Spaghetti Westerns dominated the 1960s thanks to the magnificent direction of Sergio Leone and the tough as nails exterior of Clint Eastwood. The third film in their “The Man With No Name” or “Dollars Trilogy” entitled, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) was the (unofficial) follow up to A Fist Full of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1965) with Eastwood once again playing a lone gunslinger who gets caught between bandits, corruption, and a whole lot of money.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly has all the signatures that you look for in a Leone film from the opening credit sequence to that famous score by Ennio Morricone. Once you hear that music and you see the tip of Eastwood’s hat you know you’re in for a real treat. In this third outing the actor was joined by Eli Wallach as Tuco, his shifty partner turned enemy turned partner again in a deadly chase with a corrupt military man on the hunt for gold.
On the surface this movie appears to be the quintessential Western but it covers a lot more than just cowboys. It’s set against the backdrop of the Civil War and shows the affect it has on both the North and South sides of the army. We also get to see a slight moment of humanity with Wallach’s Tuco, who reunites with his brother (a priest) only to discover tragic news about his family. There are plenty of amazing shootouts, as well as a few comedic moments that are mostly delivered by the slap-tastic Wallach or Eastwood when he deadpans one of his lines.
Another familiar face among the cast includes Lee Van Cleef who appears as the corrupt lawman Sentenza aka Angel Eyes. He previously starred in For a Few Dollars More but played a different character named Col. Douglas Mortimer. When he first graces the screen his sunburned skin, steely eyes, and devilish grin spell trouble and from that moment on you know that out of the three adjectives in the title he’s the “bad.”
The Western genre existed well before this film but it was forever transformed after its release. Eastwood’s work with Leone made him an international superstar and pushed the boundaries of how gritty these types of movies could be. It’s ironic that he starred in both the “Dollars Trilogy” and Unforgiven, which is still considered to be the last great Western ever made. Even with a mostly Italian speaking crew, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly broke through language barriers to become not only one of the greatest films in the genre but one of the greatest films of all time.