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Author Topic: Unforgiven: The Best Movie Eastwood has made or an overrated piece of work?  (Read 29050 times)
rojblake
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« Reply #20 on: February 18, 2012, 06:28:34 AM »

I think you may be overthinking the "Unforgiven" part of the title.

My take on the "Unforgiven" is what "The Schofield Kid" represents, the kid is Munny's past & his "reputation" catching up with him. Just as it is with "English Bob", Ned & "Little Bill". These men, in their youth, were men who had achieved reputations for being "bad men"; "fast guns"; etc. Munny being on a farm raising his kids, Ned with his wife, Bob with his "reputable job", & "Little Bill" are all "Unforgiven".

They worked very hard to earn those "reps" that gave them a sense of pupose, it is those "reps" which finally catch up to them all. Throughout the film when folks find out who William Munny is they react with a sense of revulsion. Except "The Kid" who admires such (hello fans of previous Clint films)..it is only when "The Kid" pulls the trigger & kills for real does he understand that Munny's rep is built on the blood & lives of others...& he is sickened by it.

Munny is well aware that "he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword", after his wife dies he has nothing to live for really..his kids are almost a footnote...I think Munny wanted to die, as he had lived; but he survives knowing in his heart that he is "the last of his kind"..& that survival will be its own kind of living hell. William Munny "killer of women & children" will have to hide from his own unforgiving past & hoipe that it doesn't come knocking as it did for "Little Bill".
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« Reply #21 on: February 18, 2012, 10:05:11 AM »

^ That's a very thoughtful post, and that may be the best answer to the question of what the title means.
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The Man With No Aim
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« Reply #22 on: March 04, 2012, 12:23:58 AM »

Serendipity.

While net surfing to look up gun stuff, I stumbled over something I found interesting.

First, remember that Little Bill reveals to Munny that Ned has had it beaten out of him that Munny is Three Finger Jack.

My stumble over discovery: The outlaw Joaquin Murietta had a lieutenant. The lieutenant's name was ...You guessed it ...Three Finger Jack. In the real history of the real world, there really was a Three Finger Jack really bad outlaw.

Ain't it a small world.

CE really put together a superbly well knit film.
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« Reply #23 on: March 04, 2012, 10:46:07 AM »

That's a good observation. However, the nickname "Three Finger Jack" doesn't occur in the film; it's only in David Webb Peoples's screenplay.

In the film, the lines (spoken by Little Sue) go like this (after Munny has observed, "So Little Bill killed him for what we done"):

Quote
LITTLE SUE: Not on purpose, but he started hurting him worse, making him tell stuff. First Ned wouldn't say nothing. And then Little Bill hurt him so bad, he said who you was. He said how you was really William Munny outta Missouri, and ... and ... Little Bill said, "The same William Munny that dynamited the Rock Island and Pacific in '69, killing women and children and all?" And Ned said you done a lot worse than that. Said you was more cold blooded than William Bonney, and how, if he hurt Ned again, you was going to come kill him like you killed the U.S. Marshall in '70. 
 

("William Bonney" is of course a reference to another famous outlaw, better known to posterity as "Billy the Kid.")

The use of the nickname "Three Finger Jack" undoubtedly reflects the research Peoples did on the outlaws of the old West, and also underscores the point that shooting accidents often were more responsible for people's fates than the skills of the gunfighters involved. In Peoples's script, we first see Munney when the Schofield Kid comes riding up to the sorry figure in the pigsty, and the Kid observes, "I seen how you got only three fingers on your left hand, though, so I guess you're calling yourself Mr. Bill Munny." The script continues, "MUNNY does indeed have three fingers on his left hand, and he doesn't like this conversation at all."

However, as dedicated as Clint is, he wasn't about to sacrifice a finger for the sake of authentically embodying this character.
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AKA23
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« Reply #24 on: March 04, 2012, 05:45:15 PM »

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...But anyway, I too on my first viewing in the theatre wondered if maybe the ending was a bit of a cop out, but then I thought about it more and saw it more times, and I came to realize it's the only logical ending, even beyond how it ties together the themes of the film.

1. Throughout Unforgiven, we are constantly hearing about how it was in the old days, as the Kid asks Munny about his past...  There is all this build up, and yet in the film all we see is a "broken down pig farmer" who can't mount his horse, needs to use a shotgun to hit a tin can, is regretful of his past, and is torn up about having to shoot the cowboy.  And of course before shooting the cowboy he is beaten up and spends three days with a fever.  So after all this build up, the film has to show Munny the way he really is.

2. Little Bill is built up almost as much as Munny is, and we know he has a past almost as rough and possibly shady as Munny's.  We see firsthand what he is capable of when he confronts English Bob and then later when he whips Ned.  So the film having built up these two characters to near mythical proportions must have them confront each other in the finale.  Anything else would be cheating the audience.  It's like you don't spend the whole first act of a play talking about a gun, only to never mention it again in the following acts.  Same principle.

3. As well, the finale shows the real difference between the Schofield Kid and William Munny, and it's a difference that has to be shown.  The Schofield Kid wanted so bad to be like the Munny of legend, but in the end realized he wasn't cut out for killing.  Again the film has to show the William Munny of legend to make the film complete.

4. The ending is not a cop out because the ending is more complex than it first seems.  Sure, we want the shoot out and we root for Munny, but it seems to me to come at a cost.  I can only speak for myself and try to remember back to when I first saw it and the impact the film had.  For me, I had very mixed feelings about the ending.  While I was rooting for Munny, I was saddened too, because while he had killed earlier in the film, it had been simply to finish a job.  And that was an emotionally wrenching experience that really showed the horror of killing another man.  So for him to go back to that person he had been was sad, as though he'd lost the battle to change his life and not be like that anymore, and that I knew that final shoot out will haunt him more than all the others because, not only has his best friend been killed, but now he's also betrayed his deceased wife on top of everything else.

Well, that's probably enough, I don't want to ramble on too much.  So, no, I don't think the ending undercuts anything.  It's a perfect film, as far as I'm concern, and it's the only logical ending.

Although Doug's post is quite well-written and argued, most of it is completely irrelevant to my central point. The notion that audiences have come to expect certain things from a Western of this sort, and that the movie had to follow those conventions to be considered entertaining, is not relevant to my central point, which is that the conclusion of "Unforgiven" tarnishes the purported theme of the movie. The fact is that William Munny going back to his old ways, and experiencing no observable consequences for having done so, heavily undermines the anti-violence message Eastwood claims he was trying to impart by making the film. The William Munny character spends the entire movie asserting how he has changed and how he realizes the error of his ways, yet when given the opportunity to embody those values, he chooses vengeance. I think the true anti-violence movie in Eastwood's filmography is "Gran Torino." SPOILERS AHEAD...

 It was Kowalski's own actions that led to Sue being raped. In an attempt to protect her and her family, Kowalski used violence. Rather than leading to increased safety and security, Kowalski's actions led to him endangering them all. Violence begets violence, and "Gran Torino" clearly showed that. Yet, unlike William Munny, when faced with a very similar situation, Kowalski makes a different choice. When Walt Kowalski is given the opportunity to seek vengeance, he learns from his previous behavior, and chooses to turn against it. He chooses to sacrifice himself rather than continue to engage in propagating bloodshed. That's a movie with a true, consistent, and poignant anti-violence theme. "Unforgiven" doesn't even come close.  
« Last Edit: March 04, 2012, 06:32:29 PM by AKA23 » Logged
rojblake
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« Reply #25 on: March 04, 2012, 06:25:40 PM »

AKA23 Originally asked this:
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Many say it is the best western ever made. Why? I don't think there's an argument to be made that it is not well acted or well directed. It is those things, but I don't see why it is placed as one of the best in Eastwood's filmography. It could be that I am not well versed enough in the Western genre to understand the brilliance of this film, but I just really don't get what is so wonderful about it. I know that "Unforgiven" was the one film that motivated KC, our most valuable and important board member, to become an Eastwood fan. So, KC, I think it would be useful and fun to revisit this issue. What is so breathtakingly beautiful about "Unforgiven?" What separates "Unforgiven" from other Westerns in the genre, and what was it about this film that made you such a huge Clint Eastwood fan?

I thought your central point was why & what people thought about the film?

As for Gran Torino VS. Unforgiven; I think it is a statement of CE changing world view (& I make no comment as to the right or wrong; agree or disagree here) that was beginning with Unforgiven & was much more solidified in CE own life when he did Gran Torino (A film I find much superior to Unforgiven; but hardly a western).

Your comparison is invalid in at least one aspect, in Gran Torino Clint playes a former soldier; William Munny is an outlaw & a butcher (by his own admission) the motivations & outlooks of these two characters are VERY different.
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KC
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« Reply #26 on: March 04, 2012, 07:45:17 PM »

Although Doug's post is quite well-written and argued, most of it is completely irrelevant to my central point. The notion that audiences have come to expect certain things from a Western of this sort, and that the movie had to follow those conventions to be considered entertaining, is not relevant to my central point, which is that the conclusion of "Unforgiven" tarnishes the purported theme of the movie. The fact is that William Munny going back to his old ways, and experiencing no observable consequences for having done so, heavily undermines the anti-violence message Eastwood claims he was trying to impart by making the film. The William Munny character spends the entire movie asserting how he has changed and how he realizes the error of his ways, yet when given the opportunity to embody those values, he chooses vengeance.

AKA, I responded to your "central point" in a post at the bottom of the last page. The conclusion of Unforgiven doesn't "tarnish the purported theme of the movie," because it is not a movie with a theme that it is trying to drill into the skulls of those poor, benighted souls who are IN FAVOR of violence. It is a complex work of art, commenting on the causes and effects of violence in human interactions. It is not a sermon. And I am quite sure that Eastwood never "claimed" he was "trying to impart" any kind of message by making the film.

To refresh your memory, here is part of my post:

This brings us to a point in AKA's last post ...

Quote
Quote from: AKA23 on February 17, 2012, 09:22:00 PM
He even kills the bartender, who had no role whatsoever in killing Ned. Not only that, there doesn't really appear to be any consequence that he suffers for doing this. He goes back to his farm, with his kids, moves and "prospers in dry goods." He claims earlier on in the film that he had been cured of drinking, and of indiscriminately killing people, and is not the way he was, but he goes right back to doing exactly the same thing that he had spent most of the film condemning and guarding against.

Munny specifically wants Skinny to die for "decorating his saloon with my friend." For him, at that point, putting Ned's body on display is also a crime for which one cannot be forgiven. But as for there not being any "consequence[ s] that he suffers for doing this" ... the disparity between cause and effect, like the disparity between reputation and actuality, is one of the film's main themes. I think that one line "Deserve's got nothing to do with it" is the most resonant in the entire film.

If Munny had been made to pay society's conventional price for single-handedly wiping out Big Whiskey's law enforcement squad, that would have been a conventional and clichéd end to the film. Instead he does indeed go "back to his farm, with his kids, moves and 'prospers in dry goods'" ... or at least he is rumored to have done that. But won't most of us be wondering about how he will now live out the rest of his life, after he has betrayed Claudia's legacy in every respect? Claudia had promised him Heaven, promised him God's forgiveness for the sins of his youth; but if he could repeat them, doesn't that mean his hopes of forgiveness were vain from the beginning? That he and Little Bill are indeed destined to meet again ... in Hell?

How can he live with himself? Isn't William Munny the "unforgiven" one in the end?

As I said originally in a post on March 3, 2009 ...

If it had ended any other way, the film would have to have been called Forgiven.
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AKA23
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« Reply #27 on: March 04, 2012, 09:29:04 PM »

Thanks KC for replying to my post. What is it that you feel the film is trying to say? From your post, it seems like you believe that part of the message, if there is one, is that no matter how much we try to change, the past always catches up with us, and that we're doomed to repeat it. That we can never be "forgiven" for the horrible things that we have done and that any attempt to do so is in vain. That sounds like a pretty bleak message to me. If I've misinterpreted your views, let me know where I'm going wrong.

The movie is reputed to have an anti-violence message, which Eastwood himself has admitted. At the following link, you can see a video of Eastwood saying just that:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlyZeYfoupo. I know that, as an Eastwood scholar, you are well-aware of this, but others who may be reading this post may not.

Here's Eastwood's own quote: "I submitted it to Gene Hackman..and he was in a mood at that time. He said I don’t want to do any more violent pictures. I'm tired of it. I've been involved with a lot of them, and I’m really tired of it. And I said, I know exactly where you’re coming from. Read it again, because I think we can make a great statement against violence and killing if we do this right."

If Eastwood intended the movie to be an anti-violence picture, as he stated in the clip I cited, it seems to me that having the central character engage in exactly the behavior that he was purporting to warn against seems to undermine that message. I understand that you see things differently, and I respect that. From your perspective, how does it not? Speculating about what Munny may or may not feel after the conclusion of the film doesn't seem to bolster the argument that he knows he's done anything wrong, or that he feels any remorse for what he has done. Having the central character engage in the exact behavior that the film is designed to condemn, without experiencing any observable consequences for doing so, does not seem very anti-violence to me.   
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Doug
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« Reply #28 on: March 05, 2012, 06:45:13 AM »

Speculating about what Munny may or may not feel after the conclusion of the film doesn't seem to bolster the argument that he knows he's done anything wrong, or that he feels any remorse for what he has done. Having the central character engage in the exact behavior that the film is designed to condemn, without experiencing any observable consequences for doing so, does not seem very anti-violence to me.    

Only it's not speculation.  When we meet William Munny he is more than a broken down pig farmer, he's a broken down man haunted by the horrors of his past.  To imagine he's cured after killing more men and being responsible for his friend's death is silly.  As for his "prospering in dry goods," that's just a rumor.  A rumor that's very easy to dismiss as unlikely, but that's all immaterial.  All the events in the movie are set off by one simple act, a woman's snicker, and the extreme violence that is unleashed against what is perceived as a slight to his manhood.  The movie shows us very clearly that violence is not pretty, it is not noble, and it is too often glorified by the media.  All lessons the Schofield Kid learns firsthand.  And of course the adage that violence begets violence is proven to be very true.

I personally don't understand the logic of insisting that because Munny does not die at the end, it undermines any statement about or against violence.  Unforgiven is commenting on a number of things, and some of those things are comments on western myths and conventions.  Some of those conventions it subverts completely, while others it seems to support, but almost always in a way that gives the convention a new, subversive twist.  For example the big shoot out at the end certainly falls into the category of being a typical western convention, but what is very subversive is how Munny blows away Little Bill while Little Bill is laying on his back, wounded and disarmed.  You can't just look at the movie as some sort of sermon, to use KC's word, against violence.  It is very much broader and richer than that.  For instance, it also makes a statement about the status of women in society and the type of subtle violence a male dominated society perpetrates on women, and I don't think the movie needed to have some redemptive resolution in order for its "statement" to remain valid.

I don't think Unforgiven can be enjoyed, appreciated, and understood in all its richness if someone watches it with blinders on.
 
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« Reply #29 on: March 05, 2012, 09:28:13 AM »

Once again I think it is the simplicity that is being overlooked. Munny isn't a hero; he's not even presented as one. The movie IMO is actually somewhat preachy about how violence is bad etc.

After little Bill & his "posse" are killed Munny himself explains "I was lucky in the order, but then I've always been lucky when it comes to killing folks"; one could argue that if he was "unlucky" he might have been a different man altogether. William Munny is a LOATHED character (which is kind of the point), even by himself.

There is no "heroic" aspect to anything he does in the movie (again kind of the point) he sets out to commit murder for money, the whores that put up the bounty knew that those men were going to die (not exactly an eye for an eye is it?) They wanted revenge & came up with the cash to extract it.

I know I've asked this before but "Who is the redeeming character of this film"?  These are a bunch of lying, thieving, murdering animals & if Munny died I wouldn't have cared in the slightest. (Again kind of the point)
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« Reply #30 on: March 05, 2012, 02:47:17 PM »

I know I've asked this before but "Who is the redeeming character of this film"?  These are a bunch of lying, thieving, murdering animals & if Munny died I wouldn't have cared in the slightest. (Again kind of the point)

Personally I couldn't care less who the most "redeeming character" is in this film, just like I don't if I watch The Wild Bunch, Bonnie and Clyde, The Godfather, Pulp Fiction, or any of Clint's Westerns where he plays a killer (which is all of them).... for example.  And I don't think Unforgiven beats you over the head with a "anti-violence message."  I totally fail to see that.  It does make a statement about violence, both violence in general and violence as to how it's usually presented in movies, but I don't equate that with it being an anti-violence movie.  And I do care about Munny, because he's more than just a murderer, he's a man trying to rise above his past and raise two kids.  It was for his kids that he went on this job, and of course that's a stupid reason, but that was the point.  I care about Ned, who is only on this job because of his loyalty to Munny.  I care about the Schofield Kid, because he's just a dumb kid who was dazzled by those pulp books and glorified news items about outlaws in the west.  I care too about Little Bill...until he goes too far.
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« Reply #31 on: March 05, 2012, 03:06:53 PM »

I find it interesting that you mention The Wild Bunch, loyalty lies at the core of the film. As to Unforgiven, I think the "kids" are an excuse; he was looking to either get some quick blood money, or to get killed.

This, IMO, is why the line about "being lucky" is ironic at best; in the end his luck & ability causes him to be a survivor when surviving isn't nessecarily a positive.

I have already made it clear that I do not find Unforgiven an enjoyable film; & that I find it heavy handed.

As to "other" killer movies, it depends on the movie..the Speggetti Westerns of Sergio Leone are often referred to as "juvenile" in aspect. However those films are strictly A-Team like entertainment & not a serious commentary on anything.

Also in Unforgiven it's not "the most redeeming"; I don't see "a redeeming" character; of course that may have been CE point as well.

IN THE END THERE ARE NO HEROES in the piece, there is only a victor who, in essence, loses everything by being victorious. This is pretty well illustrated by Munny's exit from the saloon; both by the fact that he threatens an entire town & knows that, once again, he will be "watching his back" for a long time to come.
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« Reply #32 on: March 05, 2012, 04:29:36 PM »


Also in Unforgiven it's not "the most redeeming"; I don't see "a redeeming" character; of course that may have been CE point as well.


I did not mean to add "most" in there.  My point was I couldn't care less who the redeeming character is supposed to be.  Your point that there is no redeeming characters doesn't change the fact that I do care about the characters.  I also find it strangely selective that you object to that point in this movie but not others...could be because Unforgiven is a more powerful film, while it is easier to dismiss the lack of redeeming characters in other movies because they're just meant for entertainment only....?

For the most part we're seeing the same movie and what points it wants to make.  The difference is I love it.  It's my favorite movie, period, and it's a masterpiece.  While you seem to hate it.  I don't get it, but that's how it goes.
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« Reply #33 on: March 06, 2012, 04:03:15 AM »

KC once wrote..."That's a good observation. However, the nickname "Three Finger Jack" doesn't occur in the film; it's only in David Webb Peoples's screenplay."

Huh? They say that when a man gets too old, the first thing to go is his...uh. I forget. Anyway, when Munny (in the movie) is standing in the saloon holding his shotgun on Little Bill, LB says that he knows that the shotgun holder is Three Finger Jack. Didn't he?

Hey, maybe if I'm starting to hallucinate  to compensate for losing my...whatever...do you suppose I can get a Head Six hallucination now that Galactica is over with?  :D 
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« Reply #34 on: March 06, 2012, 07:00:49 AM »

KC once wrote..."That's a good observation. However, the nickname "Three Finger Jack" doesn't occur in the film; it's only in David Webb Peoples's screenplay."

Huh? They say that when a man gets too old, the first thing to go is his...uh. I forget. Anyway, when Munny (in the movie) is standing in the saloon holding his shotgun on Little Bill, LB says that he knows that the shotgun holder is Three Finger Jack. Didn't he? 

No.  Unforgiven Final Scene

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« Reply #35 on: March 06, 2012, 10:18:20 PM »

Doug, maan, you want to make such a lazy man like me to dig into my chaos "filing system" and find my dvd and play it again, Doug? OK, I do it as soon as possible. After all, it is win-win for me. If I am right I can gloat and brag. If I am wrong then I am having hallucinations and maybe can get Head Six if she is not somehow not re employed by now.

Seriously, the first time I ever watched Unforgiven was about two months ago. Not even bits even though it has been two decades since it was made. No sound bites on tv or reviews in newspapers. I was Christmas shopping and saw the disc and on impulse bought it since I have been a long time CE fan since Rawhide, spaghetti westerns, and, Dirty Harry. The only time I ever had a chance to see and hear Three Finger Jack was the one time I watched my dvd. Before that, I never had any idea that there ever was a real or imaginary person known as TFJ.

I have a suggestion. Maybe I have the complete dvd and TFJ was cut from earlier editions. Of course, I prefer my original guess that I am having hallucinations and may be getting the pleasant company of Head Six starting any time now.  :D
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« Reply #36 on: March 06, 2012, 10:44:14 PM »

I can't begin to count the number of times I've watched Unforgiven. And I'll swear that the phrase "Three Finger Jack" does not occur in its dialogue. However, it is in David Webb Peoples's screenplay, as published in Best American Screenplays 3 (New York : Crown Publishers, c1995). Or more precisely, the phrase is "Three-Fingered Jack":

Quote
LITTLE BILL: I guess you are Three-Fingered Jack out of Missouri, killer of women and children.

As I said earlier, I'm sure this detail was changed in the movie because of the awkward fact that Clint actually has all his fingers on both hands. Too bad Lee Van Cleef wasn't available to play Munny!

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« Reply #37 on: March 07, 2012, 02:34:51 AM »

Just finished watching Unforgiven again. I'm happy  :P  to say that everybody is right except me. The shame of it all. Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you. Now I will always wonder where I got "Three Finger Jack" and I'll never figure it out for sure.

It was worth it to be loser in a discussion because it got me on the move enough to dig up my disc and dig out my player and watch such a remarkable film again. Just amazing.

KC...Lee Van Cleef would probably have handled the role well all right. But darn it; the screen cap at first glance looks like a Peacemaker with a cap and ball cylinder. A reverse conversion cylinder? Here I go again. I'll be researching that one obsessively for a while. 
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« Reply #38 on: March 07, 2012, 02:49:15 AM »

Just finished watching Unforgiven again. I'm happy  :P  to say that everybody is right except me. The shame of it all. Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you. Now I will always wonder where I got "Three Finger Jack" and I'll never figure it out for sure.

I did post a link to the final scene that you were referring to so you could check it out yourself.  But I'm glad you watched the movie again.  There are two references to "Three Fingered Jack" in the script and they were simply changed to "William Munny" in the movie.  It makes a whole lot more sense anyway, since William Munny is his name and no where else is he referred to as "Three Fingered Jack" or Jack or John or anything else close.  I can't even figure out why it was put in the script to begin with.
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« Reply #39 on: March 07, 2012, 05:39:59 AM »

Man With No Aim, don't bother..Lee Van Cleef is carrying an 1858 Remington New Army with a drop-in conversion cylinder. The "nipples" are in fact firing pins..you can tell if you look closely. This type of conversion is different from the one CE used in Pale Rider but the results are the same.

As to Three Fingered Jack..I don't remember if the line is there or not..but surely the story of Two Gun Corkrin should tell you that such "monikers" need not have a basis in literal truth.
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