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  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

A Fistful of Dollars (1964) ft. Kieran B.

Updated: May 20


Guest: Kieran B. (Host of the Best Picture Cast)


Cast:

  • Sergio Leone, Director/Writer

  • Adriano Bolzoni, Mark Lowell, and Víctor Andrés Catena, Writers

  • Ennio Morricone, Music

  • Clint Eastwood as "Joe" or the Man with No Name

  • Marianne Koch as Marisol

  • Gian Maria Volonté as Ramón Rojo

  • W. Lukschy as Sheriff John Baxter

  • Sieghardt Rupp as Esteban Rojo

  • Joe Edger as Piripero

  • Antonio Prieto as Don Miguel Rojo

  • Pepe Calvo as Silvanito

  • Margherita Lozano as Consuelo Baxter

  • Daniel Martín as Julio

  • Benny Reeves as Rubio

  • Mario Brega as Chico

  • Bruno Carotenuto as Antonio Baxter

  • Aldo Sambreli as Manolo


*Recognition:

  • A Fistful of Dollars was released on September 12, 1964 in Italy. It was not well promoted at the time due to its genre and Leone being a relatively unknown director.

  • However, despite the initial negative reviews from Italian critics, at a grassroots level its popularity spread and over the film's theatrical release, grossing 2.7 billion lire ($4,375,000) in Italy, more than any other Italian film up to that point.

  • Most critics dismissed the film at the time either during its initial Italian release or its later release in 1967 in the U.S. Nevertheless, the retrospective reception of A Fistful of Dollars has been much more positive, noting it as a hugely influential film in regards to the rejuvenation of the Western genre.

  • Rotten Tomatoes currently lists it as 8th on their list of Greatest Westerns, and Quentin Tarantino, in a press release for the 50th anniversary described the film as "the greatest achievement in the history of Cinema".

  • The film is not without controversy as it was effectively an unofficial and unlicensed remake of Akira Kurosawa's 1961 film Yojimbo (written by Kurosawa and Ryūzō Kikushima); Kurosawa insisted that Leone had made "a fine movie, but it was my movie." This led to a lawsuit from Toho, Yojimbo's production company. Leone ignored the resulting lawsuit, but eventually settled out of court, reportedly for 15% of the worldwide receipts of A Fistful of Dollars and over $100,000.

  • Leone has disputed this origin for the film citing Carlo Goldoni's Servant of Two Masters which has the basic premise of the protagonist playing two camps against each other. Leone asserted that this rooted the origination of Fistful/Yojimbo in European, and specifically Italian, culture. The Servant of Two Masters plot can also be seen in Dashiell Hammett's detective novel Red Harvest. Leone himself believed that Red Harvest had influenced Yojimbo: "Kurosawa's Yojimbo was inspired by an American novel of the series-noire so I was really taking the story back home again."

  • A Fistful of Dollars currently holds a 98% among critics on RT, a 65 score on Metacritic, and 3.9/5 on Letterboxd.


What is this movie about?/Elevator Pitch: Thou shalt not kill, lie, steal, have other gods, covet, or commit adultery. All of these are in the movie in some capacity, and despite committing several of the sins himself, Joe rescues the day despite his less than savory methods.


Plot Summary: In "A Fistful of Dollars," director Sergio Leone crafts a gritty and intense Western that stands as a testament to the power of Clint Eastwood's iconic presence. Set in a desolate border town torn apart by rival gangs, Eastwood's mysterious stranger arrives with a deadly agenda. The film unfolds with a masterful blend of tension, stoic coolness, and explosive gunplay. Leone's signature style, marked by sweeping landscapes and extreme close-ups, heightens the film's raw and atmospheric quality.


As the stranger navigates a world where alliances are fleeting and betrayal is inevitable, "A Fistful of Dollars" emerges as a genre-defining classic that elevates the spaghetti western to an art form. Eastwood's portrayal of the enigmatic antihero and Leone's masterful direction create a cinematic experience that remains a cornerstone in the history of Western cinema.


Did You Know:

  • Originally, Sergio Leone intended Henry Fonda to play the "Man with No Name". However, the production company could not afford to employ a major Hollywood star. Next, Leone offered Charles Bronson the part. He, too, declined, arguing that the script was bad. Both Fonda and Bronson would later star in Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). Other actors who turned the role down were Henry Silva, Rory Calhoun, Tony Russel, Steve Reeves, Ty Hardin, and James Coburn. Leone then turned his attention to Richard Harrison, an expatriate American actor who had recently starred in the first Italian western, Duello nel Texas. Harrison, however, had not been impressed with his experience in that film and refused. The producers presented a list of available, lesser-known American actors and asked Harrison for advice. Harrison suggested Eastwood, who he knew could play a cowboy convincingly. Harrison later stated, "Maybe my greatest contribution to cinema was not doing A Fistful of Dollars and recommending Clint for the part."

  • Clint Eastwood's contract for Rawhide (1959) prohibited him from making movies in the United States while on break from the series. However, the contract did allow him to accept movie assignments in Europe.

  • Sergio Leone warmed to Clint Eastwood very quickly and joked that he had only two expressions: with hat or without hat.

  • Sergio Leone was so enraptured with Ennio Morricone's score that he would frequently let scenes run longer than they should just so the music could play out fully.

  • Originally called "The Magnificent Stranger", the title wasn't changed to "A Fistful of Dollars" until almost three days before the movie premiered in theaters. In fact, nobody had bothered to inform Clint Eastwood of the change, and as a result, Eastwood remained virtually unaware of the positive buzz surrounding the movie until an agent pointed it out to him in a Variety Magazine article three weeks later.


Best Performance: Sergio Leone (Director/Writer)

Best Secondary Performance: Clint Eastwood (Joe)

Most Charismatic Award: Ennio Morricone (Composer)

Best Scene:

  • Joe Takes on the Baxters

  • Graveyard

  • Trade for Marisol

  • Joe Frees Marisol

  • Roll Out the Barrel

  • Joe Escapes

  • Destroying the Baxters

  • Final Shootout

Favorite Scene: Joe Takes on the Baxters

Most Indelible Moment: Roll Out the Barrel/Final Shootout


In Memorium:

  • Peter Crombie, 71, American actor (Seinfeld, Se7en, My Dog Skip)

  • Conrad Palmisano, 75, American stuntman (Batman Forever, Weekend at Bernie's, Rush Hour 2, The Jerk, 21 Jump Street).

  • Tisa Farrow, 72, American actress (Homer, Winter Kills, Fingers) Sister of Mia Farrow

  • April Ferry, 91, American costume designer (Maverick, Big Trouble in Little China, Rome, The Big Chill, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and Game of Thrones) Oscar nominated for Maverick, and an Emmy winner for Rome.

  • Alec Musser, 50, American actor (All My Children) and model (Abercrombie & Fitch)

  • Bill Hayes, 98, American singer ("The Ballad of Davy Crockett") and actor (Days of Our Lives)

  • Joyce Randolph, 99, American actress (The Honeymooners)


Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Joe: When a man's got money in his pocket he begins to appreciate peace.


Joe: I don't think it's nice, you laughin'. You see, my mule don't like people laughing. He gets the crazy idea you're laughin' at him. Now if you apologize, like I know you're going to, I might convince him that you really didn't mean it.


[Having said "get three coffins ready" earlier]

Joe: My mistake. Four coffins...


Chico: Our orders are to make sure he does not die... but also to make sure he regrets the day he was born.


Marisol: Why are you doing this for us?

Joe: Because I knew someone like you once and there was no one there to help. Now, get moving.


Joe: ...Every town has a boss.

Silvanito: That's true. But when there are two around, then I'd say that there is one too many.


Juan De Dios: You'll get rich here, or you'll be killed. Juan De Dios tolls the bell again.


Joe: You shoot to kill, you better hit the heart. Your own words, Ramon.

[Ramon fires off two shots, but The Man With No Name stands right back up]

Joe: The heart, Ramon. Don't forget the heart. Aim for the heart, or you'll never stop me.


Joe: When a man with .45 meets a man with a rifle, you said, the man with a pistol's a dead man. Let's see if that's true. Go ahead, load up and shoot.


Joe: This is all very, very touching.

Ramon Rojo: You mean you don't admire peace?

Joe: It's not real easy to like something you know nothing about.


Silvanito: My roulette wheel. That too was murdered. No one ever comes here to play. We spend our time here between funerals and burials.


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 6.83

Impact/Significance: 7

Novelty: 6.67

Classic-ness: 8.33

Rewatchability: 6

Audience Score: 8.9 (87% Google, 91% RT)

Total: 43.73


Remaining Questions:

  • The Baxter House never actually catches fire, so why did they need to come out of cover?

  • How does Joe get the Giant Barrel up on the ramp when he can barely crawl, or how does he crawl up into the casket to hide himself?

  • How long does it take Joe to recover from his beating?

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