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General Discussion / Tightrope (1984) Neo Orleans Noir
« on: April 15, 2016, 05:50:46 AM »
"There's a darkness inside all of us..., you, me, and the man down the street, some have it under control, others act it out, the rest of us try and walk a tightrope between the two."

I really love when this happens. As a serious Noir Aficionado when I get interested in a subject, i.e., Noir, I investigate all aspects of it, its sources and influences, hard-boiled detective and crime novels, pulp paperbacks, Black Mask and True Crime/Detective Mags, the Jazz age, the culture at the end of prohibition and WWII, the Blacklist and the transition to the Cold War, etc, etc,.

And, like me, I'm sure you all also check out or buy every book you can get your hands on about Noir to acquire more insight, more background, more films to pursue to fill your appetite. I enjoyed TCM's Summer of Darkness, also, participating in the class, the discussions and getting to re-watch some of the great, and see for the first time some of the forgotten Noirs.

I happy to say I've seen a lot of Noirs over the last five years easily over 300, and the new ones I find now, are either marginally noir or very low budget. For instance The Female Jungle, it's not listed in Selby's Dark City The Film Noir, it's not in the first edition of Film Noir An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style it did make the 2010 edition. So, there are still films out there waiting to be seen and re-discovered and added to the canon.

The same goes for Neo Noirs, but with Neo's it's even worse, Noir is a new craze, a fad, the in-thing, Noir has a certain cachet that can add to sales for a particular film, and you'll find that there are films that are "no-brainers" as their being no question "mainline" Noirs that aren't even mentioned by the list makers, while others, that are a real stretch at being classified as so, are included. It makes you wary, it makes you question the author's knowledge, the extent of their research, or if there is a hidden agenda. There are quite a few that make lists are NIPOs, Noir In Plot Only devoid of any Noir Stylistics or may have a token Noir sequence, which, in my book makes them just CRIME genre films. All this makes you curious to explore on your own.

Recently I re-watched a Don Siegel/Clint Eastwood collaboration Dirty Harry (1971), Siegel was one of the last of the Classic Noir directors, and the film did have some noir-ish sequences it's a good film but for my tastes, Noir lite. One thing it did was that it got me thinking and I remembered a much better Eastwood Neo Noir candidate. It's not usually thought of because it wasn't your typical Eastwood vehicle, he played against type, he doesn't even shoot a gun on screen.

Tightrope was written and directed by Richard Tuggle, though there are rumors that Eastwood either helped out or took over at some point. But judging from the comparison of style between this and other Eastwood directed films something doesn't quite wash. This film is very dark in subject matter and stylistically extremely Noir, more so than anything else ever directed by Eastwood so something must be attributed to Tuggle and a definite shout out to cinematographer Bruce Surtees. Right now, I'd say it's one of the best Neo Noirs set in New Orleans, others, that come to mind are The Big Easy, Angel Heart, and The Drowning Pool.

The film stars Clint Eastwood as Wes Block, Geneviève Bujold as Beryl Thibodeaux, Dan Hedaya as Det. Molinari, Alison Eastwood as Amanda Block, Jenny Beck as Penny Block, Marco St. John as Leander Rolfe, Rebecca Perle as Becky Jacklin, Regina Richardson as Sarita, Randi Brooks as Jamie Cory, Jamie Rose as Melanie Silber, Margaret Howell as Judy Harper and Graham Paul as Luther.

The Block's, Wes (Clint Eastwood), Amanda (Alison Eastwood), Penny (Jenny Beck)
The story, a recently divorced and somewhat alienated (from average women) homicide Detective Wes Block is raising two daughters on his own. He enables his inner "demons" and gets his various sexual outlets/kicks with prostitutes in the Latin Quarter/Bourbon Street red light district of New Orleans.

A lot of us compartmentalize our lives, we show one face at work, another with our friends. We may look like square johns on the outside but have our kinks on the inside. Your wife may be a saint in the streets and a whore in the sheets. It how we get along it's how we let off steam.

As lead detective Wes and his partner Molinari investigate the murders the serial killer beings to focus on his pursuer Wes. Soon the regular hookers Wes frequents in his district start showing up dead, sexually violated and strangled.

The serial murders has the Press, the Mayor, and the police brass, demanding quick results. Another complication for Wes is Beryl Thibodeaux, who is head of a Rape Crisis Center and also friends with the mayor. Beryl is interested in protecting women and she tries to get Wes to acknowledge that she can help alert women about the maniac. At first Wes macho puts her off, and the two are quite opposites in personalities, but as often is the case, opposites attract, and soon the two are spending time together. Their initial sharp exchanges are excellent and their segue into mutual attraction believable.

Another excellent aspect of this film is the relationships depicted between Block and his daughters. The chemistry is real. Alison Eastwood as Amanda is Eastwood's daughter and it shows, and Jenny Beck as Penny is equally very believable.

Wes at first suppresses his connection to the victims, possibly questioning his own sanity, but as the serial killer gets closer to hearth and home, clues and detective work ultimately close the case in a denouement that you could say homages the ends of classic Noirs, Act Of Violence, The City That Never Sleeps, and Highway 301.

This film just WALLOWS in Noir. It's got a great jazzy/bluesy score by Lennie Niehaus too boot. It's easily a 10/10 for me. Screencaps are from the Warners DVD.

Full review with some NSFW screencaps here enjoy:

Clint Eastwood Westerns / Never ceases to amaze me....
« on: July 30, 2007, 04:25:00 PM »
How you discover new details.

I was rewatching FAFDM today and made a new discovery, its one of these great tid bits of info you don't expect to find but never the less you do.

The two pocket watches are not exactly identical!

They are actually a his & hers set, with his watch (the husband's) the one that Indio steals quite a bit larger in diameter than Mortimer's sister's watch.

You can see the difference during the first flashback while they are still in the box at approximately 1:02:35 into the film. You can also see the difference when you know what your looking for at the final shootout while Indio and Monco are holding them.

Clint Eastwood Westerns / GBU Timeline
« on: September 21, 2006, 09:12:13 PM »
If you wanted to fit the storyline into the actual events as they happend in New Mexico & Texas during the here is a possible senario. All the military Regiments are real and the dates on the New Mexico Campain are real.


GBU’s Historical Timelines

Jackson-Bill Carson

Soon after the start of the War Between The States, in late April or early May of 1861, a group of Southern patriots that include men with the names of Baker, Stevens, and  Jackson leave their West Texas homes and ride to Dallas where the Texas 3rd Cavalry is organizing. In Early July the regiment leaves Dallas and heads for Missouri on the "Texas Road" through the Indian Territory to Ft. Smith, Arkansas. They participate in the battle of Wilson’s Creek on August 10, 1861, CS casualties 1,095, US casualties 1,235 . The Regiment remains stationed in the border area of Missouri-Arkansas-Indian Territory. The 3rd Cavalry fights in the Battles of Chustenahlah on December 26, 1861.

At the end of January 1862 Jackson, Baker, and Stevens are detailed as a part of a 25 man Paymasters detachment for I Corp of the Trans-Mississippi District. Around the first of February, near Ft. Smith, they blunder into a Union Cavalry recognizance party. In the heat of battle the Paymasters wagon and $200,000 in gold coins disappears.  The sole separated survivors, all wounded, are Corporal Jackson, Stevens, and Baker.  At the beginning of the second week of February back in Dallas a military tribunal conducts an inquiry and acquits Corporal Jackson and Stevens.

Jackson either changes his name to Bill Carson and telegraphs ahead to re-enlist in Sibley’s Brigade, then hops a stage to El Paso, or Jackson, kills the real Bill Carson who is already on his way to join  Sibley  and assumes his identity. Baker belatedly arrives back in Dallas and finds out that Jackson has vanished.

Jackson, heads north from El Paso and he visits Maria his "soiled dove" paramour in the New Mexico Territorial town of Dona Ana.  He reaches Sibley’s Brigade joining the 7th Texas Cavalry (7th Mounted Volunteers) 3rd Regiment on or about February 25th, near Scorro, New Mexico, Territory.

Angel Eyes - West Texas Border Area

Early March 1862 -

Baker back in El Paso, hires Angel Eyes to find Jackson and kill Stevens.

Mid March 1862 -

Angel Eyes (AE) rides out to the Steven’s hacienda, he questions Stevens and discovers the fact that Jackson changed his name to Bill Carson and that he joined Sibley’s Brigade. Stevens also inadvertently spills the beans about the missing cash box. Stevens gives AE $1000 dollars to try and buy off his life, and for AE to kill Baker to boot, but AE kills Stevens and one of his sons.  AE goes back to Baker and collects his money and kills him. AE is now on a personal hunt for Carson.

In El Paso as AE watches the second hanging of Tuco "The Rat" Ramierez, he questions "Half Soldier" (who was in the 3rd Texas Cavalry and lost both legs at the Battle of Wilsons Creek ) about the  whereabouts of Bill Carson.  Half Soldier also tells AE that Carson re-enlisted, and that he lost an eye, and that AE can find out more information from the whore Maria in the town of Santa Ana (prehaps Dona Ana).  Maria talks.

End of March - 1862

AE is at Ft. Marcy outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory. He finds out that Canby and the Union Forces have cut the Confederates to pieces at the Battles of Apache Canyon & Glorietta. If Carson is taken
alive as a prisoner he will be sent to Batterville Camp (900 miles East).
AE leaves for Batterville along the Santa Fe Trail, traveling at an average of 30 miles a day he reaches the vicinity of Batterville in a  month. (what makes the most sense is for Batterville to be near Ft.               Leavenworth, Kansas & St. Joseph, Missouri).

Mid May -1862         

AE waylays a Union Sergeant newly assigned to the camp assumes his identity, and awaits the possible arrival of Bill Carson   while running a black market ring at the camp.

TUCO’s Timeline

December -1861

Tuco in a ghost town hideout is attacked by three bounty hunters, he kills two and wounds one. On his escape route out, three more bounty hunters shoot him off his horse. Tuco is "saved" by Blondie.

Blondie’s con game begins. Blondie takes Tuco into Scorro, Texas, and collects the bounty. Before Tuco is hung Blondie shoots the rope and                              they escape North out of town and into New Mexico Territory to lay low until things cool off for a while.

· here occurs the First Major Time Jump in the film.

Mid March - 1862     

El Paso, second Tuco hanging (observed by AE). Blondie and Tuco (B&T) escape again north into New Mexico Territory. Blondie severs relationship takes Tuco’s half of the reward and leaves him 70 miles out in the middle of nowhere.  Tuco heads to the town of Dona Ana,
New Mexico Territory, arriving in the early evening terribly dehydrated. He rearms at the gunsmiths.

Tuco recovered, recruits some of his old henchmen to track down Blondie

· Second Time Jump

April 7th - 1862           

Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory, Sibley’s Brigade is retreating through town. Tuco spies Blondie’s saddle rig & horse. Blondie kills the three men that Tuco has recruited, but is caught by Tuco.

Blondie, about to be hung in his hotel room by Tuco is saved by a  cannon shot from an artillery barrage that blows out the floor under Tuco. Blondie escapes back to Texas (250 miles + or -) about 6 days travel.

Second week of April - 1862   

The Scorro, New Mexico Territory sequence (fits in here).

Tuco tracks Blondie South back down to Texas by following his campfires. Three campfires (50 miles a day more or less).

April 15th  - 1862   

Blondie & Shorty are running the con game again in San Elizario, Texas. Tuco captures Blondie & Shorty hangs. Tuco marches Blondie north back into New Mexico planning a special surprise for his friend.         

April 17th - 1862             

Tuco gets supplies (food, water, water basin, parasol) in Dona Ana  and marches Blondie into the "Journada del Muerta" (March of Death) desert, 100 miles stretching North to South with no water.

B&T meet "The Carriage of the Spirits" (an ambushed Confederate 3rd regiment Headquarters wagon full of bodies). Tuco begins to rob the dead but discovers Bill Carson/Jackson barely alive.

A delirious Bill Carson/Jackson tells Tuco about the buried gold in the Sad Hill Cemetery, Tuco asks about the name on the grave, but Bill Carson/Jackson begins to go into convulsions and demands water.  Bill Carson/Jackson dies but tells Blondie the name on the

Tuco now must save Blondie, so he loads him in the carriage and heads for help.

April 18th -1862               

B&T arrive at night at Confederate Picket Post find out they are at a place called Apache Canyon. Tuco asks for the closest infirmary and finds out that he is near his brothers San Antonio Mission hospital.

April 19th - 1862               

B&T arrive at San Antonio Mission.

· Third Time Jump

May - 1862                       

B&T leave San Antonio Mission cross the Rio Grande and head North into the dry Plains of San Agustine passing around the Union stronghold of Ft. Craig. Tuco has a map and talks about heading Northwest and the Sierra Magdalena on their left and about crossing back across the Rio Grande and then going all the way                across Texas (to the East).

B&T are captured by a Union Cavalry patrol North and West of Ft. Craig.

· Fourth Time Jump

July - 1862 

B&T marched into Batterville Camp, from Ft. Craig, 1,020 miles ( at a pace of about 20 + or - miles a day, over the Santa Fe trail. It would have taken them about 50 days) to this fictitious camp  (closest real Union POW camp was in Illinois). This site also is located near the longest railroad existing at the time (St. Joseph &                 Hanibal RR) west of the Mississippi.

Tuco tortured and tells AE that Sad Hill near Ft. Smith Arkansas is the name of the cemetery. Tuco & Wallace to St, Joseph & Hanibal RR. After ten hours on the train Tuco escapes and  catches the next train back.  Tuco track’s AE & Blondie South  towards Ft. Smith, and Sad Hill.

AE & Blondie & AE’s gang traveling about 30 miles per day and  Tuco traveling about 40 miles per day both reach Ft. Smith at the same time.  ( Ft. Smith, Arkansas changed hands several times during the Civil War and makes a good candidate for the                                battered town and its on a major river the Arkansas.)

Tuco kills one armed bounty hunter who has been on the lookout for him for eight months.

B&T kill AE’s gang and head for Sad Hill.

2nd week in July 1862

B&T blunder upon a battle for Langston or Langstone bridge over the Arkansas River. The small cemetery nearby at Sad Hill has swollen with the dead from the various skirmishes & battles in the border area of Northwest Arkansas ( Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern) was on March 6-8th  1862, US Casualties 1, 349, CS
                                             Casualties 4,600).

B&T&AE shoot out at Sad Hill.

Off-Topic Discussion / Gunshot Effects in Eastwood Westerns
« on: September 02, 2006, 10:14:24 AM »
Was discussing a recent Myth Busters about the effects of gunshot wounds and there effects on people on the Sergio Leone board and though you all would like to see it here too.

Sergio Leone, & Clint Eastwood were accused of excessive violence, but this old article I remembered reading in 1971 in an American Heritage Magazine sure vindicates them.


Ahh the beauty of the internent!!!!


“Then how come they’re digging a grave behind the old corral, Luke?”


“Oh, Sam, what happened?”

“Nothing serious, Miss Sally—Luke just picked up a little bit of lead.”


“Now Miss Sally, don’t you fret. It’s just a little ol’ hole in his shoulder. He’ll be up and about in no time a-tall.”

Sure enough, in two or three days good old Luke is up and raring to resume his defense of sweet Miss Sally, the Bar-X spread, and the honor of the old, wild West. And Luke’s adventure and miraculous recovery, with slight alterations, occur over and over on the pages of western fiction and on the imaginative screens of Hollywood and television.

But what really happened to those gunshot heroes and villains in that tempestuous period of loose laws and fast gunplay? The reality was quite gruesomely different.

The disastrous effect of a large-caliber bullet on the human body can hardly be comprehended by those whose knowledge of shooting is limited to movie and television westerns. The favorite guns of the West were the .44 and .45 caliber revolvers. Bullet caliber is measured by the diameter in inches: the lead slugs for these guns were nearly half an inch in diameter. Such a bullet packs a terrific wallop, knocking the victim off his feet if it hits any solid part of the body. He doesn’t just drop dead, either. Here is a descriptionof a real gunfight by a man who knew the subject well, Dr. George Goodfellow, the “gunfighter’s surgeon” of Tombstone, Arizona:

In the Spring of 1881 I was a few feet distant from a couple of individuals who were quarreling. They began shooting. The first shot took effect, as was afterward ascertained, in the left breast of one of them, who, after being shot, and while staggering back some 12 feet, cocked and fired his pistol twice, his second shot going into the air, for by that time he was on his back.

It may be remarked that the recipient of the first shot was a tough man indeed to manage two shots himself before going down; but the significant phrase is “while staggering back some 12 feet.” Compare this, just for instance, with the climactic scene in the movie Vera Cruz (1954), in which Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper are resolutely facing each other in a frontier street, their hands just above their guns. In a blurred movement they both draw, and two shots ring out; but neither man staggers back one foot, let alone twelve. The logical conclusion is, of course, that they have both missed. Not so; justice has triumphed again. After a long, tantalizing pause, bad-guy Lancaster crumples to the ground, dead. He has not moved an inch otherwise (or even stopped smiling), after being hit by that .45 caliber express train—an effect totally beyond belief. The U.S. Army, testing the Colt .45 in the Chicago stockyards, found that it would bowl over a 1,000pound steer with one shot, even if the wound was not fatal.

Another sentimental curiosity of western mythology is the hierarchy, so to speak, of wound areas. Good guys are almost invariably lucky and get hit in the arm, the shoulder, or the fleshy part of the leg. Bad guys are much more likely to take it in the chest, abdomen, or back, which means that they are thenceforth dead. And nobody ever gets hit in the face.

The explanations are not obscure. Even an audience comfortably deluded about the destructive power of a .44 or .45 slug would hardly believe a face wound that didn’t show up as more than a neat little hole. In reality, gunfighters were hit in the face fairly often, and the big lead bullets caused horrendous damage to mouths, teeth, noses, and eyes. You can’t show that on the family TV set, no matter how bad the bad guy is.

The reason that heroes so often are hit in the shoulder is that this is fondly imagined to be a relatively “safe” area, well removed from the vital organs. One would think that the human shoulder was made of some selfhealing material, rather like a puncture-proof tire. The fact is that except for fat men and weightlifters, you can’t penetrate much of the shoulder without striking a complicated arrangement of bones, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves. A shoulder wound from a high-caliber weapon could be not only incapacitating; it could be fatal. Civil war medical records showed that one third of the victims of shoulder-joint wounds died as a result of severe damage, such as severed arteries, or from subsequent infection. Even if the bullet hit the upper arm or forearm, sparing the shoulder joint, the injury was so great that the usual result was amputation. Any meeting between bone and the old high-caliber bullet was likely to be highly traumatic: in 1893 an Army medical report observed that “if a bone is struck, the destruction is enormous, the wound of exit frightful in size and irregularity.”

This brings up another important point that TV and movie writers might take more notice of—the great difference between the old lead slug and modern steel-jacketed bullets. The speed of today’s high-velocity slug in effect sterilizes the outer surface and at the same time usually enables the projectile to drill a rather neat, aseptic hole through tissue and bone alike. The old lead bullet, in contrast, readily lost shape on impact and tore viciously through the victim’s body, carrying along unstcrile pieces of skin and clothing. It made a large wound and often left a track out of all proportion to the size of the bullet. Extensive bleeding and shock were common, and infection virtually assured. Almost every gunshot wound was highly dangerous, no matter where the bullet hit.

If a gunfighter survived a gunfight but was wounded in the process, he still had to survive the medical conditions of the Old West. Doctors were scarce, and some of those available were of doubtful value. In most places there were few if any laws regulating the practice of medicine, and all too often a frontier doctor was anyone who chose to so designate himself. Perhaps a fourth of the “doctors” of the early American West held medical degrees; and even at that it must be remembered that in those days many medical schools would certify an M.D. after just a year or two of study.

No nurses were to be found, with the possible exception of a few tender-hearted schoolmarms or “soiled doves” from the dance halls; there were no hospitals worthy of the name, no laboratories, no antibiotics, and few medicines. The universal anesthetic and cure-all was whiskey, which, while it may have raised the morale of both patient and doctor, was not calculated to increase the efficacy of surgery.

Very often, incidentally, swift and accurate surgery meant the difference between life and death. “Given a gunshot wound of the abdominal cavity with one of the above caliber balls [.44 and .45],” Dr. Goodfellow wrote, “if the cavity be not opened within an hour, the patient by reason of hemorrhage is beyond any chance of recovery.” It hardly needs saying that blood transfusions were not to be had.

Parenthetically, it may be noted also that if there was actually a large percentage of abdominal and body wounds in western gunfights, it was not by accident. The arm, leg, and shoulder wounds so frequently enjoyed— that seems to be the right word—by heroes and subheroes on the screen were usually, in real life, the consequences of poor shooting and did not occur any more often than the shooter could help. He went for the broadest and most obvious target, namely the chest and abdomen of his opponent.

The opponent was well aware of this, naturally, and did his best to avoid full exposure. The dramatic showdown that has climaxed so many Hollywood and TV westerns, where two stalwarts deliberately stalk down the street toward each other, good guy waiting for bad guy to go for his gun, was certainly a rare occurrence. Far more often a man was shot without ever having had a chance to touch his gun. Jesse James was shot in the back; Virgil Earp was ambushed at night; Morgan Earp got it through a window while he was playing billiards; Billy the Kiel died in a darkened room without shooting back; Wild Bill Hickok was shot from behind while concentrating on a hand of poker.

A whole separate branch of the mythology of western fiction and film has to do with fist fights and barroom brawls. Ferocious encounters featuring multiple knockdowns, repeated haymakers to the lace, kicks to the stomach, thumps on the head with bottles, chairs, and miscellaneous furniture, and other egregious violence—usually produce nothing more than a temporary daze, with no visible bruises to speak of. Little boys find out better, of course, the first time they are in a real fist fight in the school yard.

In the meantime, the gunfight myths of the West live on in books, movies, and on television. Only the other night I watched Escape from Fort Bravo on TV, and 1 kept wondering when William Holden, the star, would acquire his mandatory flesh wound. Sure enough, he gets shot in (what else?) the shoulder, and for a while it looks as if he is done for—almost as if the screenwriter had been studying up on the real effects of large-caliber bullets. Then, just before the ornery redskins move in to finish him off, the U.S. cavalry thunders to the rescue. Minutes later, there is our hero, sitting straight and tall in the saddle and galloping away at the head of his own cavalry troop as if nothing has happened. Oh yes, he does have his arm in a sline.

Mr. Packer is a western history buff who is studying for a doctor’s degree in entomology at Utah State University.

Clint Eastwood Westerns / Blondie - Tuco Canon Duel
« on: March 25, 2006, 09:11:15 PM »
Don't remember if this was ever posted on this board.

The two sequences still not included in the GBU SE one being the "Scorro" scene of which we have seen stills of both Tuco in a town square collecting donations while Blondie is in bed with a whore.

The other is the Canon Duel of which a still is included in the opening credits of the film, and a reconstruction using some stills and parts of the French trailer are shown here its pretty cool enjoy:

Trivia Games / Guess Who?
« on: January 13, 2006, 04:47:14 AM »
Guess Who is this Eastwood Western actress?

Clint Eastwood Westerns / GBU in NYT top 1000 films
« on: December 05, 2004, 03:20:52 PM »
Ok here is a little project for us the NYT has a list of the best 1000 films GBU is on it. There is a readers review of the 100 most highly rated movies of all time, this is determined by readers reviews which means "us", as it is now current films are in that 100 we can change that to get GBU up there by adding our reviews and rating the film.

You may have to register with the NYT but it costs nothing.

Go to this link:

Then go to alphabetical list and GBU & write your review and rate it. Lets see what we can do!

Collectors' Corner / mug
« on: December 04, 2004, 05:55:02 PM »
Hey Sheplers one of the biggest western wear outfits has a favorite movie GBU and the honored it with a coffee mug check it out:

Clint Eastwood Westerns / A little trivia question
« on: November 15, 2004, 04:14:43 PM »
Two Clint Eastwood Movies "Hang em High" and "Joe Kidd" were influenced by this nihilistic 1967 Spaghetti Western. Ideas, costumes, props, and whole scenes appear unchanged. Can you name it? ;)

Clint Eastwood Westerns / GBU makes New York Times 10 best list 2003.
« on: December 28, 2003, 10:02:33 PM »
36 years after the fact, GBU makes New York Times ten best movies list for 2003.  See article by Elvis Mitchel:

Go to the Readers Reviews and write your own review and have at it,  should be fun!

Clint Eastwood Westerns / Jazz Western
« on: May 30, 2003, 04:03:25 PM »
Thought you all may want to read this from Sundays New York Times.  8)

Sergio Leone's Jazz Western

It is with vastness and stillness that Sergio Leone's "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" excites an audience, and those qualities are gloriously, thrillingly evident in the newly restored version opening at Film Forum on Friday, 35 years after its initial New York run.

This apocalyptic, three-hour western, which will eventually play for fortunate audiences at a handful of theaters around the country, is a boys' book of adventure with extraordinarily bloody consequences. Its three main characters, Blondie (Clint Eastwood), Tuco (Eli Wallach) and Sentenza (Lee Van Cleef), scramble around the West during the Civil War seeking a lost treasure of $200,000. As narrative, it's as slipshod and rambling as a campfire ghost story for kids, but the monocular focus on blood sport as one-upmanship is essential to its momentum. And, as in those childhood stories, physical recklessness and danger are paramount.

"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" shoehorns Leone's European sensibility into a genre for which he had enormous appreciation and a peculiar understanding. The western was the perfect outlet for his fascination with alienation and paranoia; a fascination that resonates as profoundly in his films as it does in those of other Italian filmmakers of the era, like Bernardo Bertolucci and Michelangelo Antonioni.

The newly restored version of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" has three scenes not included in the American release; they were dubbed into English for the first time last year, after Mr. Eastwood and Mr. Wallach made time to record them. These additions give each of the characters a bit more screen time, but overall serve only to increase the dazed lunacy of the chase for the gold, which becomes a slapstick comedy with a gun permit. Still, after seeing this version in a movie theater, which is where it should be seen, what remains pre-eminent is the elongated immensity of the melodrama; as luridly intoxicating as anything in Puccini. Leone builds suspense by fixating on the ticking seconds and the haphazard incidents that punctuate the intervals before violence erupts; it's the gift of an intuitive filmmaker. It's impossible to view the mayhem in "Saving Private Ryan," for example, without being reminded of Leone's propensity for masculine Guignol. A single scene from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," in which Blondie and Tuco happen on a battlefield littered with the dismembered corpses of Union soldiers, is as accomplished a piece of broad-stroke storytelling as Steven Spielberg's sequence following a young G.I. (Jeremy Davies) across the ruins of a French village in "Saving Private Ryan": it's intense narrative boiled down to the fewest possible shots.

Leone's approach grows out of an innate understanding of how to use large spaces; particularly the outdoors; to create tension. Open-air scenes often defeat directors' attempts to communicate dread; sunlight splashes away the shadows of anxiety. But Leone generates tremendous fear in the outdoors, in expanses of Spanish countryside meant to pass for the United States. Each vista, interior or exterior, is a foreign land to be crossed, with safe passage far from certain.

In fact, one of the most fearsome scenes takes place in a ramshackle settler's home, where Sentenza shows up to collect a debt. (The house is the size of a Spanish province; the rooms in Leone's films are ludicrously large.) Sentenza sits, deliberately finishing a bowl of soup graciously offered by his host, while deciding what to do about the slight he feels. Van Cleef's refusal to be rushed is like a tenor's warm-up before a solo. (Christopher Frayling exactingly recounts Leone's rescue of Van Cleef from oblivion in his book "Sergio Leone: Something to Do With Death," explaining that the actor's slowed movement was due to arthritis, a disability the director used to his advantage.)

The men of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" have a perverse need to cling to a show of honor. This applies even to the unevolved Mexican outlaw, Tuco, who is also, unfortunately, a vicious stereotype. Mr. Frayling outlines Leone's own obsession with status and propriety, which seems to be largely invested in Tuco. The character is a schemer and cheater who, though sentimentalized a bit by Mr. Wallach's portrayal, is still a malicious warthog of a survivor whose ambition is to steal and then brag about it. Leone seemed to be satirizing himself.

Of course, Leone's inspiration was Akira Kurosawa's "Yojimbo." But merciless as Kurosawa's hero was, he understood his obligation to the samurai code. In Leone's film, Blondie's cynicism and brutality were the common-sense responses to the irrational West. Those responses have become so ingrained that one of the most memorable moments of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" could have been lifted right out of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly": after a mountain-sized swordsman spins his blade around to demonstrate his plan for filleting Indiana Jones, Jones whips out his gun and shoots him. Mr. Eastwood noted that it was his character's lack of honor that enthralled audiences: the Man With No Name, as Blondie was also called, was the first protagonist to shoot first, in violation of the ethical code that had previously governed Westerns.

But it was Mr. Eastwood's idea to play against his outsized presence by giving Blondie (who wasn't blond) the dazzling, delayed narcissism and commanding pauses of Thelonious Monk. Mr. Eastwood used a tight, simmering cool, setting his own rhythms in what had become the worn-to-transparency cliché of the western. It was like Monk's mesmerizing expansion and contraction of time in his version of "Body and Soul." In both instances, an artist took something familiar and made it his own. Leone did the same with "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," despite its occasional incoherence. It nearly finished off the western forever. As with Monk, no one could effectively follow such an act.  

Clint Eastwood Westerns / Fatal Flaws in Clints American Westerns
« on: March 01, 2003, 01:01:14 PM »
I sort of picked up a ball and ran with this in the off topic section Of the Sergio Leone board, but I think it bears more looking into.
Maybe the correct place is here.

Like I said there I like all of Clint's westerns but they never quite matched up to any of Leones, "Unforgiven" was Clints best effort and is close to perfection,  for reasons that I'll get to later or if you can't wait jump To the Sergio Leone board and then down and see under Off Topic Discussions.

I'd really like to hear your thoughts, I'd always leave an early Eastwood western with the feeling that I was getting short changed. With a Leone western it was like getting a full meal. Maybe its that Clint's larger than life persona carries these vehicles over the rough spots and you tend to forget what we lost not having Leone direct them or Morricone score them.

Except for the newbies, I think we all know Leone pretty good, so lets all think like Leone and see if we could have made these movies better than they are.

That said I remember eagerly waiting the premier of "Hang 'em High" Clints first American western upon his leaving Leone.  A great story, Clint (intitially a drover reminicent of his "Rawhide" days) gets hanged by a lynch mob and survives to serve vengeance upon his hangers. It had a great historical back story, though for the life of me I don't know why they changed the names. In the movie the Hanging Judge was Judge Fenton and the town was Ft. Grant, in real life the Judge was Issac Parker and the town was Ft. Smith, Arkansas. The only possible explanation was maybe that "True Grit" had the rights tied up? The historical depictions of the multiple hangings were great.  The movie did have some ok camera camera angles. The scene where Clint confronts Reno is a classic but it goes down hill from there.

The vigilantes for the most part are lightweights, take the two captains, Captain Maddow,  and "The Captain" Alan Hale-Gilligan's Island, come on give me a break. Leone would have had distict memorable baddies maybe even top stars as baddies, each would have had some sort of unique confrontation with Clint. What happend to the Swede, most of that apparently was left on the cutting room floor, only Bruce Dern had a spark of some devious charater. It seems that a lot of the story was truncated,  Leone would have given it the full treatment.  That whole storyline with Inger Stevens was for the most part another melodramatic waste, she should have been played against type and should have been one of the whores. There was also no big shoot out ending, it sort of just fizzled out, Clint rides off to serve more warrents, hummm...  think of how great Leone's version might have been. And to top it all off the music was a joke, they could have used some serious Morricone.

I suppose you could say in fairness that they didn't want to make a carbon copy Leone (which they probably could not do any way being back in the Hollywood picture mill), but, I still think it could have been much better.

Your thoughts?

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