(For SI blog reader sganeshkumar)
Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars begins and ends with the tolling of bells.
The bells don’t toll for our stranger who comes riding into the border town of San Miguel with no money in his pocket and a .45 pistol in his holster.
The man without a name, the Americano, the Gringo, or plain ‘Joe’ to the coffin-maker.
Yes, that’s our man, Clint Eastwood.
Old movies like A Fistful of Dollars, the Dirty Harry flicks that came later or recent films like Gran Torino, we love the sight of Clint Eastwood on the screen.
A Fistful of Dollars is the second movie in the ‘Dollars Trilogy’ that we’ve watched (the first was The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which is the last movie in the trilogy).
No, A Fistful of Dollars does not have the intensity or the class of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly but is still nevertheless a watchable movie.
No sooner is our broke stranger in town than he discovers $$ opportunity in the perpetual clash between the two factions in the place – the Rojo brothers and the Baxters (the family where the woman wears the pants in the house). Both groups are engaged in criminal activities.
The factional war has led to a town full of widows, as the saloon keeper declares at the beginning and exhorts the stranger to leave town quickly.
Soon, you see the coffin-maker sizing up the stranger’s measurements by way of a quick glance through the window. Although meant as a warning, that was a humorous touch.
Our stranger, a fast draw with the .45 and an ‘intelligent mind’ to accompany it stirs up trouble between the factions, decides to stay put it in the town despite the warnings and earns mucho dollars for himself from both sides until the game is up and he is captured.
All the Glory
Unlike The Good, Bad and Ugly,Â where the ‘good’ Clint Eastwood shared acting honors with the ‘ugly’ Tuco i.e. Eli Wallach, in A Fistful of Dollars the glory is all Clint Eastwood’s.
None of the others count for much here as the story centers around our stranger despite the enmity between the warring groups constantly staying in the background.
Gian Maria VolontÃ© cast here as RamÃ³n Rojo is all right but no match, either with the gun or in the acting department, for Clint Eastwood.
The dialogs (credited to Mark Lowell) are sharp.
Here are a few nice lines from the film:
Stranger: Never saw a town as dead as this
Saloon keeper: You will never see another one like it.
Stranger: My mule don’t like people laughin. He gets the crazy idea you laughin at him.
Stranger: When a man has money in his pocket, he begins to appreciate peace (declining the offer to join the Rojos or was it the Baxters in the ensuing cemetery battle).
Stranger: The heart, Ramon. Don’t forget the heart (in the climax scene).
Ennio Morricone’s theme music in A Fistful of Dollars is decent but does not rise to the level of his work in The Good, Bad and Ugly or Once Upon a Time in the West (The Man with the Harmonica).
If you live in the U.S., you can rent A Fistful of Dollars from Netflix.
If you live in India, you guys are pretty good at purloining others’ stuff anyway. Right, na. 😉