Drifter gunman, Joe (Clint Eastwood), arrives in the Mexican village of San Miguel at the border of the United States of America, and befriends the owner of the local bar, Silvanito. Joe discovers that the town is dominated by two gangster lords: John Baxter (Wolfgang Lukschy) and the cruel Ramón Rojo (Gian Maria Volontè). When Joe kills four men of Baxter's gang, he is hired by Ramón's brother, Esteban Rojo (Sieghardt Rupp), to join their gang. However, Joe decides to work for both sides, playing one side against the other.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The United Artists English-language version has Clint Eastwood dubbing his own screen performance. Apart from the obvious lip sync issues with dubbing of the other non-English speaking roles, the only real indication that the whole movie is dubbed is due to the lack of on-location or sound design enhanced ambient sound acoustics in the sound mix. Usually, the sound is recorded as it's being shot on-location or in studio, with only a small piece of dialogue and sound re-recorded in ADR and/or Foley. To modern ears, the United Artists version plays like a movie that hasn't yet had its final sound mix. See more »
Joe, after entering a place for something to eat and drink, holds up what looks like a plastic wreath, looks at it then throws it down back on the table. Plastic was not around in the late 1800s. See more »
When the film first aired on American TV (ABC) in August 1977, a network executive ordered the creation of a new prologue (directed by Monte Hellman) to give a moral justification for the lead character's killings: a prison warden (Harry Dean Stanton) commutes "The Man With No Name's" sentence if he goes to San Miguel and restores order to the town. Neither Eastwood or Leone participated in this new sequence ("The Man With No Name" is seen only from the rear), and this distortion of Leone's creative vision has reportedly been dropped from subsequent presentations. This prologue can be found on the Special Edition DVD and later Blu-Ray release along with an interview with Harry Dean Stanton about its making and sourcing from a Betamax copy of the ABC American TV broadcast. See more »
ALthough in many respects this film pales in comparison with Leone's later films, it is itself a brilliant cinematic achievement. In part, this is because its failings primarily appear to be due to constraints of budget (very small and highly uncertain) and time more than anything else. Even to the extent that the skills of Leone, Morricone, and others hadn't fully flowered yet, this film is incredible at how brilliantly it is handled for what is really a first-time go. Leone had worked on, and even directed, films before, but this is his first real foray in his own direction, and into a genre that he revolutionised and with which he became forever synonymous. Who can imagine westerns without at least thinking of Leone's films, while who can think of Leone without thinking of westerns (even though his last, and arguably greatest, film was a sort of gangster film)? Similarly, one should not criticize this film for being based on Yojimbo, for that film itself was based on an American story while A Fistful of Dollars really is very different in many key respects, not least of all Leone's visual style or his own sense of irony and symbolism derived from Italian precedents and Hollywood westerns.
We also see the nascent Leone visual style here, with the close-up style and contrast of close-ups and long shots appearing. This alone sets it apart from previous films, westerns and non-westerns alike, and still provides for great visual treats that one can appreciate today.
This film also ushered in Leone's obsession with details, hard faces, grungy people, etc., that also revolutionsed the genre.
This films also marks the first brilliant score of Ennio Morricone. It is here that he introduced the lonely whistling, guitar music, chorus, and unusual combinations and styles that developed into the music that has become in the U.S. synonymous with westerns and duels in the same way that Leone's visuals and themes have.
Despite its minor flaws, this is still a great film that is not only revolutionary but still great and fun to watch even today. Like Leone's other films, it is timeless.
One must also admit that it is amazing that in the U.S. an Italian film maker basing his films partly in Italian culture and an Italian composer could come to so define and be synonymous with this genre that Americans had considered so uniquely American, and highlight its underlying universality. That alone reveals the greatness of the films, of which this is the first.
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