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  1. "For a Few Dollars More" is the second movie in Director Sergio Leone's "Dollars Trilogy" or "Man with No Name Trilogy" (depending on your preference). Unlike its predecessor, "A Fistful of Dollars" (which is completely unrelated in plot), there's a chance you'll recognize an actor other than Clint Eastwood - Lee Van Cleef plays a memorable supporting role as a competing bounty hunter to Eastwood (if - and only if - you've watched "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence," Van Cleef is one of Valence's henchmen in this clip (most noticeable upon exiting the restaurant). Also, instead of two family clans fighting, there is a singular, despicable villain in the character of Indio (Gian Maria Volontè), whom film director Alex Cox described as "the most diabolical Western villain of all-time." Although more concise, and "tighter" in story line than "Fistful," this film is still, as Roger Ebert said, "composed of situations and not plots." If you're a younger reader, and have heard of the term "Spaghetti Western," but don't quite know what it means, all you need to do is watch this trilogy, and you'll understand completely - these movies are to Westerns what strip-mall Chinese-American restaurants are to Chinese cuisine. They're not bad, mind you, but they're really closer in spirit to the Wuxia martial arts films of China, than the beautiful masterpieces of John Ford (think, cheap dubbed martial arts fights with people doing triple somersaults in the air before kicking). Okay, they're not *that* bad, but they're sort of in the same vein. If you're only going to watch one of these first two, make it this one (I don't remember the final film. "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly," well enough to comment right now, and after just the first two movies, I'm pretty much "Spaghetti-Westerned out") - it's more coherent, and has better character development and story arc. Clint Eastwood is *perfect* in his roles, and you can easily see how he became a screen legend, but these movies just aren't all that great - they're "fun" for young adults, but I doubt they were serious threats at the Cannes Film Festival. *** SPOILER FOLLOWS *** Can anyone explain why Eastwood left with the sack of money at the end? He was a bounty hunter, yes - a killer - but he didn't come across to me as dishonest. Was he going to give it back to someone?
  2. With Hollywood westerns, a little bit of research goes a long way - in my lifetime, I've had more success with this genre of movie than perhaps any other, all because I do a little research before choosing what to watch. "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962) is the twelfth of fourteen collaborative westerns with John Ford and John Wayne (the first and ninth, respectively, being "Stagecoach" (1939) and "The Searchers" (1956)). It is perhaps the most beautiful western I've ever seen. Loaded with famous actors, every single major and minor star outperforms in this deceptively sad meditation upon grief, love, and any of a half-dozen other basic human traits, all attending a costume party in what is most likely mid-19th-century Colorado, and cloaked as a moral dilemma involving the death of another human being. Never have I seen John Wayne play a more important part with less screen time than in this film. Jimmy Stewart is clearly the star - he has to be - but it's Wayne who completes this movie, and who transcends himself in a role so touching that you may feel your eyes moisten in what is one of the most poignant endings of any film I've ever seen. A death itself cannot be considered tragic (everyone who has ever lived, has died), but certain deaths are inherently more tragic than others, and when a piece of history is buried alongside an anonymous hero, lost forever to the earth, and made known only to an audience who desperately wants to jump inside the screen and construct a proper memorial - that cannot be considered a romance, or an action film, or even a western; it can only be classified as a full-blown tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. The next time you and your date are hunting around, looking for a movie to watch, remember this thread: "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" is required viewing for everyone who cares about great film.
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