A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

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Sergio Leone directs Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volnte and Jose Calvo in this violent revisionist western.

1964: Hollywood had all but given up on the Western, consigned them to mere TV serials. Then came the foreigners to perform a much needed red paint blood transfusion. These gritty, nihilistic and tightly plotted Spaghetti Westerns pumped new life into the cowboy flicks big screen prospects. Life that kept them viable for a decade further. A star making turn from Clint helps – the anti hero happy to put himself in genuine harms way to get closer to his goal. Sure… he is brutal, rugged and fast on the draw but also smarter and willing to go further than anyone he comes up against. This is not John Wayne or Alan Ladd’s assumed strength and assumed righteousness take on manifest destiny. Clint’s evolution of the stock gun for hire lead adds an almost supernatural element to the mix in his ability to just about survive or just about out shoot the impossible. Leone knows how to make his dirty hero even more mythic. That close and far framing, mastery of the desolate landscape setting, lengthy shots of those calm detached eyes taking it all in. The supporting casts hyper, sweaty, dubbed performances in contrast to our quiet lead. Fistful is a load of simple satisfying fun but more importantly the revolutionary template for the icon Eastwood would become and the essential grubbing up the western genre needed to take to survive.

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