A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) – REVIEW

by Jordache Wee

Original Italian Title: Per un pugno di dollari
Release Date: October 16, 1964
Directed by: Sergio Leone
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volonté, Marianne Koch, José Calvo, Antonio Prieto, Sieghardt Rupp, Wolfgang Lukschy, Joseph Egger

The Stranger aka Joe (Clint Eastwood) with the innkeeper, Silvanito (José Calvo)

A man called Joe (Clint Eastwood) arrived at the Mexican border of San Miguel. The innkeeper, Silvanito (José Calvo) told Joe about the bitter feud between two family clans trying to control the town. The left end consisted of The Rojo Brothers – Don Miguel (Antonio Prieto), Esteban (Sieghardt Rupp) and Ramón (Gian Maria Volonté). The opposite end is the town sheriff’s family – John Baxter (Wolfgang Lukschy).

Joe observing both sides of the family

Joe took advantage on both families by taking both sides when a battalion of Mexican soldiers passes with a shipment of gold into town. The gold was meant delivering to the American soldier in exchange for weapons.

However, the Mexican soldiers were massacred by The Rojo Brothers led by Ramón, who dressed in American soldier uniforms and the bricks of gold were stolen and kept in a secret hideout.

At the cemetery, Joe places two dead Mexican soldier bodies and inform The Rojo Brothers that two Mexican soldiers survived the massacre. Both parties race to the cemetery. This is an attempt to make the Baxter family to save the “soldiers” and testify against The Rojo Brothers; The Rojo Brothers must “kill” the soldiers to escape the law.

While both parties are at the cemetery, Joe decides to look for the gold which the Rojo Brother had hid – along the way he accidentally hits a Ramón’s mistress, Marisol (Marianne Koch). He took her to the Baxters so as the Baxter can exchange hostages for Antonio.

“… a happy little family until trouble comes along. And trouble is the name of Ramon, claiming the husband cheated at cards, which wasn’t true. He gets the wife to live with him as hostage.”

Joe rescued Marisol (Marianne Koch)

Soon, Joe realizes that the young boy with a man looking for Marisol is her son and husband. Joe made a move after a long thought and he freed the Marisol, her husband and son to leave town and also giving them some money.

Furiously, Ramón searched for Joe and captured him but he escaped. Believing that Joe must be hiding and residing in the Baxters’ home – Ramón sets fire on the Baxter home and killing anyone who gets out of the house.

Realizing Joe was not in the house – Silvanito was caught and tortured in hopes for Joe to appear.

Joe reappears in town

In the epic final showdown, Joe returns to town killing The Rojo Brother except Ramón. He taunts Ramón to shoot him in the heart but he is still alive until he reveal that he was wearing an iron chest plate under his poncho.

Ramón (Gian Maria Volonté) is stunned for he cannot kill Joe

Joe challenges Ramón but unfortunately the handgun is quicker than the rifle and killing Ramón was easy. One last man, Esteban was aiming at Joe – only to be shot dead by Silvanito. Joe rides on to the next town.

Reviewer’s Note:
Clint Eastwood isn’t the one that director Sergio Leone had in mind in the first place but because his favorite lead cast Richard Harrison recommended young Eastwood to portray the character because Eastwood has the style and cut for the film.

Leone has indeed reinvent the spaghetti western which seems to be dropping off in Hollywood.

Using lots of extreme close-up (ECU) camera angles to create a tension and excitement for audience to experience has been capture a lot attention.

The spaghetti-western film made by Leone has influenced many film makers and ECU scenes can be seen in Bruce Lee’s films too.

A Fistful Of Dollars is the first film to be part of The Dollar Trilogy which continues to be released in 1965 and 1966. All three has different arc yet frequent use of the similar cast and theme.

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