Enio Morricone’s score for Sergio Leone’s 1968 masterpiece The Good, the Bad and the Ugly could easily be one of the most recognisable soundtracks in cinematic history. As epic as it is catchy, it’s the perfect soundtrack to the most famous western of all time — and I’m glad my first viewing of it was on the big screen.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a tale of three gunslingers, Blondie (Clint Eastwood), Tuco (Eli Wallach), and Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef), with questionable moral compasses as they race each other to a buried treasure of 200,000 dollars. All three characters are given time to develop, interact and go through complete character arcs over the almost four-hour-long film.
Loud, bombastic set-pieces are contrasted by quiet, sprawling sequences of a gunslinger riding across the desert on their horse. Visually, the film is stunning, using wide angle establishing shots, close-ups on characters, and quick zooms onto objects to tell the story mainly through landscapes and body language.
The importance of the visual and the musical is underlined by the fact that every line dubbed over the English or Italian-speaking actors is ever so slightly out of sync with the image. These lines, however, are clever and sarcastic, bringing legendary quotes such as: “There are two kinds of people in the world those with guns and those that dig. You dig.”
The editing of the film is slow. Fast cuts are used effectively when needed but most shots are long and slow, allowing the action (or lack thereof) to unfold in real time, a directorial decision which I believe adds to the tense atmosphere.
Some of these scenes were shockingly violent and caught be off guard; Angel Eyes beats a prostitute early on in the film and then gets a soldier to torture Tuco in brutal fashion. Sure, the execution is a bit cheesy by today’s standards but the concepts alone are enough to make you squirm in your seat. The climax of the film is the legendary three-way Mexican standoff. The build up is almost unbearable, and the resolution is explosive and satisfying.
Despite being almost three hours long, I loved every minute of the picture. I didn’t know what do expect — or guess who would survive the next gunshot. Leone’s film has stood the test of time and is a definite classic. A masterclass in character dynamics, storytelling and editing, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has to be seen by any movie buff — I waited way too long to see it, despite my brother pestering me about it for years.
The screening at the Odeon Great Northern was hosted by Manchester Classic Films, run by Fergus Higginson. Through the magic of crowdfunding, Fergus is able to fill a cinema room with classic film lovers. Coming up in June are screenings of Starship Troopers and Big Trouble in Little China. Films were made to be seen on the big screen; for the love of cinema, go like the Facebook page, check their events out and join in the fun!