This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Regional Editor for RiverTown Multimedia, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “For A Few Dollars More.”
The Movie: “For A Few Dollars More”
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Gian Maria Volonte
Director: Sergio Leone
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Two bounty hunters with the same intentions team up to track down a Western outlaw.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 94 percent
Brown: A week ago, we were doing the “Surfin’ Bird” and gettin’ some with the fine folks of the Vietnam War with Kubrick’s classic “Full Metal Jacket.” (Postscript: RIP R. Lee Emery)
Now, we turn our attention to a largely untouched brand of movie (unless you’re Quentin Tarantino) with the Spaghetti Western.
After all, pro wrestling has used Italians as multiple ethnicities that are not Italian (like Chief Jay Strongbow as a Native American and Muhammad Hassan as a Arab American). Hollywood was guilty of it, too.
What better way to enjoy the genre than with one of of the “Man Without A Name” trilogy? And my pick this week is the middle child with the dumbest name: “For A Few Dollars More.”
This is Clint Eastwood in his apex (before he directed movies that I just don’t enjoy). Rockin’ a poncho. Not speaking a whole lot, except to do the Batman voice that Christian Bale wishes he could do. Always chewing on a cigarette like he’s the ‘60s Marlboro Man.
Lee Van Cleef is here, doing his typical schtick and continuing his chemistry that would carry over to “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” which is probably the most memorable of these movies.
The dubbing is off just enough to make you have to notice it.
Finally, I wish Ennio Morricone could do the soundtrack to my life.
I’m gushing already. I enjoy this entire trilogy. Before I keep blabbing on, what was your initial take, Froemming?
Froemming: Westerns are a genre I — for some reason — have never really dug into. So I have not seen any of the Dollars Trilogy or “Man Without A Name” trilogy, it has two names and it can be two things.
My initial thought was this: Tarantino made his career cribbing from Sergio Leone, especially the latter half of his career. Don’t get me wrong, I still love those films, it was just interesting to see how he utilized aspects from this movie into “Django Unchained” and the “Kill Bill” movies.
Enough of film school, fellow nerds, it is time to pop out the “It’s Always Sunny” references (there are quite a few that came to me) and snark on a Western with perhaps the most ridiculous bank heist and vault scheme I have ever seen, but somehow works.
I’m going to pop on my poncho (not a hippie poncho!), Brown get us started on
“Logan” “For A Few Dollars More.”
Brown: First scene of this movie, we see someone riding through the desert on what I presume is a horse with no name. With the mountains in the background, I was queuing up “DJANGO” in my head, because Tarantino.
And the man gets shot. And the opening credits roll as this poor horse just wanders the untamed “West” alone. PETA hates this movie, I assume.
And the opus of the movie reveals itself: “Where life has no value, death, sometimes, had its price. That is why the bounty killers appeared.”
And first, we are introduced to Colonel Douglas Mortimer (Van Cleef), who baffles me because he is wearing all black and is wearing entirely too much clothing in the hot “Texas” sun. He is rounding up a bounty of his own by stopping a train, reaching a saloon where a gentleman is hiding, ruining his sexy time before shooting the man’s horse and the man himself for $1,000.
Not bad for an afternoon of work.
Froemming: OK, first, Mortimer’s duster is epic, so I totally get it. Second, when the guy he is hunting started jumping off buildings like an acrobat, I immediately thought maybe Mac and Dennis were hunting him too, because the man moved just like our favorite priest-turned-hobo Rickety Cricket in “It’s Always Sunny.”
Next we see
Wolverine The Man With No Name named Manco (Wikipedia tells me he does have a name in each movie, so WTF?) mosey into a bar, where he too is looking to collect a bounty on some villainous scumbag. His target is playing poker and Manco pulls the ballsiest move anyone in the Old West could do: Stroll up and start cutting the deck himself. Also, pretty rude Manco, they were in the middle of a game.
Brown: I was so distraught when they said his name was Manco. That’s the name someone would come up with for a lazy-ass meninist blog. “Good, Bad and Ugly” got it right by just constantly referring to him as Blue Eyes.
And the whole sequence of Manco (Ugg) getting this bounty is equal parts awesome and baffling.
The part with the cards: Awesome.
The fight, where Manco is karate chopping people: Uhh, what?
Leaving town and saying “You people need a new sheriff”: Badass.
Not volunteering to be that sheriff: Lame, Manco. Lame.
Now, we get introduced to the big bad of this movie with Indio.
Froemming: Indio is one of the most ruthless bad guys I have seen in a film. He also is one of the most charismatic ones as well. He is busted out of jail by his gang, and right before he leaves, he up and kills his cellmate. I’m not sure if it was just about his knowledge of the vault we learn about later on or if maybe his cellmate was really gassy all the time, but that kill seemed like a relief to him.
And as he escapes, he is laughing like a maniac, which is perfectly caught by whoever draws the wanted posters. I’d imagine Indio had to freeze in that pose for a couple of hours just so the artist could get it right.
Brown: Did it make you laugh as hard as I did to see Indio’s wanted poster get hammered into the wall with the butt of someone’s gun? That may be the most ‘Murica thing I’ve seen in cinema history.
Froemming: Which is funny because this movie was made in Spain and was written and directed by an Italian. Maybe Leone was psychic and saw 2018 America and knew this would be seen as the coolest thing ever.
Because a lot in this movie is the coolest (REDACTED) stuff I have seen in film that I would normally roll my eyes at.
Indio’s madness is not over just yet. With his paranoid eyes that made him look suspiciously like Charlie trying to figure out who Pepe Silvia is in “Sunny,” Indio finds the man who ratted him out. Brown, you take on what is probably one of the most cold-blooded scenes in this whole movie.
Brown: Oh, it’s haunting. And that’s part of Indio’s schtick. In line with “Full Metal Jacket” last week, Indio has that thousand-yard stare where you know he’s been through some (REDACTED).
Which, yeah, he has, but it’s all his doing. We see several times in the movie where Indio has a flashback to a man and woman in bed, and the man (Wikipedia says her husband) gives the woman a pocket watch. Clearly crushing on this woman, Indio goes and shoots the man. Later, we find out he raped this poor woman and during said scene, she kills herself.
Yeah, not much sympathy when it’s all said and done for Indio.
And when he kills his rat’s wife and 18-month-old child, no sympathy there.
Now, it comes time to kill the rat. And while setting up for the duel, Indio says to draw when the pocket watch’s chime stops. It’s this beautiful, eerie melody that kind of takes you out of it when you hear Ennio Morricone’s orchestral sound accompany it. Don’t think a watch is capable of playing a horn section.
Essentially, Indio is Two-Face from Batman. He needs to do this watch chime bit before any duel, much like Harvey Dent needs to flip his coin.
Just for reference sake, Two-Face came first in 1942, compared to Indio in this 1965 movie.
Froemming: Yeah, but Dent doesn’t have Indio’s swagger and need to get stoned to forget his past traumas.
Point goes to Indio.
Mortimer now enters a bank, which I had to remember wasn’t insured by the federal government in those years, so when the money was stolen in this era, it was gone forever. Just stuff it in your mattress or, like Ron Swanson, bury your gold somewhere nobody could ever find it.
He isn’t there to open up a checking account, Mortimer wants to know what bank is the most secured and safe. There is this moment when he poses a hypothesis that he is a bank robber and what bank would be impossible to rob and the bank manager slowly closes the vault in his office when hearing that. Loved that little detail.
He finds out the most secure bank is the Bank of El Paso, and through a psychic ability I have not seen since “KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park,” Mortimer deduces that his next bounty, Indio, will hit that bank.
Brown: Well, they say that Indio, while not stupid, is a madman. Also, he knows the secret of the bank’s cash. It’s not in the big safe that you’d essentially have to blow up the building for. It’s in a decoy safe built into a wood cabinet.
Froemming: Let’s build this impenetrable safe that no one can bust into and then keep the cash in a dinky safe in a wood cabinet right next to it. Sound logic.
Brown: Look Froemming, the people were more concerned about how to stop from getting the Rickets instead of learning from your fancy textbooks.
Somehow, Manco also deduces Indio’s next target is in El Paso, and his way of getting information is by paying a child a quarter for info on strangers coming into town. I respect the runt’s hustle.
Froemming: I used a calculation website to see how much a quarter was worth in 1890 (around the time of this movie I’d assume) and that kid makes $6.34 for just saying what he sees. Not bad money for the time.
Brown: Again, I respect the hustle.
Mortimer makes his presence felt when, in the town saloon, he goes to one of Indio’s gang, the hunch-backed Wild, and lights a match on the guy.
I enjoyed this moment because Wild doesn’t cause a scene (he’s on reconnisciance for the bank job) and just hands Mortimer his stogie. So now Mortimer has his pipe and stogie. Like Homer Simpson, he is in flavor country. And it’s a big country.
Now, we have Manco trying to get info on Mortimer, so he talks to an old man named Prophet. I don’t know about you, Froemming, but Prophet needs his own full-length movie.
Froemming: Prophet reminded me of Charles Manson at his looniest. This is also a nice moment of comic relief, because there really isn’t a whole lot of laughs in a movie where a woman and her infant child are murdered and a woman kills herself while being raped.
Prophet is nutty and is messing with Manco (or has dementia, which would be tragic) and he lives near the railroad, because he is stubborn and refused to sell his land when the tracks were being built.
You’re right, I want a whole movie on this guy.
Prophet does know who Manco is talking about based on how the stranger holds his gun, which I don’t really buy since people hold weapons in a variety of ways but usually similar. Manco now knows this stranger is, like him and Boba Fett, a bounty hunter.
Brown: Because no one likes sharing, Manco and Mortimer have this weird staredown in the dead of night. They scuff each other’s boots before Manco punches Mortimer and keeps shooting the man’s hat down the road.
Manco is a skilled shooter. But Mortimer is just as good, if not better. Using his rifle butt that somehow increases his revolver’s range, Mortimer shoots Manco’s hat up in the air multiple times.
Both skilled killers, they decide two is better than one and make an agreement to get the bounty on Indio and his gang of baddies.
At one point, Manco says he’s hoping to get the $10,000 bounty to buy a home and retire. I got so mad hearing that.
Froemming: Well, $10,000 then is about $253,622.02 in today’s money. So, he probably would be comfortable for a few years at least. Not everyone wants to ride around killing wanted men to put dinner on the table, Brown. Maybe Manco has a dream of becoming a dentist someday.
Brown: Sure, if Manco could shoot teeth off, then he would do it. Otherwise, I doubt dentistry is in the mix.
So the strategy the two bounty hunters come up with is “inside and outside”: Manco will join Indio’s gang while Mortimer will work in the shadows.
Manco’s way of getting in good with the gang is to break out Indio’s friend from prison. And from there, Manco is in a group of four to rob a Santa Cruz bank as a distraction, where Manco kills the other three before the heist begins and forces a man to send a telegraph that the robbery is happening.
And here, we get kind of stupid. Care to elaborate, Froemming?
Froemming: First, I was upset Manco didn’t have the decency to let that old man finish cooking and eating his eggs. Also, for guys who are after criminals, they sure break a lot of laws.
Now we get to the robbery, which Mortimer and Manco thought they had down. Problem is they didn’t know about the flimsy real vault, so Indio and the gang go around the building, blow out the back as the poor guard was just getting to his dinner, kill the poor guy with an empty stomach and steal the wood cabinet.
Brown: We are told that this bank is the most secure in the West, with armed guards around it inside and outside. And they just blow up one wall and take the safe. That is… not secure. At all.
Froemming: Look Brown, they were busy trying to not die from Typhoid Fever and Whooping Cough, they didn’t have time for your fancy-pants textbooks on security.
Brown: Well played.
I forgot to mention, when Manco guns down the three henchmen, I was sincerely hoping Manco would ask if they wanted to play a little Bangkok Rules like Snake in “Escape From L.A.” Although, I do question how you claim a bounty when there’s just three random bodies in the desert.
Froemming: Now with Indio on the run with the loot, Manco decides this partnership was pretty stupid, seeing how Mortimer’s plan went south on them. Mortimer says they will probably head north, so when Manco meets up with the gang (with a shot wound to the neck to look like he barely survived the robbery) he tells them to go south. Because he is tired of Mortimer making him do all the work for half the loot.
So they head east…
Brown: Between his lifestyle and what I can only assume are opium nightmares, Indio is a rather paranoid man.
So in a small border town, Mortimer predicts the group’s movement and suggests to Indio that he can crack the safe without blowing it up and destroying half the bank notes. Well, he does this after shooting Wild after our hunch-backed friend remembers the disrespect he suffered earlier in the movie.
With the safe now opened, the money is taken out and put into a strongbox in a pantry with a broken door, courtesy of Indio. He decides that the money will be divided up in a month so the heat can die down.
I’ve seen “Goodfellas” enough times to know that won’t go over well.
Froemming: Mortimer’s fee was upfront, so I was baffled as to why Indio would keep a stranger around with all that sweet, sweet cash sitting there begging to be stolen. Indio is kinda stupid at times in this movie.
Brown: Especially when the guy has proven he can break locks, like Mortimer happens to do later that night to collect the money for himself and Manco. And as a nice touch, they put the wanted poster in the strongbox as a big (REDACTED) you to Indio.
Only, Manco steps on Indio’s face when he climbs off the roof and gets the two caught. The jig is up. And they are beaten senseless for their efforts. It looks something like this.
Froemming: Indio and his second in command Niño have a plan to keep all the money for themselves, because greed know no bounds. Niño kills the guard on duty with a knife from another gang member who was sleeping and lets Manco and Mortimer go, without bullets in their guns. This creates a panic in the camp, the prisoners have escaped and two of their men are dead. It’s time for some revenge! Only, at least one gang member is suspicious of this little con going on.
So the gang takes off for our anti-heroes, and Indio’s little plan goes down the tube in minutes. His opium-rattled brain has probably something to do with this oversight.
Brown: Yeah, that didn’t go well for our pal Indio. He just wanted the money for himself and Niño, and now, the only two alive are Indio and Groggy. And now, Indio is being called out by Mortimer.
Mortimer drops his full name and that does ring a bell for Indio.
And the traditional Sergio Leone Mexican standoff begins!
Froemming: One quick thought. Do you think Trump based his opinion on Mexicans off of Indio?
“They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” Indio is all of that in this movie.
Brown: I’m thinking more Johnny 23 from “Con-Air” than Indio.
Froemming: Well, the gang is set up for slaughter, because Indio knows the bounty hunters are going to be excellent shots and that gives him and Groggy time to escape. Only Indio finds the lockbox is filled with nothing but his wanted poster, which again I believe he waited hours for the artist to capture.
And the standoff between the gang and our two bounty hunters is some of the best action you will ever see. My favorite: Manco using his hat and poncho on a hanger to distract the gunmen so he can blast them away from the comfort of a nice chair.
Brown: Yeah, that was some Han Solo (REDACTED) there.
So now, the standoff begins between Indio and Mortimer, and of course the pocket watch comes out. But as the chime is about to stop, a second, identical chime kicks in from Manco, who stole Mortimer’s watch. Turns out, the woman Indio raped was Mortimer’s sister.
And finally, after all these years, Mortimer gets his revenge on Indio. It wasn’t about the money, which Mortimer tells Manco to have.
And as Manco puts the final body in a wagon that would make the “bring out your dead” group of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” blush, Groggy tries to get the jump on Manco. Mortimer saves his new friend by gunning down Groggy.
Frankly, Mortimer should get all the money. But Manco is going to get the bounty AND all the bank money that he had hidden.
Manco gets to retire and I’m very, very upset by this.
Froemming: Don’t worry, he comes back in “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” It was a short retirement.
Let’s hop on our horses and ride off into the sunset of recommendations.
Would You Recommend?
Brown: Absolutely. I’d recommend all three movies from this trilogy.
Froemming: Yup! Like I said at the start, I had never seen this movie (or the other two) but I loved it. Such an interesting style for a Western. I say go for it.
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: