008/2019 – A Fistful of Dollars
(Sergio Leone/1964/Italy, Spain, West Germany/English/99 mins)
When I finally got down to watching the “Man with No Name” trilogy, I was immediately transported to my memory of having watched Sholay and Kill Bill 2 the very first time. This is melodrama and tension by the truckloads, with a grimy, gritty feel. This was Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone’s attempt to make Westerns popular again after the John Wayne style of Westerns had stopped pulling in the crowd. He transposed Italian filmmaking sensibilities into a Western setting, and man oh man, did it work!
Of course, this was an unofficial remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (which features fantastic swordplay instead of tense gunfights), for which the Japanese film’s producers successfully sued Leone and the producers. Like all Italian films at that time, A Fistful of Dollars was also filmed silent. The dialogues and sound effects were dubbed over during post-production. While the movie released in Europe during 1964-65, in America with an English dub came out in theatres only in 1967. For the Italian version, Eastwood was dubbed by stage and screen actor Enrico Maria Salerno, whose “sinister” rendition of the Man with No Name’s voice contrasted with Eastwood’s cocksure and darkly humorous interpretation.
Till this movie, American films had always seen one camera focus on the character shooting another with their gun, followed by an immediate cut to the victim clutching at their wound and then falling over. For the first time, Leone introduced an over-the-shoulder shot for such scenes where it appeared that the viewer was standing behind the shooter watching the victim get shot. Eastwood attributes his defining angry squint for these films to the glaring sun and the lights, coupled with the terrible taste of the cigars which he had to keep chewing to play his role. As a non-smoker it left him feeling surly, which served well in creating his image.