Has there ever been a showdown in film as memorable as the finale in the cemetery in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly? By the time Lee Van Cleef bursts onto the scene, somehow unseen until he steps into the circle, the audience gets the feeling that the whole film has been leading up to this. The story follows Blondie (Eastwood) who is perhaps generously branded ‘The Good’ and Tuco (Eli Wallach) who is perhaps unfairly branded ‘The Ugly’. Both men are skilled gunslingers with questionable moral values: they form a shaky alliance in their search for the $200,000 dollars buried in a grave in Sad Hill Cemetery. Also after the gold is the very aptly branded ‘The Bad’ (Van Cleef) or Angel Eyes, who’s just as quick with his pistol and not exactly a team player.
The film takes its time, a trait Leone would become known and loved for. It’s all about style and the film seems to revel in the gnarled faces of the extras, the searing heat of the desert and the harsh environment of the truly Wild West. The Dollars Trilogy is not actually a trilogy in the traditional sense. Each film has a self-contained story that not only has nothing to do with the other two but often outright ignores them. Lee Van Cleef’s kindly Colonel Mortimer in For A Few Dollars More has absolutely no connection with his malevolent Angel Eyes (‘The Bad’) in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Actor Luigi Pistilli, one of the main villains in the second film returns as a compassionate priest in the third. In fact, for a series of films that is often also referred to as The Man With No Name trilogy, the supposed Man With No Name actually has a name in every single one of them.
But the messiness of the Spaghetti Western genre is arguably one of its greatest charms. On set, the crew would speak a mix of Italian, Spanish, English and French. The cast would deliver their lines in their native language, which is why in the English version, Clint Eastwood’s lines seem much more in sync than some of the minor characters. The sound designers responsible for dubbing the film into their various languages needed to be slightly creative on a number of different occasions so that the dialogue would not seem too out of sync. During the prisoner of war sequence in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, the prison guard’s line of ‘piu forte’ (‘louder’) was changed in the American release to ‘more feeling.’ Leone himself did not speak English until he was forced to learn in order to direct Once Upon A Time In America (1984), and had to communicate on set with Eastwood in broken French.