with a vengeance (the seventh later joins). In the end, three of the seven survive the shootout: the original compadres Chris and Vin, and also the young buck, Chico, who stays behind in the village with his young lover (played by Mexican actress Rosenda Monteros).

“The Old Man was right. Only the farmers won. We lost. We’ll always lose.”

Elmer Bernstein composed this inspiring score -one of many including To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Ten Commandments among many others. The Magnificent Seven spawned several unsuccessful sequels (and a remake in 2016 that I refuse to see as a protest against more recycled unoriginality from a lazy, contemporary Hollywood).

Despite receiving mixed reviews, John Sturges got the one vote of approval that mattered – when Akira Kurosawa saw the film he was so impressed that he reportedly sent a ceremonial sword to Sturges.


Stagecoach (1939) Review

Stagecoach (1939) Director: John Ford

“If there’s anything I don’t like, it’s driving a stagecoach through Apache country!”

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Based on Ernest Haycox’s short story entitled “The Stage to Lordsburg” (1937), John Ford’s magnificent Stagecoach takes us inside an overland route aboard a bumpy stagecoach as a group of strangers make the dangerous trip from Tonto, Arizona to Lordsburg, New Mexico. This film –a Chaucerian pilgrimage– grants us a deep and intimate portrait of each character, while also presenting a heroic, albeit nuanced, image of a triumphant, unified America.

From the beginning, as the credits role, Americans Indians come thundering over the desert on horseback. Two riders (one a Cheyenne) approach an army encampment from out of the vast and desolate terrain of Arizona/New Mexico. A trumpet sounds while an American flag is raised. The two men are couriers who report of widespread Apache attacks throughout the area which have “burnt every ranch building in sight” (one remarks that the Cheyenne man is no threat because the “Cheyenne hate the Apaches worse than we do”). Then a telegraph arrives from Lordsburg bearing only one word: “Geronimo” –the telegraph wires have been cut, but still the name of the vicious Apache warlord remains ever-present threat in the region. This ominous scene casts a dark shadow over the rest of the film as we wonder what horrors might await the passengers at the end of the line. Upon first glimpse, we might be tempted to chastise the film already for its portrayal of Indians as heartless, one-dimensional villains, and there may be some veracity to that claim, however it should also be noted that John Ford hired some 200 Navajo Indians to play these roles, paying them a union wage no less –an act which was praised by the Navajo at the time, earning Ford the name “Natani Nez” or “Tall Leader” among them. It’s also worth noting that not all American Indians are portrayed in the same light in the film –note the distinctions between the unnamed Cheyenne man (who is given a close-up view of his face) and contrast him with the fearful rumors of Geromino and the Apaches.

Back in the safe frontier town of Tonto, Arizona, we are carefully introduced to each character with whom we will travel. There is: Lucy Mallory (Louise Platt), a pregnant southern belle making her way westward to meet her Cavalry lieutenant husband who has been stationed at the next stop on the stagecoach (Dry Fork). Next is Hatfield (John Carradine), a sly southern gentleman and former Confederate soldier who is rumored to be a “notorious gambler.” Then we meet Curley Wilcox (George Bancroft), the marshal of Tonto, who volunteers to “ride shotgun” on the stagecoach in the hopes of capturing the infamous outlaw, Ringo the Kid, who has recently broken out of prison and is likely hunting down his enemies the “Plummer boys” in Lordsburg. Next is Henry Gatewood (Berton Churchill), a sharp-dressed banker who accepts two large boxes of payroll from Wells Fargo on behalf of the Miners’ & Cattlemens’ Bank –he confidently remarks, “What’s good for the banks is good for the country!” However, the camera carefully pans inward, hanging just long enough for an intimate portrayal of his face, revealing something dark and troubling about his character. Next, we meet a prostitute named Dallas (Claire Trevor), who is publicly shunned by a group of priggish ladies in town, and we also meet a drunken physician named Dr. “Doc” Josiah Boone (Thomas Mitchell) who has been recently evicted by his landlady. When he spots Dallas, he misquotes Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (Is this the face that wrecked a thousand ships, And burnt the towerless tops of Ilium?”). Both Dallas and Dr. Boone are being run out of town by the uppity, conservative, self-righteous ladies of the town’s “Law and Order League.” Both Dallas and Doc Boone are “victims of a foul disease called social prejudice.” Then, we meet a whiskey drummer named Samuel Peacock (Donald Meek), an “easterner” from Kansas City, Kansas (rather than Kansas City, Missouri) with a wife and five children. Naturally, Doc Boone refers to Mr. Peacock as “Reverend” and compels him to stay for the trip. The stagecoach is led by Buck (Andy Devine), a loose-talking man who only took the job in order to marry his Mexican girlfriend, Julieta. Along the way, they stumble upon none other than the infamous outlaw Ringo the Kid (John Wayne), who has been trudging through the wilderness due to a “lame horse.” He is arrested and kept under watch in the stagecoach as it continues onward toward Lordsburg.

All the passengers, despite their disagreements, must find a way to sit in close proximity with one another and dine together on the dusty journey while fear of the Apaches lurks at every twist in the road. Interestingly enough, this group of nine strangers is neatly divided into three segments –three members of the troupe are considered to be socially respectable, high society individuals (Gatewood the banker, Hatfield the Confederate gentleman, and Lucy Mallory, the pregnant southern belle), and three others are socially shunned (Dallas the prostitute, Ringo the Kid, and Doc Boone the drunk). The final three are fairly neutral (the Marshal Curley, Mr. Peacock, and the driver Buck). However, despite initial appearances, people are not always as they seem in Stagecoach.

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Mr. Gatewood, the banker, loudly speaks as if he is a pillar of civic virtue –a conservative, upstanding businessman. Along the road, while expressing his indignant outrage about the federal government, he announces: “I have a slogan that should be placed on every newspaper in the country. America for Americans! The government must not interfere with business! Reduce taxes! Our national debt is something shocking, over one billion dollars per year! What this country needs is a businessman for president!” He represents a mix of the populist and financier strands of thought in American society, however he is soon revealed to be little more than a criminal. His reason for traveling to Lordsburg is secretly to embezzle money from his own bank (he claims to have received a wire, despite the fact that the telegraph cables have been cut). His defense of civic virtue is actually a smokescreen for his own lust for wealth. Mr. Gatewood is contrasted with Hatfield, the suspicious southern gentleman who may or may not have shot a man in the back (a most ungentlemanly act). He possesses a stately silver cup bearing an emblem he refuses to acknowledge as his own. However, Hatfield is widely known as a “notorious gambler” and also a “tinhorn gambler.” His reason for traveling to Lordsburg is a commitment to fabled southern gentility, a demonstration of chivalry, in escorting and protecting the virtue of the pregnant Lucy Mallory. As portrayed through subtle glimpses and tight dialogue, Hatfield shows that he has a romantic affinity for Mrs. Mallory –a married woman who is also pregnant– because Hatfield apparently once served under her father in the Confederate army during the Civil War. In the final Apache attack sequence, Hatfield reveals the most about his character. When the Apaches begin to close in and the stagecoach is running short of ammunition, Hatfield intends the final bullet in his gun for Mrs. Mallory –he is so disgusted by the bestial, racially inferior Native Americans that he would rather murder a lady than see her virtue forcibly taken by “savages.” Hatfield represents a complex bit of nasty, racist tropes, the likes of which appear again and again in John Ford’s films. And regarding Mrs. Mallory –why is she traveling over dangerous terrain while nine months pregnant? Would it not be safer for her to deliver a baby back in Tonto? We continually hear vague rumors about her husband, a man whom we never meet –apparently, he has been injured in Apache raids.

Stagecoach takes place in the 1880s, an era in which the American Civil War was fresh in the minds of people. Doc Boone, despite being a silly drunkard, is a Union veteran (he describes the Civil War as the “War of the Rebellion” whereas Hatfield dubs it the “War of the Confederacy”). Doc Boone is also regarded as a “philosopher” and a “fatalist.” He is a Shakespearean Fool, one who is frequently called upon for guidance by others within the stagecoach, and when Mrs. Mallory goes into labor, only Doc Boone has the skills to handle the situation. His competence and wisdom is often far greater than all others, and his alcoholism indicates a certain degree of truth-telling. His background and motivations for traveling to Lordsburg remain somewhat murky. Nevertheless, Doc Boone is the backbone of the overland trip. He stands in contrast to either the banker, who pretends to be a pillar of the community, or the southern gentleman, who is actually a troubled gambler. Additionally, the illicit lady of the night, Dallas, is actually revealed to be a more nurturing caregiver for Mrs. Mallory’s newborn child than the child’s own mother, the uppity southern belle, Mrs. Mallory. And Dallas is, in many respects, shown to be a more respectable lady in her own right. Despite her history, she is a woman worthy of marriage and motherhood. And her redemption comes from one of the least likely figures –Ringo the Kid, a rugged outlaw, who recently broke out of prison. However, Ringo is continually proven to be a “good kid” with an extensive familial history connecting him with many other characters, including Doc Boone and Buck. Ringo is optimistic and heroic because he treats people fairly, regardless of their past. When other passengers are reticent about accepting him, Ringo remarks, “I guess you can’t break outta prison and into society in the same week.” By the film’s end, Ringo the outlaw is actually shown to be our hero, while the real outlaws –men like Mr. Gatewood– are brought to justice.

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The beauty of Stagecoach is that it uses archetypes and tropes from classic Western B-movies of the 1920s –the drunkard, the outlaw, the prostitute, the southern belle, the marshal, the priest, the gentleman– and instead of simply regurgitating the same tired one-dimensional characters, John Ford offers an ocean of depth which allows us to examine the Western genre in a new light. They are all flipped on their heads –the upper-class and the under-class. In this way, the entire Chaucerian voyage from Tonto to Lordsburg becomes a grand metaphor for America. Equally facing the same threats, Americans from all walks of life must learn to band together and unite against a common nameless, faceless, savage enemy. No doubt, this message must have resonated with American moviegoers in 1939 against the backdrop of World War II, even if this caricature of Native Americans is troubling to many today. One of the more fascinating and elusive characters in the film is Samuel Peacock (a man whose name no one can seem to remember). He is a forgettable, nervous little man who is regularly referred to as “Reverend” and a “clergyman,” despite his protestations. He is a whiskey drummer, and in this case, alcohol is compared to religion. At different points in the story, disagreements break out among the stagecoach passengers, and in each case, someone steps forward to propose a path toward resolution. At one point, Marshal Curley suggests, “Now if we argue this thing out right, we can get somewhere” (he frequently is the voice of democracy in the film by requesting debate or suggesting a vote on the matter). And at another point, Mr. Peacock –the man who claims not to be a clergyman– warmly implores the group to embrace “Christian charity.” In nearly all cases, characters are reminded to treat women with respect and grace –chivalry is a common value among the stagecoach passengers. Perhaps John Ford suggests here that there are many paths to finding comity among people in a raucous democratic-republic like the United States.

In the end, just when all hopes seems lost during the dramatic Apache attack sequence, a bugle sounds and the American military arrives to the rescue. Compare this with the opening scene of an American flag being lifted over a military fort –the American military is portrayed as a force for good, an orderly institution bringing hope to a wild and lawless land. Lieutenant Blanchard (Tim Holt) rides in with the cavalry to triumphantly save the day. As our stagecoach finally arrives in Lordsburg, Mr. Peacock is recovering from an arrow wound, Hatfield has been killed (his final words mention his father, a judge), and Mr. Gatewood is arrested for embezzlement. News of a Republican convention in Chicago reaches Lordsburg, but it is subordinate to imminent local news. Rumors spread throughout Lordsburg that Ringo has arrived in town –slowly, people start to back away from the local saloon and the otherwise jovial town becomes eerily quiet. Under the shadow of darkness, Ringo shoots Luke Plummer (Tom Tyler) and his two brothers, thus exacting vengeance for the murders of his own father and brother. Justice is served by the law, with the arrest of Mr. Gatewood, as well as extra-legally, with the shootout that kills Plummer brothers. Ringo and Dallas are then surprisingly sent off into the night, as the stone-faced Marshal has a change of heart. We are led to believe Ringo and Dallas will be married and settle on his lush ranch which sits just across the border. “Well, they’re saved from the blessings of civilization,” says Doc Boone as he and Marshal Curley chuckle and walk back to the saloon. Appropriately Stagecoach ends with a reminder that this whole metaphor for the American project is only, after all, a comedy –a hopeful glimpse of an optimistic country wherein people can join together in common friendship and respect for one another.

Rolling along gaily through the Monuments Valley (one of John ford’s favorite shooting locations), it’s no surprise that Stagecoach brought about a revival in the Western genre, which had largely fallen out of favor in the late ’20s and ’30s. Stagecoach represents John Ford’s wonderful defense of the Western genre, a type of film-making that can be made with depth and artistry, as well as a message that speaks to broader issues in American politics. It reaffirms the American cultural mythology of hard work and rugged individualism as well as the democratic spirit in its search for unity, compromise, and a common enemy.

The Covered Wagon (1923) Review

The Covered Wagon (1923) Director: James Cruze


Billed by Paramount as the next big budget film after D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915), The Covered Wagon is often regarded as the first great epic Western film. I am a sucker for a film that captures the true beauty of the American countryside, and in this respect few films can compete with Westerns. In all, The Covered Wagon is a fun adventure following a band of pioneers across the country, however in my view the film ultimately falls short in certain respects.

The story was adopted from the 1922 novel of the same name by the American Western writer, Emerson Hough. We begin in 1848 as a caravan of wagoners await departure from Kansas to travel westward to Oregon. Jesse Wingate is leads the main caravan, but soon the brash, young Will Banion (played by J. Warren Kerrigan) joins the caravan. He falls for Molly Wingate (played Lois Wilson), daughter of Jesse Wingate and fiance of Jesse Wingate’s right-hand man, Sam Woodhull. They attempt to ford the rushing Kaw river, though Banion disputes this decision. In fact, this was a highly dangerous scene for the actors, reportedly two horses drowned during filming.

Further ahead, Woodhull’s wagon train is fatally attacked by Indians. Once across the river, they hunt for buffalo meat. Eventually, Molly rejects Woodhull for Banion, but she is injured by a stray arrow in an Indian attack. As the caravan proceeds, Banion leaves for California in search of gold, distraught about a misunderstanding with Molly, however she sends men to find Banion while she remains with the Wingate group traveling to Oregon. One year later, Woodhull catches up to Banion and tries to kill him for taking Molly away, but he fails and is killed. Banion leaves Oregon to reunite with Molly at their new pioneer home in Oregon.

Appropriately, a Western was one of the biggest blockbusters of the silent era (the budget was a risky $782,000 in 1923). It was shot in various locations: Palm Springs, CA; Utah; and Nevada, and it required a cast of thousands. In the scenes where thousands of buffalo appear, the director employed chains of mechanical buffalo –sadly by this point in time the buffalo had been nearly hunted to extinction. However aside from mechanical buffalo, at least authentic wagons were used from real pioneer families, these family heirlooms were borrowed on behalf of the production crew. In an earlier cut of the film, Director James Cruze appeared as an Indian, but he was later cut out of the film as he didn’t appear authentic.

The following are a few notes I gathered upon watching this film: J. Warren Kerrigan was a silent film actor who starred in several early films, most notably The Covered Wagon and Captain Blood (the 1924 version). He was perhaps better known for his off-screen controversies –making unfortunate comments about “lesser valuable” people being sent to war, and controversially living with his gay partner (fellow actor James Carroll Vincent) at his mother’s home from 1914-1947 until his death. The other star, Lois Wilson, was a former Miss Alabama beauty pageant star who appeared in many now lost films from the 1920s-1940s. She never married.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966) Review

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966) Director: Sergio Leone


Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo is perhaps the most famous “spaghetti western” of all time. It is the third and final episode in the Dollars Trilogy starring Clint Eastwood, with A Fistful of Dollars (1962) and For A Few Dollars More (1965). Sergio Leone later asked Eastwood to work as the star of Once Upon In The West (1968), but he refused, angering Leone who criticized Eastwood’s acting. Most of the actors spoke Italian in the film, and were later dubbed over in English, excluding Clint Eastwood. The film was internationally produced in Europe and the United States, and much of the shooting took place in rural Italy and Spain.

The plot takes place during the American civil war, in the southwest. It follows three gunslingers as they seek $200,000 of Confederate gold buried in the ground, while trying to avoid the Civil War battles of the New Mexico Campaign in 1862. The audience learns of each of the three primary characters: First, “Angel Eyes” (a.k.a. The Bad) who is hunting down the confederate gold for a man named Bill Carson, killing those who stand in his way. Second, Tuco, a Mexican Bandit (a.k.a. The Ugly), is constantly finding himself in trouble. The film actually opens with a brief scene where two men approach an old pioneer town when they come upon a third man (the audience believes they will duel) when suddenly at the last moment they enter a building, shots are fired, and Tuco escapes having shot the three men. Another cowboy, “Blondie” (a.k.a. The Good, wearing a signature Poncho, which Eastwood later gave to a friend in Carmel who owned a Mexican restaurant where it hung for years), rescues Tuco from some bandits, only to turn him into a local sheriff for his $2,000 reward, but also frees him so they can move from town to town claiming the reward and saving Tuco from the noose. Eventually, Blondie gets tired of Tuco’s whining and abandons him without water in the desert. In seeking revenge, Tuco tracks Blondie to a town being vacated by Confederate troops and tries to force Blondie to hang himself, but Blondie is rescued by a bombshell from Union forces which destroys the building, allowing him to escape. However, again Tuco catches Blondie and forces him to march through the desert where he nearly dies of dehydration, however a stage coach filled with dying Confederate troops comes upon them, and one (named Bill Carson) speaks the location of the burial site of the $200,000 in gold – he gives the location to Tuco and the name on the gravestone to Blondie. Thus, the two must travel together if they are to find the gold, despite their hatred of each other. Tuco takes Blondie to a nearby mission called “San Antonio” where his brother is a friar and they allow Blondie to heal. Together, they leave the mission in old Confederate uniforms they find, only to be captured by Union forces. At roll call in the Union prison, Tuco identifies himself as Bill Carson, however “Angel Eyes” is now disguised as a Union sergeant. He tortures Tuco for the name and location of the gold, but Tuco reveals that only Blondie knows the true name of the location. Angel Eyes makes an agreement with Blondie for them to ride out together to find it, while he handcuffs Tuco to one of his guards and sends him away on a train to be executed. Blondie and Angel Eyes arrive in a burnt out town, Tuco frees himself by leaping off the train with the guard and breaks the cuffs when an oncoming train approaches. He arrives in the same town as Angel Eyes and Blondie. Tuco is caught by surprise while taking a bath by a bounty hunter, whom he promptly kills. Tuco and Blondie resume their old partnership and kill all Angel Eyes’s men, while Angel Eyes escapes. Tuco and Blondie head toward the Sad Hill cemetery where the gold is said to be buried, but they are interrupted by Union forces who are in conflict with Confederate troops opposite them. A bridge divides them. The three cowboys decide to wire the bridge with explosives and blow it up, freeing them from the ensuing armies. In the ensuing chaos, Tuco crosses with a horse and heads to the cemetery to take the gold for himself, finding the grave of Arch Stanton, which Blondie told him was the location while they were wiring the bridge, in case they both died. However, Blondie shows up and tells him to keep digging, but then Angel Eyes shows up and demands that they both dig at gunpoint, however Blondie refuses because there is no gold. He says only he knows the true name, and that he will write it on the back of a rock, and they can duel for it. He places it in the middle of the vast cemetery. The film closes with a paranoid and suspicious shoot-out scene which builds the tension amidst large spacious views, followed by tight close-ups of faces and increasingly quick cuts. Blondie kills Angel Eyes in the famous three-person Mexican stand-off and then he slowly approaches Tuco, who realizes his gun has no ammunition, from Blondie. Blondie forces him to dig at the “Unknown” gravestone next to Arch Stanton’s grave, where the gold is buried. Tuco digs up all the gold, 8 bags full of them, but Blondie hangs a noose and makes him stand on the grave and ties the noose around his neck. He takes four of the bags and leaves, while Tuco fears for his life and screams after Blondie. Shortly before the end, Blondie shoots the noose, freeing Tuco as he once did in their various plots to claim money for Tuco’s arrests. The film ends with Tuco cursing Blondie while Blondie rides off into the distance.

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While Hollywood Westerns were very polished and clean at the time, Spaghetti Westerns were more gritty, dirtier, more violent, and they often featured anti-heroes, like Clint Eastwood’s Blondie, who is clearly the “good” hero, but also he ironically kills the most people in the film (11 kills), while Tuco kills only 6. We are left to ask, what exactly is “good” about Blondie? The film challenges a number of stereotypes of the traditional western film, and it delivers masterfully.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is not only one of the greatest Westerns of all time, but also one of the greatest films of all time. The sweeping landscapes of Spain and Italy, styled as the American West, are extraordinary; the iconic soundtrack of Ennio Morricone is unforgettable; and the cinematography is as unique as it is powerful with its huge open views of the west, and the ability to slowly build interest and tension until something unpredictable happens. Throughout the movie the audience is intrigued and left guessing. The tone is lawless and greedy, amidst a backdrop of the great American Civil War, yet The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is playful and even picaresque. The film belongs on every list of great films.