Take a Drink: whenever Tuco (The Ugly) does something dirty or underhanded
Take a Drink: for Blondie’s (The Good) signature musical flourish (dooduhdoodleoo wahwahwah)
Take a Drink: whenever Angel Eyes (The Bad) does something purely evil
Take a Drink: for nooses
Take a Drink: for uniform changes
Take a Drink: for that trademark Eastwood squint
Take a Drink: whenever a character does
Do a Shot: for intro and exit text
Do a Shot: whenever Blondie gets out of another close scrape
By: Henry J. Fromage (A Toast) –
My image of Clint Eastwood is somewhat indistinguishable from that of my father. Maybe it’s the beard, the stoic demeanor, the casual badassery that saw him cut off his finger closing up at work, get it reattached, then show up on time the next day, or maybe it’s just because he showed me Eastwood Westerns all the time when I was a kid.
Peter Sellers never gave me identity issues, though…
The other thing that still springs to mind every time I hear the name Eastwood, no matter how many Hereafters or chair speeches, is The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly… the film that saw him become an icon. In it, The Good (Eastwood), The Bad (Lee Van Cleef), and The Ugly (Eli Wallach) engage in an epic battle of wills, wits, and finally, of course, bullets, in an effort to recover a stash of gold.
The title, and the film’s preference of archetypes over character names, shows its hand. The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly is about archetypes and ideas first and foremost- a commentary on Western (and Hollywood) tropes and mythology from the perspective of an Italian outsider who nonetheless grew up steeped in them. It’s also more particularly an examination of the ruthless practicality and self-interest of men who make their living by violence, and the dark undertrappings of a truly libertarian, “Wild” West. Nobody’s really “Good” in this world, even when encountering the greater Hell of War.
Good at killing and panty-moistening, I guess.
To pull this off, you need actors that can function both as recognizable archetypes and fully functioning characters, and Wallach, Van Cleef, and Eastwood each succeed so wildly that they became icons in their own right. The recently passed Wallach perhaps had the biggest job- in many ways he’s the closest thing to an audience surrogate with his continuous awful luck, and he also is responsible for the majority of the film’s humor, both physical and sardonic. Van Cleef “Angel Eyes” has the smallest role, but his menace is a constant backdrop. He gives Eastwood a run for his money in the cool badassery department, and that’s no mean feat.
People misuse “iconic” like a lot of adjectives these days.
Iron Man 3 was fine and all, but only “jaw-dropping” if your jaw is of the “slack” and “yokely” variety.
Clint Eastwood in the Man With No Name trilogy, but particularly in this movie, is simple iconic. From that first signature squint, to the moment he dons his trademark poncho or lights up a stogie, to that final shootout, his performance is what legends are made of. What else is there to say?
I’ve gotten this far without mentioning Director Sergio Leone or Composer Ennio Morricone, which may be a crime. Leone refines the unique voice that A Fistful of Dollars introduced the world to, and by this film had basically created a whole new cinematic language. Now his wide vista shots of nature and the human face in close up, with every inch of frame planned and taken advantage of, his slow-burning approach to action, and his surrealist touches in both pacing and imagery all inform how we think about Westerns themselves. I can’t imagine how mind-blowing they would both have felt at the time.
Eat your heart out, Tarantino.
Lastly, it is impossible to imagine this film (or any Sergio Leone joint) without hearing Ennio Morricone’s score. Perhaps the pinnacle of a career that has had no shortage of peaks, he mixes chanting, whistling, gunfire, and even yodeling to create more than just a new kind of movie score, but an aural masterpiece.
This gives me more goosebumps than a foie gras factory.
Sorry, I could write about this film for another 1,000 words without breaking a sweat. Simply put, it’s the finest Western ever made (and one of the few finest movies, period).