johnlink ranks A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964)

Long on my list of movies I am embarrassed to have not seen have been the well-loved films of The Man With No Name Trilogy. Never mind that his name is Joe. They are still well loved! For a long time I didn’t even know what order these movies were in within the series. But I am smarter now, and I’ve seen one of them at least!


I watched A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964) on 8.17.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS lands towards the bottom of the list for the IMDB Top 250, meaning that there is a consensus among movie lovers that it is one of the top couple hundred films in the history of cinema. It seems that what lands it there are equal parts nostalgia, its place in history, and a love for the spaghetti western. The story is simple, though not weak. The acting is fine, though not excellent. The camerawork was revolutionary because of its lack of polish or adherence to western conventions.

When Director Sergio Leone made the film in Italy, his star, Clint Eastwood, had to educate the crew about basics of western dress and decorum. Italy is a fine stand in for the dusty west, and the lack of knowledge of the cliches of a western make this an interesting movie to watch.

The story has Joe (Eastwood), a man with a name despite the trilogy title, wandering into a corrupt town. There are two elements at war. One is the ‘law’, the Baxters, the other is a group of villains known as the Rojos. Nothing is good and evil here, people just kill each other and make work for the undertaker (Joseph Egger). Joe befriends an inn keeper who can’t make any money, Silvanito (Jose Calvo). He seeks to free a woman, Marisol (Marianne Koch), who has been enslaved by the worst of the Rojos (Gian Maria Volonte).

The violence starts off silly, with a bloodless slaughter which dates the film terribly. As the movie progresses it becomes more brutal. This never gets on par with THE WILD BUNCH or the Tarantino films it would inspre three and four decades later, but it has a bit of shock value at some key moments.

The revenge aspects of the story are ambiguous, and they work. We don’t know why Joe does what he does, only that he once knew a woman who was treated poorly who he was powerless to help. This lack of information is both refreshing and useful. We can imagine what happened to harden him. We don’t need to know, per se.

But, ultimately, this is a movie which is dated. The cinematography, while revolutionary, is not as spectacular as some of the 60s epics it stands against. The dubbing is not strong. The villains are one-dimensional and they are pretty stupid when it comes to figuring out who is pulling the strings.

This is a movie to see for its place in cinematic history. It’s good, and the last forty minutes approach a very high level of filmmaking. But, for me anyway, this is not one of the great films.



All that said, the score is fairly awesome. You can hear the bits that inspired Tarantino to put what he does into his scores.


FINAL SCORE: 6 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on August 19, 2014.

4 Responses to “johnlink ranks A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964)”

  1. I really love this movie and Eastwood’s character of the silent, deadly drifter like Mad Max, or a more intense Hans Solo (at least how I imagine Solo before the movies start) or a noir hero. It’s interesting to see how the general concept and story of this movie expands with the rest of the Dollars trilogy.

  2. “The Man With No Name Trilogy. Never mind that his name is Joe”


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