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Sergio Leone

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Title: Once upon a Time in the West
Directed by:
Sergio Leone
Written by:
Sergio Leone, Sergio Donati, Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci
Year: 1968

When I was younger, I liked the romantic version of the Wild West presented in  Jackson Cole’s books about the brave ranger Walt Slade, but since then, I haven’t been interested at all, with the possible exception of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which i consider a masterpiece. Once upon a Time in the West is ranked 18th on IMDB’s list of top 200 movies and since both these spaghetti westerns are directed by Sergio Leone and highly regarded, I assumed that they would be roughly similar in quality.

It would be wrong to say that I was gravely disappointed, but I do think this film has nothing whatsoever to do close to the top of that list. Where The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly was ingenious, Once upon a Time in the West is merely adequate. The story opens with Harmonica (he’s called that because he always plays a harmonica when he should speak and vice versa, as the bandit Cheyenne puts it) stepping of a train, facing three men and demanding to meet with Frank. A shootout ensues; Harmonica is the only survivor. He later joins forces with Cheyenne to protect a widow from the ruthless Frank, competing for the wealth following in the wake of the ever-expanding railway.

As is the case with The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the directing and acting are both good or very good. There’s no doubt that people involved in this film know what they are doing. However, the basic premise isn’t that interesting. The story is straightforward, a bit long-winded and nothing I’ll remember in the future. Since I’m not that interested in the genre itself, this’s a serious flaw, but I’m still prepared to grant three snails for good directing and skilled execution.

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Title: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Directed by:
Sergio Leone
Written by:
Sergio Leone, Luciano Vincenzoni
Year: 1966

Again, I run into a film I beforehand do not expect at all to like. I mean, how good can spaghetti western with Clint Eastwood be? It certainly does not sound like my kind of genre. The answer to the question turned out to be “very good”. It currently occupies fifth place on IMDB:s list of top films, so it might be regarded as somewhat odd that I have not seen The Good, the Bad and the Ugly much earlier.

The story revolves around three character, as the title implies, each after the 200 000 dollars that are presumably hidden in a grave in a cemetery somewhere in Civil War struck America. The problem is that each of the rivals have only part of the information about the location of the treasure and are forced to cooperate to reach the gold. However, regardless of their three epithets, they are all cunning gunslingers, veterans of the game of survival in the desert and small towns.

The story in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a a chain of very unlikely events, full of nice twists and turning points. To me, the true greatness of this film lies in the spectacular array of links in this chain. Although the film is almost three hours long, I felt entertained all the way through. The script is witty and often also humorous. The actors are well suited to their roles.

I am surprised to say this, but I really liked The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and intend to give it four and a half snails. I did not think I liked either action films or the Wild West, but Sergio Leone proved me wrong. Thumbs up, although I doubt any other film in this genre will be able to repeat this feat.

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