While the Civil War rages between the Union and the Confederacy, three men – a quiet loner, a ruthless hit man and a Mexican bandit – comb the American Southwest in search of a strongbox containing $200,000 in stolen gold.
The film that cemented Clint Eastwood’s status as “The Man with No Name,” The Good, the Bad and the Ugly stands as one of the most influential Westerns of all time, and more importantly as one of the most striking examples ever of how cinema can create a living myth out of pure visual spectacle. Eli Wallach (the “ugly,” absolutely), Lee Van Cleef (the “bad,” undoubtedly), and Eastwood (the “good,” barely) criss-cross the arid Texas plains while double-crossing one another as they search for a fortune in stolen Confederate gold. It’s not the story that one remembers, however, but how it’s told—or painted, as the film’s innovative opening credits suggest. Like a brush on canvas, Leone’s lens colors desolation with beauty, juxtaposing close-ups of scarred faces with long-distance shots of sky-stretched panoramas to create a disorienting, almost hyper-real landscape, one aurally haunted by Ennio Morricone’s now legendary score. Here, the American hunt for gold winds up—literally—in the grave.