The big screen is really the only way to see a Sergio Leone film. And this month the American Cinematheque is giving you the opportunity to see four of the Italian master’s absolute best February 17 & 18, and 23 & 24. Two with Clint Eastwood and with Henry Fonda as a villain!
They say greatness inspires greatness, and that certainly seems to be the case with Leone. The director was an ardent admirer of Akira Kurosawa, and it’s a known fact that in 1964 the Japanese filmmaker’s Yojimbo inspired Leone to make his first man-with-no-name film, A Fistful of Dollars, which starred the then virtually unknown Eastwood. A mega-hit in Europe, the success of the movie spawned two sequels, For a Few Dollars More, and what many consider to be the best of the trilogy, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. I don’t know why all three films aren’t being presented at this time - more than likely it’s a scheduling or print access issue. Whatever the reason I’m gonna break a rule and encourage those who have never seen A Fistful to do so first, which will more than likely require you to see it as a rental on your television.
I know, I know! This breaks my cardinal rule of always trying to see things for the first time on the big screen. However, in this case it’s a pardonable sin. It’s not that you have to see one film in order to be able to follow the story of the other two. Not at all. It’s just that in the case of this series each one really is better than the former, so if you see TGTBTU first, you might as well not bother seeing Fistful at all. You’ll just be disappointed, and it is a worthwhile viewing experience, if seen in the proper order. I’m just saying. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Later in his career Leone created what is considered his operatic masterwork Once Upon a Time in the West. This is the one with Fonda portraying just about the most heartless gunslinger imaginable. This is the beloved actor like you have never seen him before - sadistic, amoral and soulless. With an outstanding cast of supporting actors that include Charles Bronson and Woody Strode, this is a powerful, hard and dark look at how the great American West was really most likely to be. And although the tragicomic Duck You Sucker (aka A Fistful of Dynamite) is less known than its more revered brethren, it’s still a Leone film worth checking out on the big screen. Especially since the master only made a total of seven films. He is know to have worked on five others, but only these few bare his name as sole director.
If you’re already a Leone fan then I don’t have to convince you, but if you’ve never seen any of these great films then you really owe it to yourself to find out what all of the fuss is about. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, you’ll more than likely come out of the theater informed and inspired. Not bad for a cheap ticket on a weekend night, and much better than any cineplex has to offer at twice the price. You can catch A Fistful of Dollars at the Aero February 17, and The Good the Bad and the Ugly the next night. Both films screen at 7:30P.
Come February 23 head over to at the same time the next week to the Egyptian for Duck You Sucker, followed the next day with Once Upon a Time in the West. If you’re already a Leone fan then I don’t have to convince you, but if you’ve never seen any of these great films then you really owe it to yourself to find out what all of the fuss is about. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, you’ll more than likely come out of the theater informed and inspired. Not bad for a cheap ticket on a weekend night, and much better than any cineplex has to offer at twice the price.