September 4, 2012

Tuff Fest II: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966)

Hey cool kids, I'm back with another post from my Tuff Fest series.
Simul-posted here: The Movie Advocate

Ahh yes, we finally get to the quintessential Spaghetti Western, Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.  The most famous and revered of the Dollars trilogy, and for good reason: This movie is epic. 

There were a few things that took me by surprise in watching this movie, but none more than it's running time.  Clocking in at 177 minutes, this movie long, and it feels like it.  These three men basically do everything that could be done in America in the early 1860's.  They ride around the desert, they sleep with women, they get in gun fights with strangers, they spend and steal money, they attempt to reconcile with their individual pasts, and they even fight in a battle during the Civil war itself.

That last bit is important. See Leone has said a great deal about TGTBTU, and some of that has been in relation to how he used the movie to pay homage and act as a parody to classic westerns.  Because of this, everything is just a little bit off, and kind of silly.  Sure, the fact that it is a Spaghetti Western doesn't help, but there's definitely some intentional silliness in there.  In no other scene is this more obvious than the scene where "Blondie" (Eastwood) and Tuco (Wallach) sign up with the Union army in an attempt to get across a contested bridge.

Westerns are all, to at least some degree, about the Civil War, and it's effect on Americans.  During this scene, the ridiculousness of war is brought to the forefront, the two sides of the war holding their positions just so the other side won't go someplace else to fight, each side "taking one for the team" by ensuring that the other side doesn't have more support.  This is ludicrous, obviously, because the real emotions behind their stalemate are closer to that of cowardice than that of heroism, but that's the point.  No one wants to be there, yet there they are, and a stalemate is a better prospect than getting shot any day of the week.

This is one small aspect of this terrifically large movie.  The movie is not, however, great.  It drags, there's little sense of pacing, whole sections of the movie could have been cut and no one would have noticed.  But you just have to see it.  There are so many shining moments in it that, despite it's faults, if you don't see it, you're denying yourself a great experience.

-Luke Hunter James-Erickson
To see all the movies written about so far, click here: Tuff Fest II
To see all the movies written about during Tuff Fest I, click here: Tuff Fest I 
For an explanation as to what this is all about, click here: Tuff Fest Introduction.

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