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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

For a Few Dollars More - NY Times Review - July 1967

Published: July 4, 1967

THE cool-cat image of a Western gun-slinger that was studiously fabricated by Clint Eastwood in "A Fistfull of Dollars," under the direction of Sergio Leone, is repeated by Mr. Eastwood in the aptly titled "For a Few Dollars More," which broke loose with some Fourth of July fireworks at the Trans-Lux West and other theaters yesterday. Everyone susceptible to the illusion that shooting and killing with fancy flourishes are fun can indulge his bloodlust to the fullest at this synthetic Italian-Spanish-made Western film.

Once again Mr. Leone has filled his plushly colored screen and his deliberately calculated sound-track with conglomerate stimuli that agitate moods of dread and danger, of morbid menace and suspense, and then erupt in cascades of vivid violence, fistfights, shootings and death.

The perils of a professional bounty killer, which Mr. Eastwood portrays, are multiplied in this instance not only by the wariness and tricks of the gang of Mexican banditti he pursues for the prices on their heads, but by the deceits of another bounty killer who is going after the same gang. The menace of this rival, played by Lee Van Cleef, is more dangerous and unpredictable than the known quantity of the murderous gang.

Thus it is the presence of this rival, as cool of manner and as deadly with the guns as the crafty, cheroot-chewing Mr. Eastwood, that furnishes Mr. Leone with what there is of interesting conflict between characters of modest scope.

The gunman of Mr. Eastwood is a fierce and fearless killing machine. So is the older, more experienced and righteously motivated gunman of Mr. Van Cleef. If anything, he is more clever and more sophisticated with the guns. Both are equally ruthless. Thus their rivalry, their dubious partnership and their frequent temptations to betrayal are the stuff of suspense in the film.

But, of course, the dynamics of it are in the freedom and ferocity with which Mr. Leone piles violence upon violence and charges the screen with the hideous fantasies of sudden death. In the close-up faces of his ugly ruffians, highlighted and shadowed in burnished hues, and in the ominous thump of drums and wail of trumpets that preface his menace scenes, he prepares us for the violent explosions that mark the deadly circuit of pursuit. In the bark of guns, the whine of bullets and the spinning bodies of men mortally hit, he provides the aural and visual stimulation for an excitement of morbid lust.

One may think that this is sheer fabrication, that the fantasies of killing contrived are devices for emotional escapism, that the foulness of the bandit leader, played with a hint of degeneration by Gian Maria Volonte, is a moral reason and justification for his being run down and slaughtered with his gang.

But the fact that this film is constructed to endorse the exercise of murderers, to emphasize killer bravado and generate glee in frantic manifestations of death is, to my mind, a sharp indictment of it as so-called entertainment in this day. There is nothing wholesome about killing men for bounty, nothing funny about seeing them die, no matter how much the audience may sit there and burble and laugh.

FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, screenplay by Luciano Vicenzoni; directed by Sergio Leone; produced by Alberto Grimaldi for P.E.A. of Rome, Arturo Gonzales of Madrid and Constantin Film of Munich; released through United Artists. At the Trans-Lux West Theater, Broadway at 49th Street, and other theaters. Running time: 130 minutes.

Man With No Name . . . . . Clint Eastwood
Colonel Mortimer . . . . . Lee Van Cleef
Indio . . . . . Gian Maria Volonte
Old Man Over Railway . . . . . Jose Egger
Colonel's Sister . . . . . Rosemary Dexter
Hotel Manager's Wife . . . . . Mara Krup
The Hunchback . . . . . Klaus Kinski
First Man . . . . . Mario Brega
Second Man . . . . . Aldo Sambrel
Third Man . . . . . Luigi Pistilli
Fourth Man . . . . . Benito Stefaneli

1 comment:

  1. It needs to be noted that the reviewer was fired from The New York Times shortly after panning this and other classics of the time, like Bonnie and Clyde. His lack of understanding of contemporary films (sixties) had a lot to do with his demise.
    You could take his opinions to the bank. If he disliked a movie, it was probably great.
    I bet he nearly had a stroke when he saw The Wild Bunch.