|Lee Van Cleef.|
This is the third film in the so-called Dollars Trilogy, directed by Sergio Leone, after "A Fistful of Dollars" and "For a Few Dollars More". Clint Eastwood appears in all three films, but he's a different character in each film. In the first film his name is Joe, in the second his name is Manco, and in the third film he's called Blondie. The film unites him with two giants of western films, Lee Van Cleef as Angel Eyes and Eli Wallach as Tuco. In 1966 Lee and Eli were very famous actors in the United States, but Clint was hardly known.
The film is about $200,000 in stolen coins which a robber has buried in a cemetery. All three men want the money for themselves, but they need one another's help to find it. They aren't friends, they don't even like one another, but if they worked alone they would never find the money.
It's difficult for me to understand why Blondie is called "The Good". It could be argued that he's the most immoral of the three. He makes his money as a crooked bounty hunter. He delivers an outlaw to a sheriff, collects the bounty, then frees the outlaw and divides the money with him. After this he delivers the outlaw to another sheriff and starts his game all over again. Angel Eyes is a killer, a hit man for hire, but at least he has morals, because he always carries out every job he's given, even if a target tries to bribe him to spare his life. As we see later in the film, Blondie makes deals with both Angel Eyes and Tuco, double-crossing them as soon as they are no longer useful to him.
This film is the best in the trilogy, and in my opinion it's the best western ever made. Quentin Tarantino calls it "the best-directed film of all time" and "the greatest achievement in the history of cinema". High praise indeed. The cinematography is stunning. The suspense is breathtakingly intense, as the story slowly rolls on from one scene to the next, never hurried. The close-ups are both eerie and fascinating. It's as if we're drawn into the heads of the three mian characters.
The film takes place during the American Civil War. It seems to me that the director's sympathies lay with the South. The Union Army is shown devastating towns as they advance, leaving hundreds of dead and wounded wherever they go, while streams of refugees flee. In the prisoner of war camps the Confederate soldiers are tortured and killed. If history were judged on the basis of this film alone we would say that the wrong side won.