A man with a .45 revolver confronts a man with a Winchester rifle, who do you expect will die?
The first (and the least attractive) of Sergio Leone’s “The Man with No Name” trilogy, starring Clint Eastwood (while still a member of the cast in TV’s Rawhide) as the americano. Soundtrack by Dan Savio accompanied by gunfire and bullets ricocheting. When a man with a .45 revolver goes up against a man with a Winchester rifle, who do you expect will die?
Arriving on a mule, the americano is greeted by the bell-ringer with a warning that he will either get rich or be killed in the town of San Miguel; a welcoming committee of Baxter boys shoots at the mule’s hooves. All the women are widows; the town’s becoming a cemetery with anyone still alive taking sides with either the Rojos or the Baxters, bandits and smugglers from Texas.
Confronting four of the Baxter boys with a request for an apology, the americano outdraws them, adding four new graves. First he enlists with Don Miguel Rojo’s family, but later having seen Ramón Rojo and his men posing as US soldiers massacre Mexican soldiers with a Gatling gun and steal their gold, he reconsiders his options. While pitting the two gangs against each other, the americano takes pity on Marisol (Marianne Koch), who has been taken hostage by Ramón, denying her her husband and young son. The americano rescues her, gives her money, and sends her and her family away to safety. When she asks why he is doing this for them, the americano answers: “I knew someone like you once, and there was no one to help.”
Captured by the Rojos and severely beaten but refusing to say what has become of Marisol – Ramón gives orders not to kill him but make him wish he’d never been born – the americano barely escapes, hiding in a coffin: “You’re not dead yet,” says the undertaker; “Will be if you don’t get me out of here.” In their futile attempt to find the americano, the Rojos slaughter all of the Baxters, thinking he must have taken refuge with them. Before he can return to San Miguel to dispense justice and rescue Joe Silvanito, the bartender who has befriended him, the americano must recuperate from his wounds and devise a strategy to take on Ramón with his Winchester and remaining murderers.
Unlike the next two films in the trilogy, this one is largely played straight with few instances of hilarity. Since a grave in the cemetery has the date 1873, if the three films are intended to be about the same laconic man in a serape who smokes cigars and draws a gun faster than anyone else, then the final feature, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, chronologically occurs a decade earlier during the Civil War. At an hour and 41 minutes, this is the shortest of the three features, each subsequent film increasing in duration by at least half an hour.
A Fistful of Dollars is available for rent at Hastings Entertainment.
Patrick is a regular contributor to Laramie Movie Scope. See many more reviews of his at: http://www.lariat.org/AtTheMovies/old/others.html