Take a Drink: for maniacal laughter
Take a Drink: for every steely gaze
Take a Drink: for the gentlemanly vices- liquor & cigars
Take a Drink: for pissing matches
Take a Drink: for each new toy Van Cleef plays with
Do a Shot: for that goddam watch
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
With For a Few Dollars More, Sergio Leone tried something new… writing something original.
And on drums… Akira Kurosawa!
Okay, to be fair, he does lot of new things here, but let’s start with that plot. Lee Van Cleef and Clint Eastwood are both bounty hunters hot on the trail of murderous bank El Indio (Gian Maria Volonte), whom one of them has a very personal bone to pick with.
In a lot of ways, For a Few Dollars More is the film that Sergio Leone really established his style with. This feels like an evolution from its obviously Kurosawa-indebted predecessor both in story and general filmmaking technique, as Leone’s vistas stretch even wider and his closeups bore even deeper into the souls of these dangerous, desperate men and he begins to evidence his later virtuoso touch with sound and silence.
Storywise, he builds up a lot of the epic Western archetypes he’d go on to subvert to greater effect in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Here every character has more, and more familiar, dimension- the avenger, the good guy hiding his innate morality behind his wry, don’t give a shit attitude, the villain driven by tragedy and lacking loyalty to anyone but himself. Each of the principal actors is great, with Eastwood already clearly comfortable in his laconic badass skin and Van Cleef delivering a very different kind of steely gunfighter performance than he would later as Angel Eyes. It’s Volonte, though, who really steals the show, delivering a brutal, fiery study in pure villainy that reminded me of Henry Fonda’s icier but every bit as intense turn in Once Upon a Time in Anatolia.
Oh, and Klaus Kinski playing an insane, obsessive hunchback is about as good as casting can get.
As always, a hearty raise of the glass must go to Ennio Morricone, who expands on his more Western-inflected work in A Fistful of Dollars with the experimental flourishes that would make his name synonymous with a whole new brand of score. Here he incorporates whistles, chanting, and that incredibly evocative music box motif from that damn watch to such great effect that Leone would actually film scenes to the score, instead of the almost universal opposite. For my money it’s every bit the equal of his truly legendary work for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
This pimp could make a kazoo sound like an anthem of Valhalla.
For better and worse, For a Few Dollars More is very much a bridge between forerunner A Fistful of Dollars and Leone’s opus The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. It feels simultaneously less trailblazing and iconic, and less thematically weighty than either (although I prefer it to Fistful).
The middle film in the Man With No Name trilogy often gets overlooked in comparison to its trilogy-mates, but is one hell of a good Western in its own right.