Friday, 10 November 2017

A Fistful Of Dollars

Bought a Clint Eastwood Spag Western box set a few weeks ago but only started watching it recently, beginning, (chrono)logically, with A Fistful Of Dollars. I thought they were due reappraisal, having not watched one all the way through for many years. 

One of several things that struck me was the sound, which I only learnt the other day was dubbed on afterwards, thus explaining why every 'clip-clip' of the horses' hooves, jangle of bits and clomp of boots on boards seemed heightened, to the fore. Then the laughter; throughout bad guys spend a lot of time laughing. At times, it's as if some are high on something. The framing of some shots, of course, Leone's recognised for that now, so I wondered why this film, apparently, got such a luke-warm reception from critics. Couldn't they see the artistry involved? Perhaps they were blinded by the amount of gun smoke. If not exactly hailed as a bone fide 'classic' today, this and the subsequent ones are at least rightly hailed as unique.

One other thing that struck me was the similarity between the scene where The Man With No Name is getting his (swollen) eye in again, the shot of his gun hand as he practices to the sound of a militaristic drum beat by Morricone instantly brought to mind Travis Bickle firing to a similar beat by Bernard Herrmann. I may have imagined it, but as you know that military-style drum runs through the Taxi Driver theme.

One astonishing scene is the massacre of the Baxter clan. Leone doesn't depict this in a normal fashion, but hammers home the brutality with almost as many shots of the slayers as bullets they fire. It plays out relentlessly. 

By coincidence it's Ennio Morricone's birthday today. The score for A Fistful Of Dollars is great, of course, although as regular readers will know when it comes to playing Morricone scores I favour his Giallo work. Watching the film reminded me of reggae artists' obsession with Spaghetti Westerns, often resulting in hilarious Jamaican/Mexican dialogue. So by way of honouring Morricone, I'm opting for one of those instead of anything by 'Il Maestro'. Featuring adapted dialogue from the film, the now famous coffin joke... 

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