Director: Sergio Leone
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volonté, Marianne Koch
A drifter rides into a Mexican border town ruled by rival gangs of smugglers and proceeds to make a fair amount of money playing one off against the other until the inevitable day of reckoning comes.
A Western remake of Kurosawa's Yojimbo, and itself remade as Last Man Standing, this amoral tale with a nameless hero burst onto the international market, heralding a torrent of 'spaghetti' Westerns and giving the genre a contemporarily cynical shot in the arm. The mercilessly brutal slayings and beatings are now expected ingredients of an action movie made in America, but they were shocking at the time and are juxtaposed with sequences in which Morricone's mournful melodies provide romantic commentary. Seen alongside its successors (qv.) the film is taut, if relatively unsophisticated, with some clunky transitions, none of the flashbacks the director would make his own, and some atrocious dubbing. But Eastwood had already polished the act that was to be his bread and butter for the next twenty years and he, Leone and Morricone inject humour, style and irony into a genre that had become either too earnest or too facetious.