A Fistful of Dollars

A Fistful of Dollars

A Fistful of Dollars is Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western take on Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, and it’s a great pick for his sensibilities. Great drama between two warring factions in a confined setting that lends itself to plenty of sparring action while maintaining a relatively small budget. 

It’s interesting to watch this with the context of having seen Leone’s later work, and especially Good Bad & Ugly - The Man With No Name was characteristically silent in the third installment of this dollars trilogy, yet he’s quite the talker here. I think Leone learned that this character was most effective and resonant the quieter he was, something that Kurosawa understood from the jump when working with Mifune on Yojimbo.

There’s plenty of brilliance and invention going on in this picture - so many typical traits of the American Western redefined. It’s also apparent that Leone was still finding himself - some scenes are littered with needless, clunky exposition. That said, the photography, framing, setting, score, characters...they’re all wonderful.

I’m not a particularly big fan of the ADR here that’s so prevalent in different styles of Italian cinema, and one massacre in particular feels hollow considering you see no carnage whatsoever, just characters falling off horses pretending to be shot (a hilarious similarity we see with Yojimbo and some of the sword fights). But this is a fun-filled picture with great characters. Even with hindsight it’s clear watching this that Leone was going to become someone special in the filmmaking world.

Oh yeah - GREAT climax. Leone never forgets an epic ending!

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