BP’s Top 100 Challenge #24: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, by Sarah Brinks
I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have unfortunately never seen. The Battleship Pretension Top 100 list provided such a challenge.
I wasn’t sure what to expect of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly given my lukewarm feelings about director Sergio Leone’s other film on the Battleship Pretension Top 100 list, Once Upon a Time in the West. But I shouldn’t have been, because I loved it. I’ve already written about how much I love Westerns as a film genre, but somehow, I had never seen The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I think I was afraid it would be cheesy since I had seen it parodied so many times. But that should be a lesson to me; parody is often the sincerest form of flattery. Whatever it was that was holding me back, I am so glad that the Battleship Pretension Top 100 list gave me an excuse to watch it.
I realized while watching it that I think this is the earliest Clint Eastwood film I have seen and I get it now. When I was young Clint Eastwood kind of freaked me out because he looked a bit like a living skeleton and I found it disturbing. As I got older, I saw a lot more of his recent work and got over my “skeleton thing”, but I never really understood the image of him as hero or sex symbol, then I watched The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. His cool, calm exterior is a perfect balance to Tuco’s rambunctious personality. Eastwood’s chiseled good looks also counterbalance Tuco’s rough exterior. The relationship between the two of them works throughout the film as they trade off who has the upper hand repeatedly throughout the film.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is certainly a western but it is also a road movie. Blondie and Tuco go on adventures on their way to find the buried money. Blondie and Tuco move from location to location, set piece after set piece on their journey first for revenge and then for the gold. They face prison, the desert, and the front lines of war in order to find their prize. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has strong forward momentum and the film moves right along without feeling slow or plodding unlike Once Upon a Time in the West.
Leone’s direction of the film is clever and occasionally showy but it makes the film a lot of fun to watch. The great sequences in the beginning when we see the con that Blondie and Tuco pull on the little towns is clever and fun. But even the later scenes that are slow and purposeful, like the standoff between the three cowboys, have a pulse and momentum and the movie, despite its impressive length, is still very tense and entertaining. Leone also used the landscape of the American West to great effect. The landscape shots are beautiful but sometimes menacing, like in the desert.
An element to the film that is particularly enjoyable is the score. Ennio Morricone is a famous composer, particularly for his work in the western genre. The score for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is magnificent. The main theme that plays over the titles is simultaneously of a specific time and also timeless. The echoey chorus that sings along over the strings and harmonica has so much energy and gets you amped for the film to come. My favorite piece is “The Ecstasy of Gold” which plays as Tuco runs through the cemetery searching for the grave with all the gold. I first heard this piece on Metallica’s “S&M” album but it was wonderful in the film and gave a scene that could have felt tedious momentum.
I have a feeling this is a film I am going to return to many times.
I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly ranking: Carrier