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Cinema: Daring to Be Different

2 minute read

A Fistful of Dollars. Once in a great while a western comes along that breaks new ground and becomes a classic of the genre. Stagecoach was one. So was High Noon. This year A Fistful of Dollars is the feature that dares to be different. It may well be the first western since The Great Train Robbery without a subplot. A man (Clint Eastwood) rides into town on a mule, kills a whole bunch of bad guys, kills some more bad guys, and then as a change of pace, kills some more bad guys. Then he rides out of town. Music up. Fade out.

Made overseas by an Italian director (Sergio Leone), based loosely on the Japanese film Yojimbo, and featuring a multilingual cast, Fistful should have been a loser from the word avanti.

Instead it has become the fastest draw in Italy, outgrossing My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins. So far, it has made some $7,000,000 in Europe and spawned two equally hot sequels, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and For a Few Dollars More—which earned Eastwood a few dollars more, jumping his salary from $15,000 per picture to $250,000.

Whatever his financial arrangements, Actor Eastwood, the sometime star of television’s Rawhide, is certainly not paid by the word. In Fistful he hardly talks at all. Doesn’t shave, either. Just drawls orders. Sometimes the bad guys drawl back. Just as tersely. Trouble is, after they stop talking, their lips keep moving. That’s because the picture is dubbed. Like the villains, it was shot in Spain. Pity it wasn’t buried there.

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