Rare it may be to find a film that can define a genre and era of filmmaking in one fell swoop, it is not impossible. For a film of this calibre to characterize and permanently rupture the careers of those involved is not surprising, but a welcome sight regardless. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly may not be the best in the trilogy (see For a Few Dollars More), but it is the one that influenced and shifted the genre from mainstream fodder to memorable classics filled with gun-toting entertainment and the crucial themes that would soon purge the genre of variety.
Such a similar style of storytelling would soon be found in rewarding pockets of entertainment. Gianni Garko’s work with the Sartana character was directly influenced by this Clint Eastwood classic. Modern directors have offered nods and stylish choices that reflect and praise the work crafted here by Sergio Leone and his keen eye for western scenarios. A tale of buried treasure, and the three men who race one another to find it, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly presents Leone’s biting satire of the romanticisation of the John Wayne style of westerns. Slick cowboys, charming supporting characters and tidy attire are nowhere to be found throughout The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, the protruding violence taking centre stage in place of a lead with a heart of gold.
Greed and disgust are at the core of this piece, one that makes for an incredible dissection of the dirt and grit found within Spaghetti Westerns. It is not perfect, though, and the few supporting characters that cling to their screentime for that moment too long add a minor sour note, one that is enough to relegate it below that of For a Few Dollars More. There is no denying either the relevance or brilliance of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, but its predecessor feels more succinct and to the point than this. It staggers from scene to scene, clutching its side in agony, as it presents the mortal horrors of the Old West, but it does so with brilliance. Dusty towns, villainous, morally-bankrupt individuals linger in saloons and hotels waiting for the right moment to strike. Lee Van Cleef brings life to the best of the bunch; Angel Eyes provides a bankrupt palette cleanser after his mysterious heroics of For a Few Dollars More.
An intense end to such an incredible series, the Spaghetti Western would go form strength to strength before and after the release of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, but this was the peak. Considered the definitive piece of a genre that died out only some years later, it is hard to argue against the influence and spectacle of this titan-like production. Skilled craftsmen come together to bring us gun-toting brilliance and acerbic characters. The point of no return was hit upon with this trilogy, where all the images and styles associated with the gunslinging old west were highlighted with feverish joy and love from cast and crew. Their respect and appreciation for the genre is infectious, burrowing deep into the seams of this, the cornerstone of the guts and gore the genre had to offer.