One of the things I love most about this film is its opening scene. The lone rider moving across a huge, open plain, just a tiny figure on a horse. Then, a rifle shot and the rider falls. Followed by a written bit about bounty hunters, aka, bounty killers. Plus the Ennio Morricone score swells as the text appears. *shivers*
This is also the second entry in what’s known as the Dollars Trilogy. Even though the third has dollars in it, but not in the title.
Clint Eastwood reprises his role as the Man With No Name (except he has a name, Manco … okay). Manco is a bounty killer. And Lee Van Cleef (a man with a face made to play villains) portrays his competition, Colonel Douglas Mortimer. And after a couple of scenes where we witness their prowess with a gun, we learn that each of them wants to
whack bring to justice a psychopathic criminal named El Indio (played by Gian Maria Volante) and his gang of thugs, who (individually and collectively) has/have a massive bounty on him/them.
Indio plans to rob the Bank of El Paso. And Manco and Mortimer end up following him there. This leads to an amusing scene in which Mortimer tries to scare Manco off and vice versa. Essentially, this is the irresistible force going up against the immovable object., i.e., the two reach a stalemate. Which forces them to strike a compromise: work together and split the bounty.
I won’t ruin the movie for you, if you haven’t caught it. I will say that Volante plays a truly despicable and violent person. There’s a scene in a church where Volante is torturing a man who betrayed him. For its time, it’s an intensely violent scene, as much for what you only hear, as it is for what’s actually viewed.
What follows that scene in the church is probably the weakest part of this film. Frankly, Volante’s speech bored me and I could have fast-forwarded through it, if I weren’t such a damn purist when it comes to watching movies.
However—and this is a big however—there is so much great humor tucked in between all the violence and slow parts. It’s easy to see how these films made Eastwood and Van Cleef household names.
There’s also a psychological depth to the story that’s not as prominent in the first of the trilogy. To wit, the watch Colonel Mortimer wears has a young woman’s photo in it. The watch is a visual clue to his motives for hunting Indio. Apparently, it’s about more than just the money. More clues are revealed in flashback scenes of the pictured woman in bed with a young man. And the arrival in those scenes of a young Indio. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
Again, without spoilers, the movie is possibly my favorite of the three, even though the third … well, it has Eli Wallach (who’s hysterically funny, at times—and violent) and Van Cleef … who’s … got the most malevolent face ever!
The shootout at the end of this one is like a practice run for the one to come in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Despite the draggy parts, I’ll give this one five stars. Because Clint Eastwood. And Lee Van Cleef! 🙂