Clint Eastwood 1: A Fistful of Dollars Review – The Bells Toll for Thee, Ramon & Baxters

(For SI blog reader sganeshkumar)

How fitting.

Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars begins and ends with the tolling of bells.

Oh, no.

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.

Dollars Trilogy
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,  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 Volonté cast here as Ramón Rojo is all right but no match, either with the gun or in the acting department, for Clint Eastwood.

Nice Lines
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. 😉

11 Responses to "Clint Eastwood 1: A Fistful of Dollars Review – The Bells Toll for Thee, Ramon & Baxters"

  1. sganeshkumar1989   December 10, 2009 at 12:56 am

    Yeah, I agree completely with the review.

    it’s not a Classic like Good,Bad and Ugly, but watchable due to Clint’s Screen presence and Ennio Morricone’s music.

    I guess,I was the one who asked you review this film along with other Clint classics! 😉

    But,after I watched Yojimbo (Read in Wiki that Fistful is a copy of Yojimbo), I stopped liking this film.

    Yojimbo is a real classic from director Akira Kurosawa and actor Mifune. Watch it. I really loved it,despite not understanding the language (Subtitles have helped me though. 😛 ) Responds:

    1. You write: I guess,I was the one who asked you review this film along with other Clint classics

    Credited you at the top of the review now. 😉

    2. Will watch Yojimbo one of these days. We regret missing Kurosawa’s Roshomon. It was playing at a theater in Philadelphia recently. Watched the trailer when we went to see Revanche.

  2. sganeshkumar1989   December 10, 2009 at 1:06 am

    What next? For A Few Dollars More or The Outlaw Josey Wales? Responds:

    You write: What next?

    The next one will be For a Few Dollars More.

    We just purchased the theme music today.

  3. guruprasad.s   December 10, 2009 at 2:09 am

    I found that the theme music of “For a few dollars more” is much better than “Fistful..”, and slightly better than even “The good ..”

    Also, in “For a few dollars…”, you will see some (or mucho ?) competition for Clint Eastwood in the acting department.

    The movie has several nice lines and some very interesting sequences. Responds:

    You write: I found that the theme music of “For a few dollars more” is much better than “Fistful..”, and slightly better than even “The good ..”

    Sometimes we think the music in The Good, the Bad… is merely an improved version of A Fistful of Dollars.

    Will watch For a Few Dollars More soon.

  4. guruprasad.s   December 10, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Check out this song from the Hindi movie Gharonda.

    The movie is nice. Responds:

    We like Do diwane shaher mein (from the same movie) better.

  5. sumeshy   December 10, 2009 at 2:15 pm


    Can you do a piece on the telegana creation? looks like india is the only country to go backwards. one man gave his life to bring them together while another one is merrily breaking them up. what’s next – reinstallation of the kings, chieftains, nawabs? Responds:

    Will do.

    Update: Incredible India 37 – Gimme a State, Else I Fast

  6. 1984moviefan   December 10, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Have you seen Reservoir Dogs by Tarantino ? Responds:

    No, as we said the other day we plan to watch Reservoir Dogs soon.

    Has been on our mind for some time.

  7. Vetti Jijaji   December 10, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Have you watched Fargo? Responds:

    No, although we’re aware of the film.

  8. unknownvirus   December 10, 2009 at 9:05 pm should start reviewing QT’s movies. Kill Bill is perhaps one of the best works of QT. Have you seen it? QT’s taste of soundtrack is a delight. BTW if possible try to review Sin City too. I think QT was the guest director.. Responds:

    Once we finish the Clint Eastwood series, we’ll start on QT.

    Haven’t seen Kill Bill although we’re aware of it.

    The two QT movies we’ve seen are Inglourious Basterds and Pulp Fiction.

  9. unknownvirus   December 12, 2009 at 9:42 am

    When is the Invictus review coming out? 🙂
    The AMC next to my place is not playing A single man..
    and looks like Colin Firth is givin quite a competition to Freeman this weekend.. Responds:

    Invictus review tomorrow.

    Today, we might watch a potential Oscar winner.

  10. sganeshkumar1989   December 13, 2009 at 7:02 am

    Waiting for your Invictus review.(I atleast hope it releases here on Feb./March,like in the case of previous Oscar winning/nominated films.) Responds:

    We watched The Road (Viggo Mortensen of Eastern Promises and Appaloosa fame, Kodi McPhee) yesterday. Will have the review up later today.

    Will watch Invictus soon. Also received For a Few Dollars More and the old Gol Maal (1979) yesterday. Se have plenty to keep us going.

  11. sganeshkumar1989   January 31, 2010 at 5:48 am

    I liked this music bit from the film. Responds:

    This is alright but we like the score in For a Few Dollars More and The Good, Bad and Ugly better.

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