17. For a Few Dollars More (1964, Leone)
What everyone forgets is that Leone really came into his own with his second western, displaying his ability to create characters that existed in a world of gray, who were overly violent and usually quite desperate. Its also the movie that features my favorite Lee Van Cleef role, Col. Mortimer, a man seeking revenge carefully while dealing with Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name, a fellow as equally good with a gun as Mortimer is, hunting the same group of outlaws that Mortimer wishes to defeat, not just for the reward but for something that happened in his past. The movie is careful never to reveal what transpired between Mortimer and El Indio, save for a handful of flashbacks and a watch that plays an ever so gentle melody, a tune that both men are very much familiar with. I think its interesting how unlike the other two movies in the Man WIth No Name trilogy, this one focuses on him the less-Mortimer is the central player here instead.
Unlike his first western, A Fistful of Dollars, which was practically a shot for shot remake of Yojimbo, Leone wisely created his own movie this time around, using much of the same actors from the first movie while adding in Cleef and Klaus Kinski as a hunchbacked psychotic who duels Mortimer, calling him “The Smoker.” A criticism of Leone’s work could be that at times nothing seems to happen, and yet during these moments either tension is built up, or people’s motivations become more clear. I recall reading something that Leone is a master of making scenes that stretches of greatness, even if they may not fit into the overall narrative or nothing really happens, per say. I can agree with that, even though I think that every shot of his movies has meaning and purpose, even if that purpose becomes unclear.
My only problem with this movie is that not much else can really be said about it. Like many westerns, the narrative and story isn’t particularly deep, and the characters are rather simplistic, although that’s not always a bad thing. Someone over on MovieJustice.com actually argued that the climatic gunfight in this movie was better than the more highly regarded one in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I’m not sure I can agree, although that argument has some merit-the showdown is much shorter, and far tightly paced. Alas, the Morricone score backing it up doesn’t hold a candle to “The Trio.”