A Fistful of Dollars (1964) – Review

A mysterious man, known only by the name Joe (Clint Eastwood), rides into a hostile town, divided by a violent and bloody war between two families – the Baxters and the Rojos. Despite being warned that most that enter the town either flee or die, Joe decides to stay and work out a way in which he can play the two feuding families against each other, for his own personal and financial gain. A classic flick that goes down as one of the finest Westerns to hit American screens.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Director: Sergio Leone
Writers: Sergio Leone, Adriano Bolzoni, Victor Andres Catena
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Marianne Koch, Gian Maria Volonte, Wolfgang Lukschy

When it comes to throwback western movies, there are three that stick in my mind as being some of the most recognisable of all time. They are of course, the three that make up the Dollars trilogy, directed by Sergio Leone and spearheaded on-screen by Clint Eastwood. It’s worth noting that reviews for “For a Few More Dollars (1965)” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)”, will follow in the coming weeks, but for now, let’s crack on with this one.

As many have said over the years, in terms of the story and plot, it was as straightforward as you’re going to get when it comes to two feuding families, but something that stuck in my mind was the beautiful cinematography on display from start to finish. As a film supposedly based and set near to the Mexican border, it surprised me somewhat to realise that the movie was actually filmed on location in Europe, primarily in the Spanish countryside, meaning that as a viewer, you really managed to get an authentic Latin feel throughout.

Another noteworthy aspect of the movie was the way in which the filmmakers demonstrated some of the rather diverse action sequences on display. Some were in the trademark western “blink and you’ll miss it” fashion, while others were in the more impactful and longer in time-frame fashion. There was also an effective build up to the finale, like many films of this nature, which seemed to entice drama at its finest.

In regard to the characters involved, one thing that really struck me was the way in which Clint Eastwood’s personality was scripted and consequently played out. He wasn’t your typical white knight that was there to save the day, using all of the correct and legal methods, instead, he seemed to be more interested in his own wealth and fortune, thus not particularly adhering to any morale principles. Ultimately, his acting throughout the film was typical of his usual mysterious self, as was the acting from the rest of the support cast.

One minor gripe I did have however, came in the form of the flick being shot and filmed without sound, and dubbed over later. Despite it being pretty common for films in this era, I did notice it and couldn’t help but feel it hampered the experience a little. With that being said, A Fistful of Dollars was still an enjoyable experience and managed to set viewers up nicely for the second in the trilogy, “For a Few More Dollars”.

“Get three coffins ready…”

Joe – A Fistful of Dollars

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