A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

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A Fistful of Dollars – IMDB 227/250

An iconic Western scored by the legendary Ennio Morricone and the film that turned Clint Eastwood into a household name, A Fistful of Dollars is number 227 on my IMDb 250 films of all time list.

In the first real spaghetti western to come out of Hollywood, Eastwood plays The Man With No Name, a mercenary like cowboy who wanders into a town where anarchy rules, particularly by two rivalling families, the Rojo brothers and the Baxter family.

Eastwood’s character begins too play off the two families against each other winning favour with both sides, as he attempts to install some order into this town, particularly after seeing a woman essentially a slave to the barbaric Rojo brother Ramon (Gian Maria Volonte).

The film really felt like a star making vehicle for Eastwood, more than a serious attempt at making great cinema. A Fistful of Dollars is completely centred on his mysterious character, and Eastwood has enough raw energy and charisma to make it work to a point.

His character is pretty cool for a classic western hero, relatively over the top and highly clichéd but it does work in this type of film.

Later on in the film as well we see a more human side to his character when he is badly beaten by the Rojo’s, which shows his vulnerability. But ultimately he was simply the tough Western cowboy who deep down had a heart of gold.

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The Man With No Name has become a legendary film character

The character he most reminded me of weirdly was James Bond. It felt almost as silly and over the top as Sean Connery’s portrayal of Bond in the 60s; he was the action hero and superman type character you knew would save the day from the moment he strutted on screen.

A Fistful of Dollars as a whole had a Bond feel to it, with its cheesy action and over the top acting, but just a different genre of film.

My main issue with this movie was however its inability to suspend my disbelief. At times it was just way too over the top. The Gatling gun scene was simply mental, the kind of thing you would see on a countdown of the worst movies ever made.

What was presumably supposed to be a dramatic moment was ruined by its nonsensical action, over the top acting from Gian Maria Volonte and to be fair the limitations of filming techniques at the time. It is the kind of scene where I would argue modern cinematic techniques would help greatly.

For me modern western films such as the remake of True Grit or Slow West have more artistic merit than A Fistful of Dollars, which I think is ranked higher more as a nostalgic piece than actually because it is a better film.

But there is one thing you can’t ignore or disrespect in this film, and that is the music score by Ennio Morricone. Possibly the most famous film composer of all time, Morricone created something legendary for this film, and it was from this movie where his genius first came to light.

Morricone really gives this film and all his others a certain ambience and mood, still scene today in the flawed The Hateful Eight, which benefited greatly from his work.

A Fistful of Dollars was a simple story told well. Our hero walked in to town, saved the day and rode out again, with a simple ‘Adios’ as a way of goodbye (I did like that scene).

The second half of the film is vastly superior to the first, as the film transitioned from the ridiculousness into a deeper and darker film, with our main characters fleshed out so that we could actually invest in them.

A Fistful of Dollars essentially invented and followed many of the troupes we see in Spaghetti Western films, which is a genre I personally dislike, but as a film that had such a large impact on the industry, it would be hard to deny its place on any list of the best films ever made.

A Fistful of Dollars: 5/10

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