[Film Review] For a Few Dollars More (1965)

For a Few Dollars More poster.jpg

English Title: For a Few Dollars More
Original Title: Per qualche dollaro in più
Year: 1965
Country: Italy, Spain, West Germany
Language: English, Italian
Genre: Western
Director: Sergio Leone
Writers:
Sergio Leone
Fulvio Morsella
Luciano Vincenzoni
Music: Ennio Morricone
Cinematography: Massimo Dallamano
Editor: Eugenio Alabiso, Giorgio Serrallonga
Cast:
Clint Eastwood
Lee Van Cleef
Gian Maria Volontè
Mario Brega
Luigi Pistilli
Aldo Sambrell
Klaus Kinski
Roberto Camardiel
Tomás Blanco
Rosemary Dexter
Jesús Guzmán
Mara Krupp
Joseph Egger
Benito Stefanelli
Lorenzo Robledo
Antonio Molino Rojo
Panos Papadopulos
Peter Lee Lawrence
Rating: 7.6/10

For a Few Dollars More 1965.jpg

The second chapter of Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE sets two bounty hunters Manco (Eastwood) and Douglas Mortimer (Van Cleef) against their quarry El Indio (Volontè), the notorious leader of a ragtag of bank-robbing outlaws.

Fairly trifurcating into three segments introducing our two protagonists and one antagonist, the film ascertains the commonality among them is that they are all quick-on-the-draw gunslingers, while Mortimer is formidable, Manco is flippant, a drug-addled El Indio is plumb cold-blooded and vengeful, so the stakes are set quite high when the subplots of Mortimer and Manco converges, an alliance is tentatively formed (confirmed by their boots-stomping, hats-shooting antics).

Segueing into daredevil infiltrations, a set piece of snatching a safe from the bank in El Paso, an abolished ambush, then further dragging our two heroes into the treacherous water when they are caught in the act by El Indio and left totally at his mercy, the plot, then gives our arch-villain an Achille’s heel of avarice, who untimely decides to hog the whole haul and let loose Manco and Mortimer, in hoping that an internecine outcome will lean towards his favor, it is a vacuous idea, and the rest is par for the course leading to a 2-versus-1 final duel, which also reveals Mortimer’s ulterior reason in insisting taking on El Indio personally, with a parochial view on a woman who is assaulted by “a fate worse than death””.

Admittedly, the story of this spaghetti western sounds like a patchy work churned out in haste, yet, the defining characteristics of its cinematic legacy are rooted in its production swagger, an iconic set design by Carlo Simi of the town of El Paso, shot in Almería, Spain, ensconced with Ennio Morricone’s lilting, solacing score, and a macho simplicity dominating the lawless realm. Action sequences are painstakingly framed with an ascendancy of anticipation of the shoot-out, in Leone’s fashion, every shot likens an ejaculation, one lethally ends a life and another might start a new one, that is why he pays much attention to construct the pre-ejaculation stage, with heightened suspense (those breathless gazes, motionless stances) acting like prolonged foreplay, even without any crucial female characters, one can still see why this film is a draw to virile male audience, every firefight is a frisson vicariously experienced to see who survives la petite mort.

Among the trinity of the main players, Eastwood is basically on automatic pilot after extending his laconic performance from A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, embodies the perfect coolness that has become his screen alter ego; an aquiline Van Cleef impresses with his soul-reaching glare that betrays a simmering anguish; but ultimately, it is an expressive Volontè makes the biggest splash here for yoking a tragic madness with a trigger-happy unpredictability, despite of the disservice of its timeworn plot. Half a century later, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE still qualifies as invigorating and entrancing for a first viewing, Leone’s legacy lives.

referential entries: Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968, 8.4/10), THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966, 8.3/10), A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964, 7.6/10).

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