The final part of the “man with no name” trilogy sees Clint Eastwood competing with his erstwhile partner and a coldly vicious mercenary for some buried stolen loot.
The remarkable thing about Sergio Leone’s series is the fact that even the best film trilogies – good as they were – never quite captured the magic of the original. Leone’s however began brilliantly, and just kept getting better. The trio are introduced in highly effective opening scenes once again, often using only eye contact and body language to convey their personalities; it’s actually 10 full minutes into the film before a single syllable is uttered. Leone continues the theme of the old west as an environment of “every man for himself” as the characters are constantly backstabbing and lying to each other, even “the good” is an immoral con man who betrays his partner as soon as it is convenient – but I guess “The bad, the bad and the bad” didn’t have the same ring to it!
All of this is set to a backdrop of the American Civil war which is treated in a way that has far more in common with Apocalypse Now than John Ford. The scene in which a drunken Union captain prays for the destruction of a vital bridge to end the carnage is particularly memorable. But it is Eli Wallach’s Tuco that virtually steals the film out from under Eastwood; his immoral and cowardly double-crosser brings a lot of humour to the film and was surely a big influence on Johnny Depp whilst creating the character of Captain Jack. My one gripe is that the second act is rather weaker than the opening and conclusion, which is particularly apparent when Ennio Morricone’s otherwise excellent score descends into conspicuous sappiness.
Despite this, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is a clear contender for best western ever made.