Lee Van Cleef
Not much more than Akira Kurosawa's YOJIMBO wedged into a turn-of-the-century Mexican town. A drifter rides into the backwater of San Miguel and quickly positions himself as a power player between the evil Baxters and the also-evil Rojos ... and stands to make himself a good deal of money if he can stay alive long enough to pull a few more double-crosses. Simple story, stylish execution, and a young master Eastwood who's just getting started.
With the success of the first film came the demand for a second: 1965's FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE brings Leone and Eastwood back together again -- but this is not a sequel. (Eastwood actually plays different characters throughout the trilogy, and despite popular rumor, his character DOES have a name in each one.) This time it's Clint as an intrepid bounty hunter who aims his sights on a fat-cat criminal. Too bad the villain is also being hunted by an old-school assassin known as The Colonel. Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef strike an excellently gruff chemistry together, the action scenes are rough and raucous, and (as always) Leone swings his camera in all sorts of fascinating directions.
But while the first two flicks are very well-regarded pieces of cinema, the finest collaboration between Leone and Eastwood would have to be 1966's THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, which is just about one of the finest westerns ever made, "spaghetti" or otherwise. Eastwood and Van Cleef return, and joining them is Eli Wallach as one of the sloppiest human beings you ever will see. The plot sees all three of 'em on a quest for hidden treasure during the Civil War. Fairly basic stuff, yeah. But with Leone firing on all cylinders, the actors firmly comfortable with the material, Ennio Morricone's immortal score, and tons of electric action ... this is one of the shortest three hours you'll ever spend.
Included among the "Dollars Trilogy" is one of Leone's more colorful concoctions. Produced a few years after the filmmaker's classic ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, 1971'S DUCK, YOU SUCKER (also known as A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE), doesn't offer Clint Eastwood, but it does have James Coburn as an Irish explosives wizard and Rod Steiger as a sleazy bandito who team up to rob some banks -- but end up getting embroiled in the Mexican Revolution.
Disc 1: Commentary
"A New Kind of Hero" (22:52) -- Mr. Frayling covers the history of the film. Sort of a condensed version of the audio commentary, but good stuff.
"A Few Weeks in Spain: Clint Eastwood on Making the Film" (8:33) -- Mr. Eastwood from a 2003 interview.
"Tre Voci: Three Friends Remember Sergio Leone" (11:13) -- Producer Alberto Grimaldi, screenwriter Sergio Donati, and actor Mickey Knox share their recollections about Leone.
"Not Ready for Primetime" (6:21) -- Filmmaker Monte Hellman discusses the film's "lost prologue."
"Network Prologue with Harry Dean Stanton" (7:43) -- Leone enthusiast Howard Fridkin introduces a rather colorful rarity: The little-seen "network" prologue for the film.
"Location Comparisons" (5:23) -- This one brings us back to Almeria, Spain, so we can see some of the old shooting locations.
Also included are some old radio spots and trailers for the series.
Mr. Frayling contributes another excellent commentary alongside FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE.
"A New Standard" (20:12) -- Just like on the first movie, Mr. Frayling offers much of the same info from the audio commentary, but this is still a very fine collection of featurettes. (Only the hardcore fans will be dealing with the commentaries, anyway.)
"Back for More" (7:12) -- Clint Eastwood contributes some thoughts on his second spaghetti western in this 2003 interview excerpt.
"Tre Voci: Three Friends Remember Sergio Leone" (11:05) -- Another segment with three of the director's old collaborators.
"American Release Comparison" (5:18) -- Offers three extended scenes that had been excised for the film's U.S. release.
"Location Comparisons" (12:14) -- Snapshots of the old locations set against clips from the film.
Also included are several radio spots and trailers from the whole series.
Mr. Frayling is (temporarily) relieved of his duties so that film critic (and Clint Eastwood biographer) Richard Schickel can dole out the commentary tidbits. And a fine track it is, filled with trivial info, production stories, and an obvious sense of affection for the movie.
"Leone's West" (19:51) -- Schickel, Grimaldi, Eastwood, Knox, Eli Wallach, and a few other players look back over their time on the classic western.
"The Leone Style" (23:45) -- The usual suspects are still on hand to discuss the director himself, from his specific signatures to his unique working style.
"The Man Who Lost the Civil War" (14:23) -- A mini-documentary that gives some real-life insight into the fictional treasure hunt found within the movie.
"Reconstructing THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY" (11:07) -- Some background on the stuff that was originally deleted -- and then reinstated for the DVD release. Thank god.
"Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone" (7:47) -- A well-deserved piece on the brilliant composer who helped make these flicks so darn memorable.
Also included are two deleted scenes, a poster gallery, and the original theatrical trailer.
Christopher Frayling returns for a third audio commentary, and it's safe to say that the Leone fans won't be disappointed.
"The Myth of Revolution" (22:08) -- Mr. Frayling (who else?) offers numerous insights on one of Leone's slowest and most political films.
"Sergio Donati Rememebers DUCK YOU SUCKER!" (7:20) -- The veteran screenwriter reminisces over the arduous production.
"Once Upon a Time in Italy (The Autry Exhibit)" (5:52) -- A short piece on the Leone exhibit from the Museum of the American West
"Sorting Out the Versions" (11:34) -- A very helpful breakdown of the film's numerous versions, titles, and excised sequences.
"Restoration Italian Style" (6:08) -- MGM restoration whiz John Kirk explains what went in to pulling together a "definitive" version of DUCK YOU SUCKER.
"Location Comparisons" (9:32) -- More of the "now and then" shots from the location.
Once again, this platter also delivers several radio spots and theatrical trailers.