The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966)

Starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach as the title characters, this is a memorable Spaghetti western. Angel Eyes (Cleef) is on the prowl for a man who stole some gold. Meanwhile Tuco (Wallach) is on the run until three bounty hunters confront him. However, Blondie (Eastwood) is the one who turns him in and then helps Tuco escape after he picks up the reward. Finally, the two accomplices split up on bad terms. The next time Tuco turns the tables capturing Blondie and marching him through the desert. While on their journey they learn where the gold is hidden. First they have run ins with Angel Eyes an the Union army and then they got caught up in a Civil War skirmish. The two of them endure it all and go to the cemetery where the gold is. There they have the final showdown with Angel Eyes in epic fashion. This film is great because it is exciting, it features an iconic Ennio Morricone score, and it has great cinematography which is a trademark of Sergio Leone. An Italian western may seem strange but Leone somehow makes it work.

5/5 Stars

For A Few Dollars More (1965)

7c912-forafewdollarsmoreStarring Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef with director Sergio Leone, this Spaghetti western is the second film in the “Dollar Trilogy.” The film opens with two bounty hunters, and in two separate instances we quickly realize their skill in bagging their man. However, when a notorious outlaw, “El Indio,” and his gang begin to cause trouble, both men are intent on getting the reward. Reluctantly they agree to join forces and Manco (Eastwood) joins Indio in his robbing of a bank so the two mercenaries can bring him down. The bandits get away with the money and then later they overhear the intentions of Manco and the Colonel, and so they rough them up. In secret Indio has them released, then sends his gang after them so he can get away with the money.

However, the colonel took the loot and so the next morning he and Manco systematically mow down the bandits. Indo comes for the money and shares a tense moment with the colonel only to have Manco appear too. Using the chime of a pocket watch, they face off. In the end one man leaves, his revenge complete and the other takes the reward. Although this is not the best Eastwood western, it certainly had some action-packed moments that were very entertaining.

4/5 Stars

A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

c0810-a_fistful_of_dollars_posterStarring Clint Eastwood with director Sergio Leone, this western adaption of Yojimbo has a poncho-wearing gunslinger (Eastwood) playing two rival gangs off of each other. Upon entering the town, the man with no name is soon disturbed by the Baxters and he makes light work of four men.

Then, he decides to join the rival Rojos gang while spending the rest of his time at the local saloon. After a massacre takes place over some gold, the man uses two of the bodies to lure both sides out to a cemetery  In the ensuing chaos, the Rojos capture one man and then the man with no name sends a hostage over the the Baxters. He was able to get money from both sides before the exchange took place. That night the Rojos celebrate and the gunslinger sneaks off to rescue a woman who is captive. He does a virtuous deed but is found out and the Rojos beat him to a pulp. Using his ingenuity yet again, the man escapes to fight another day. Thinking he received help from the Baxters, the Rojos brutally wipe them out.

With his friend the innkeeper in trouble, the man returns for the final showdown. He outwits his foe and beats the sharpshooter, Ramon, at his own game. As would become the norm  the man would ride off as the victor in one of Leone’s famous panoramic shots.

4.5/5 Stars

The Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)

Telling the semi-biographical story of Robert Stroud, Birdman relates his life from violent beginnings until his later years. Burt Lancaster superbly characterizes Stroud as a tragic hero. Despite a relatively simple plot following the progression in a man’s life, Birdman is worth seeing. Ultimately, it is the charcters played by Lancaster, Karl Malden, and Thelma Ritter respectively, that make this movie. Ironically, by the end of the film after all he has accomplished the Birdman is still not a free man. Even if it is not completely historically accurate, this movie tells a great story. Having actually toured Alcatraz after viewing this film, I have to say it resonated with me even more.

3.5/5 Stars