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Weekly Classics: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Published May 11, 2012 04:53pm


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In the years between the “Rawhide” television series of the early 1960’s and the “Dirty Harry” film series of the 1970’s, Clint Eastwood made his mark on popular culture playing the ‘man with no name’ anti-hero of the Spaghetti westerns. The genre got its name from the fact that the movies were filmed almost always on location in Italy and were directed by and starring a cast of unknown Italian or European actors. They were made on a low budget but always high on action. Although Eastwood first became famous playing a cowboy on “Rawhide”, it was not until he teamed up with legendary film director Sergio Leone that he hit the jackpot.

They worked together three times in the “Dollars Trilogy” which included “A Fistful of Dollars” (1964), “For a Few Dollars More” (1965) and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966). Of all the Spaghetti Westerns, the most iconic is arguably “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and is by far the most entertaining.

Although not original in its concept, it was inspired by Akira Kurasawa’s Samurai films, the genre managed to mutate itself into a totally new concept of film-making, which revolutionised the way Western’s were made. Sergio Leone built up the momentum in the first film of the trilogy, which was improved upon during the second film and reaches a perfect crescendo in the third.

In “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, Clint Eastwood plays a mysterious wanderer called Blondie, “The Good”, armed only with his quick fire pistols and loads of machismo, who crosses paths with two other dubious characters during the American Civil War. The first low life that he tangles with is Tuco, or “The Ugly” (played by Eli Wallach), a bandit wanted by just about every county in the Wild West. The two come up with a scheme and decide to work together. Their plan is for Blondie to ‘capture’ Tuco, hand him over to the authorities, collect the reward money and just before his planned execution; Tuco will escape with a little help from Blondie himself.

Although the plan sounds ingenious at first, after a while the two rogues have a falling out. Blondie decides to ditch Tuco and move on to other more profitable enterprises. Tuco on the other hand vows revenge on what he feels is a backstabbing. He hunts Blondie down and takes him on a death march through the searing heat of the open plains. Just before his former partner breathes his last, by a strange circumstance, a mysterious carriage containing dead Confederate soldiers comes along. Tuco goes to investigate and finds out that one soldier is still barely alive. The soldier tells Tuco that $200,000 in Confederate gold is buried in a cemetery, but falls unconscious before he can tell the name of the grave where the gold is kept. Tuco rushes for water to revive the soldier, only to come back and find out that he has died, but not before imparting the name of the grave to Blondie.

So now the two former partners have to work together to get the gold. Though the circumstance of their alliance has now changed, they still can’t stand each other and will have to put aside their differences for the treasure. Add to this party another scoundrel named Angel Eyes, “The Bad” (played by Lee Van Cleef), a ruthless mercenary who also finds out about the buried treasure. Though he is a sociopath compared to the other two, he does share their greed for the gold and decides to hunt for it as well. All that’s left now is a battle of wits, quick drawing pistols and loads of luck for one individual to get away with the treasure.

Although the film was initially criticised for the way it glamorised violence and for the lack of acting chops from its lead stars, it is now widely acknowledged as one of the greatest Westerns ever made. Sergio Leone managed to breathe new life into a genre that had seemed to bore many film-goers. The film incorporates thrilling gunfights, colorful characters and awesome locations to form a rip-roaring piece of entertainment that lasts for nearly three hours.

Sergio Leone’s volatile personality and visionary direction comes across again and again in scene after scene, perhaps never better than the three-man gunfight scene towards the end of the movie. Add to this Ennio Morriconne’s unforgettable theme music, which pops up throughout the movie to thrill audiences, making the film even more cooler than it already is.

Clint Eastwood being the main star really makes his mark as an icon of manliness in the movie. Though his acting is not what you would call Oscar winning, his commanding screen presence and generally macho personality will inspire just about anyone to wear a belt with a six shooter. Eli Wallach is also terrific as Tuco, and manages to create a character that is not only ruthless, but also quite lovable. Though repulsive to look at, he still manages to come across as an endearing anti-hero in his own right. Credit must also be given to Lee Van Cleef for his performance as the evil Angel Eyes, who, as the name suggests, pierces his unfortunate prey with his devious stare and even more chilling shooting.

Sergio Leone did make one more classic Western after this movie, “Once Upon a Time in the West”, which was superb as well. Yet “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” has its own particular charm, which sets it apart from other Spaghetti Westerns. It’s a great film that probably captures best all the romantic notions one has about the Wild West. If you like your movies to have simple plots, good guys and bad guys settling scores with gunfights and generally get inspiration for being a tough macho man, then this is the film for you.

View’s weekly classics archive here.

Raza Ali Sayeed is a journalist at


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Raza Ali Sayeed is a journalist at and can be reached at

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (26) Closed

Nadir Siddiqui May 11, 2012 10:57am
Apart from the amazing theme-music of the film itself, there is also The Ecstasy of Gold : the COOLEST SCORE EVER! I dare you to hear this and not feel AWESOME. Ecstasy of Gold is so cool that Metallica started their shows with it.
Kesar May 11, 2012 10:57am
Eli Wallach character was called 'bad'. Van Lee Cleef was 'ugly'.
Ashar May 11, 2012 02:53pm
My favourite movie of all time. Simply can't remember how many times Ihave seen it. HEck, I have got the main theme as my ringtone :)
evoomarket May 11, 2012 03:27pm
I first encountered Clint at the Alfalah Cinema on the Mall in Lahore along with a few of my boarding school friends from Chiefs College. We were hooked and played the chahracters all week, until we got to se them again.
Hariharan.S May 11, 2012 08:07pm
I think you have seen the trailer where they refer Eli Wallach character was called 'bad'. Van Lee Cleef was 'ugly'. .This is because in the original Italian version.It was "Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo." which literally translates to "The Good,the Ugly and the Bad".. When the movie was dubbed in English,they changed it to The Good,the Bad and the Ugly.
tuco May 13, 2012 01:38pm
how much ?....20 no much ?.....40 no no much ? one hundred dollars !!
Sandeep May 11, 2012 04:30pm
Nope the other way around!
Ali May 11, 2012 07:08am
Nice review, though it would have been nicer if you had reviewed the whole Dollars Trilogy, since its incomplete to review anything about the man with no name till there's mention of the original villians in the first two films played by Gian Maria Volonté. That guy looks exactly the type of character that Gabbar Singh must have been inspired from. Van Cleef was without a doubt the only other person with the screen presence, though I enjoyed his Colonel more than Angel Eyes.
sana May 11, 2012 07:41am
all time favourite!
Mohammaddar May 11, 2012 04:56pm
what does this article has to do with Pakistan? Just another unwanted dose of ignorant culture of hypothetical western culture.
Malone May 11, 2012 12:59pm
The films were shot mostly in Spain, not Italy. The desert and the cacti look almost like those in southwestern US, though people who have been to Texas and Arizona can see the difference.
Muthu,India May 11, 2012 09:33am
I've seen this movie so many times that i've lost count now. The characters stay in our mind for eternity and Eli Wallach's role as 'the ugly' is simply unforgettable. Eli Wallach has meaty dialogues and he adds the most crucial element that ensures a film's success - humour.
Hariharan.S May 11, 2012 08:21pm
The most highlighting fact of the movie is Ennio Morricone's music.The music was the fourth hero of the movie...Some of the best are 1.Title music with the signature coyote howling 2.The music when Tuco wanders in the graveyard trying to find the grave 3.Best is the three way mexican standoff where there is no dialogue for 5 minutes and the 3 stare at each other each waiting for the other to make a move... Clint Eastwood is one of my favorite actor.He shined in "A fistfull of dollars" and "For a few dollars more" ,but this was all Eli Walach's show.Loved his character.His frequent dialogue "The world is divided into 2 kinds of men,my friend,one ............and one.........."
Caz May 11, 2012 09:43pm
Another closed mind . There is an epidemic in pakistan !
The Good May 11, 2012 10:56pm
I saw the movie several times at the Al-Falah cinema near the Assembly Hall. That was 1974. I even dragged along some friends to see it, and to do that I had offer buying the tickets. What a memory! I have now lived in the US for over 37 years, most of it in Texas. I still watch the movie every now and then. I can't say that there is any great acting in it, but it is best not to know such things to allow the fantasy to remain in the mind. Also, to the best of my knowledge the movie was filmed mostly i Spain, not the US or Italy. And that's another something I didn't want to know. Somehow knowing the facts about movies mars the quality of the fantasy in the mind. What I saw in the movie in 1974 in Lahore was my image of the American West. Knowing that the movie was actually filmed in Spain destroyed that.
Imran May 11, 2012 11:37pm
There is connection,watch this film and you will see when America was like Pakistan and People with no principle(ugly and bad) like us.
chaudhry May 13, 2012 07:00am
When you have to shoot,,,,shoot..! Don't Talk.....
Tamilselvan May 12, 2012 01:12am
Nothing to do with Pakistan but several of your countrymen enjoyed the classics just like the rest of the world. Go get the CD's and you'll change your mind. None of us cared what the Spagatti western was about. In one movie they travrl by train and are mistaken for confedrates and they end up in prison camp of US soldiers. Everyone enjoyed although most of us did not know American Civil War events. Now the only wild west is west of India. Hope this too ends and peace is restored
MJK May 12, 2012 01:59am
Remember the scene, when Ugly was in bath tub, a man shows up to shoot him but hesitates & talks. Ugly does not hesitate and kills the would be killer, and remarks ' when you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk.' Eli was quite a character.
Jimmy May 12, 2012 03:51am
Excellent movie of our times. Nostalgia.
Ahmar Qureshi May 14, 2012 06:45am
Dirty Harry, Fire Fox, In the Line of Fire, The Dollars Trilogy & many many more! Clint Eastwood is for sure the "Deputy In Town!" Most of the movies were being copied just after Clint Eastwood's movies. Ennio Morricone simply played the best euphoric melodies in Dollars Trilogy (also in Kill Bill Vol: 2) Not Even Hollywood could match or remake such fantastic movies! I wish that Clint Eastwood keep on working & earning fan's around the globe! :-) Thank You!
Ahmed May 12, 2012 09:05am
Excellent movie with lovely background music
saa May 12, 2012 10:15am
Clint Eastwood with squinting eyes, cheroot dangling, slumped on a horse and hissing dialogue delivery created an iconic mysterious character that changed how the typical western heroes looked like. He Acted in many other memorable non western movies but he will always be remembered as The Man With No Name. Western died when Clint stepped off the horse. No actor could bring out the wild west as Clint did.
@gyro_me May 12, 2012 12:49pm
plz somone give me link to download this movie ,,,,, i hav been searching it long time..
The Good May 12, 2012 05:08pm
Muhammad Dar has the right to his opinion; rebutting that right also constitutes a closed mind. Anyhow, let's lighten up. But as go closed minds, their epidemic is not just in Pakistan; it is all over the World. Here in the US there is a great preponderance of closed minds, and the US is a place where one would think that such attitudes would be the least. Closed minds are part of the human culture. We all harbor broad minds in some ways and closed minds in some other ways. I think that's quite alright as long as the closed minds do not impose themselves on others, nor the broad minds. There are no universal definitions of closed and broad minds.
Farrukh May 13, 2012 02:06am
O my goodness, i just watched this movie yesterday