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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: A re-release review

Submitted by on June 29, 2008 – 1:32 pmNo Comment

Now for those diehard fans of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Il Buono, il brutto, il cattivo) it might be best to avert your eyes. This iconic movie (with that very iconic soundtrack) is honoured with a 100% positive review rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Of the 49 reviews counted, every single one of them thought that GBU was extremely entertaining.

This is good news you’d think. How on earth could you critique a movie that holds such a dear place in ’s hearts. The fact is this film has a cult following, and any movie with this type of fanbase is far from perfect. In the light of an extended version (at 179 minutes) being theatrically released, it is always good to have a fresh perspective. This comes in the form of me (being a complete Spaghetti Western virgin) attempting to understand the pure length of it. Surely a film that is this good could still entertain someone of a new generation. As you may know (whether you have seen the film or not) Clint Eastwood stars alongside Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef. So, the “good” is not so good, the “bad” is just doing his job and the “ugly” is better looking than the “bad”. I can’t help feeling that it would have been better to not give helpful names at the beginning of the film. It would lend a certain ambiguity to the piece and cause arguments many years hence.

There are quite interesting mistakes in the movie (seemingly deliberately left in). Eastwood is holding a six-shooter then fires it; killing a man. He then exclaims that there are six more people left and that was an ideal number. When asked why, he exclaims “that’s how many bullets I got left in my gun”. Now I am no Maths genius, but I do know that 6 minus 1 is NOT 6! The man with no name (Eastwood) is named Blondie throughout the film and yet doesn’t seem to be blonde. Angel Eyes seems to have eyes torn from a completely different creature. Despite this though, the mistakes are overlooked and forgotten amongst everything else that was so right. You can’t argue about hair colour when the atmosphere is just so darn spot on!

The entire film concentrates on close up shots of each character’s face and long sweeping shots covering the expansive area. This gives a strange claustrophobic (and yet comical) atmosphere in some scenes and an eerie desolation in others. These surreal close-up shots make everyone look like the “ugly”. Clint Eastwood is introduced on screen via a shot of him walking in front of the camera and talking manly. He seems to spend the entire 179 minutes lighting his endless supply of cigars with an endless supply of matches that he strikes (endlessly) on various parts of his body. Now I am a smoker and the fact is, for anyone to do this they would have to have sandpaper surgically attached to their face. Believable? No! Amusing? Yes.

The Ugly, (Wallach) gives throughout the piece and in truth, it’s needed. His job, it seems is to be hung regularly (be sure to listen out to his ever changing list of crimes). Somehow the nearly 3 hour running time would be even more painfully slow without this rascal of a character. The length of the film is an issue. Unfortunately, we live in an age where there always has to be something happening on screen for a movie to justify this running time. In this though, the length is celebrated with a full 10 minutes into it before any dialogue is spoken. In a scene where the good and the ugly walk through the you experience the length of time that they both spent under the sun. Indeed, on screen it could have been raining, but with Sergio Leone’s close-up face shots the heat and stress that is etched on their faces, is experienced by the viewer.

I was told after watching it, that if you took away the scenery and music, you’d be left with little else. I’d have to disagree to this sweeping statement. Yes, the music is representative of what is happening on screen, giving a serious, mysterious and sometimes comical flavour to the events. The location is convincing as a place where these two and a bounty hunter would reside. However, the purveyor of the aforementioned advice forgot to consider the expressions on the character’s faces. The fact is that more is said in their expressions than any dialogue could. Indeed in the quick (but long) ending, you follow each of the character’s thoughts, fears and calculations and along with the music, are brought to a crescendo of tension. Other than this though, the storyline seems a little weak. Three people go after a $200,000 treasure buried in a grave. That’s it; and you are only told this after almost an hour into the piece.

Every single scene in the movie feels elongated unnecessarily. I was watching the latest extended version and yet in truth, the film (for a fresh audience) could have been easily tightened; not loosened. This is ultimately a shame as I enjoyed the movie immensely. It is important to re-release classic and iconic movies for a new generation to enjoy on the big screen, as you lose some of the atmosphere watching it at home on DVD. This movie was made for the cinema. This movie was made for everyone to experience at least once. As long as you understand that this is simply not paced the same way as modern equivalents, you’ll enjoy yourself. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in all its iconic glory is released (again) on August 1st 2008 in (BFI Southbank), Edinburgh and other key cities around Britain. Just bear in mind that you will be humming the tune for weeks afterwards.

Rating: 4 out of 5

If you have never watched it on the big screen, then do so. The fact is you’ll be missing out otherwise.

Is this one of your favourite films? Do you wonder about why this is considered a classic? Let me know your thoughts on the matter and we’ll argue the necessity of the length until the cows come home.

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