The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
(R) 161 mins

Ah, the Spaghetti Western. Having seen endless films of the genre growing up on 'TNT', I have to say I'm not a big fan of the genre. Why? They're mostly clichés, and they're all pretty much about the same thing. Some ridiculous gunslinger is either after some money or some dude who killed one of his relatives. The film is drawn out until the end, when the bad guy dies. Yawn.

Then I saw 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.' What's it about? Three gunslingers after a large amount of money. So then what makes this film stand out? Pretty much four men: director Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood (Blondie), Eli Wallach (Tuco), and Lee van Cleef (Angel Eyes). Leone is one of the most visionary directors since Hitchcock: The scope of his shots, the choice of music and the tension injected into each action sequence. Eastwood plays the quintessential Eastwood character: the silent no-name gunslinger who's after one thing and one thing only…cash. So who's a good fit for a role opposite someone like that? How about Wallach, the Mexican bandit, who's loud, quick to anger, and even quicker to any source of money he can get. And then there's the villain…and who can play a better western villain than Lee van Cleef? I think no one. He's ruthless, he kills for pleasure, and he has that evil sneer that everyone loves to hate.

But what makes this a classic isn't only in the players and the director, it's in the script. The film takes an hour simply to just introduce the major players in the film, and then another hour meandering to the climax. And to be honest if I had a choice, I wouldn't cut a single minute from the film. It's so much fun to watch and it makes the payoff all the better.

+4