10 Movies in 10 Days / The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966)
My 10 Movies in 10 Days reaches #4 in the shape of a western by way of Italy. The greatest of all the spaghetti westerns, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly stands as a triumph of cinematography, iconic heroes and villains, and musical scores used in film. To say that I love this film is an understatement, and honestly it has jumped as high as #2 on my all time favorite movies list, but as of today it falls a few spots short of that. This is the film that created a lifelong love of westerns, Clint Eastwood as the greatest cowboy of all time, and honestly shaped my expectations of all of the films I saw after it.
My mother introduced me to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly when I was young and the experience was one of pure awe. It's one of her favorite films and I now realize as an adult how cool it is to share things like that with your child and have it received so well. I don't think she understands how much it actually moved me though. I'd never seen anything like it...the classic sweeping shots of Sergio Leone, Ennio Morricone's legendary score, and the man with no name, Clint Eastwood, who I instantly wanted to be. Westerns were something that were always on at our house, whether it be television shows like Gunsmoke or Bonanza, or film form, I was mostly uninterested. It wasn't until The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly that I realized that there was a whole world of brilliant cinema out there for me to discover.
As far as the movie itself, there are so many ways that it almost didn't happen, or worse, collapse under the tough direction of Leone, it's really a miracle that it even exists. After making A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More, Eastwood wasn't the least bit interested in working with the perfectionist and hot tempered director, Sergio Leone. It took a pay bump, a new Ferrari, and 10% of all American sales to convince him. Eli Wallach almost died three times on set, once from drinking acid accidently placed near the beverage he'd been drinking, another when his horse ran for a mile while his hands were bound behind his back...a noose around his neck, and finally after the scene where he put the chains on the tracks to free himself from the Union guard, he was nearly decapitated by the steps jutting from the train. If all that weren't enough, the dynamite bridge explosion was accidently set off by a misunderstanding and had to be completely rebuilt. Since this wasn't a prop (it was an actual working wooden bridge) this took place while the rest of the film was being shot.
Though Leone was unable to bring Eastwood back for any future films, though he actually flew out to California to put the script for Once Upon a Time in the West in his hands personally, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly proved to be enough to catapult the sandy blonde into super stardom. Without this film you could argue that Outlaw Josey Wales might not exist, or Unforgiven...two more classics and best in class westerns. That superstardom led to countless other icon roles that then turned into Eastwood becoming one of the great directors as well. While the world may have grown tired of spaghetti westerns by the time The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly came out (it got lukewarm reviews at best), Eastwood certainly gained the most from being in it. In turn, time proved it to be a crowning achievement for everyone involved. Funny how things like that work.