The third in the Clint Eastwood series of Italo westerns, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is exactly that – a curious amalgam of the visually striking, the dramatically feeble and the offensively sadistic.
Story [by Incrocci Agenore, Furio Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni and director Sergio Leone] concerns search for buried treasure by ‘Good’ Eastwood, ‘Ugly’ Eli Wallach and ‘Bad’ Lee Van Cleef (making his second appearance in an Eastwood western). Along the way they taunt and torture each other and also contribute a total of 20 dead bodies to the western landscape, reasonably well-faked by European exteriors. As befits his star status, Eastwood kills 10 of these; as befits his titular Goodness, his victims all draw first. Unlike the earlier Leone efforts, however, the violence here has little of the balletic, even erotic quality.
Leone’s visual sense is as strong as ever, however, and his effective alternation of extreme closeups and long shots renders much of the pic graphically electric. Unfortunately, he allows several excursions into laughably sentimental characterization, and his three actors (especially Wallach) overplay to the point of absurdity.
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Much of Tonino Delli Colli’s photography is a knockout. Ennio Morricone’s insistent music and Carlo Simi’s baroque art direction further contribute to the pic’s too-muchness.