Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence
Clint Eastwood as “Joe”, the Man with No Name
Marianne Koch as Marisol
John Wells as Ramón Rojo
W. Lukschy as Sheriff John Baxter
S. Rupp as Esteban Rojo
Joe Edger as Piripero
Antonio Prieto as Don Miguel Rojo
Jose Calvo as Silvanito
Margherita Lozano as Consuelo Baxter
Daniel Martín as Julio
Benny Reeves as Rubio
Director: Sergio Leone
The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood) enters the Mexican village of San Miguel in the midst of a power struggle among the three Rojo brothers (Antonio Prieto, Benny Reeves, Sieghardt Rupp) and sheriff John Baxter (Wolfgang Lukschy). When a regiment of Mexican soldiers bearing gold intended to pay for new weapons is waylaid by the Rojo brothers, the stranger inserts himself into the middle of the long-simmering battle, selling false information to both sides for his own benefit.
I wanted to check out all of Sergio Leone’s films, I had once watched spaghetti western trilogy (also known as The Man with No Name trilogy) many years ago, and I did want to watch them again. Starting it off with A Fistful of Dollars back in 1964, the first movie in the trilogy is a very solid western, despite some of its datedness. It’s very much a product of its time, which helps to overlook many of the lesser elements with regard to story, direction and the like, and still works as an influential classic.
The plot and story of A Fistful of Dollars pretty low key when compared to the third movie in Leone’s trilogy, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It does take a while for the plot to really get going, but it’s fun for sure. I will say that the plot does get a little too tangled in itself at some points, and really a bit messy. I also wouldn’t say that the movie dragged (the movie is just under 100 minutes long) but my interest was waning a bit at times. That’s until the great third act which Leone was really saving up the best for, and it really paid off. The movie is quite entertaining too, and there’s a good amount of humour thrown in there.
Clint Eastwood’s performances as the mysterious The Man with No Name (in this movie having the name of Joe) is iconic across the trilogy. You just can’t imagine anyone else in this role, with his charisma, the delivery of his lines, and the way he carries himself. He really just steals all the scenes he’s in, he owns every moment, and he’s essentially carrying this movie. The villains are also scene chewing and work very well, especially Gian Maria Volonte (credited as John Wells) as the lead villain.
Sergio Leone’s direction is top notch for sure, and the style (which became very influential to other westerns made since then) played a huge part in that. It is a little hindered by its lower budget but all things considering, the movie on a technical level generally turned out rather well. The cinematography is great, the shots are very well composed, especially with the use of close ups, and the landscapes suit the story and overall film very well. Those closeup shots of people in tense moments (particularly standoff scenes) are particularly effective, and became one of the staples of the Western genre. A lot of the dubbing can look quite off, same with the sound design and mixing, it’s very noticeable too and will distract some (it certainly did for me until I got used to it). On the other hand, the music by Ennio Morricone is absolutely fantastic and iconic, one of the highlights of the film for sure. It’s pivotal to the film for sure and adds an atmosphere to many of the scenes, elevating them to a whole other level.
A Fistful of Dollars is a good western that redefined the genre. It was well directed and featured some good performances, with Clint Eastwood leading the movie really well. The rest of the trilogy with For a Few Dollars More and The Good the Bad and the Ugly is much better than this for sure but it’s worth watching at some point if you haven’t already, even if you’re not the biggest fan of westerns.