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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The definitive spaghetti western. Director Sergio Leone's epic end to the Clint Eastwood "Dollars" trilogy is a stunning, panoramic view of the West during the Civil War. THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY is a deceptively simple story detailing the efforts of three drifters, the "Good" (Eastwood), the "Bad" (Lee Van Cleef), and the "Ugly" (Eli Wallach), to find a fortune hidden in the unmarked grave of a man named Bill Carson. Leone's narrative structure is incredibly complex: the characters' paths intersect and intertwine repeatedly until the Civil War impinges upon their lives and dwarfs their petty crimes. The war eventually involves Eastwood and Wallach in a massive battle for an unimportant bridge in which hundreds of soldiers march to pointless doom. The scale of violence shocks these two violent men; Eastwood, whose character begins to show a humanity only hinted at in the previous two films, states that he has never "seen so many men wasted so badly." This is Leone's most violent film, but also one of his most compassionate. One of its most memorable scenes shows the Union troops organizing an orchestra of Confederate prisoner-musicians to play in order to cover the noise as Van Cleef tortures his prisoners. The effect is haunting, and recalls stories of similar incidents in Nazi death camps. A touching moment occurs when Eastwood comes across a dying young soldier, covers the shivering man with his duster, and helps him smoke his final cigarette. Though not up to the standards of Leone's masterpiece ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, in which the director synthesizes scale, narrative, casting, and style, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY is a massive, many-faceted film that continues to hold up, viewing after viewing that features one of Ennio Morricone's finest scores. In 2003, a new version of the film restored sequences cut for the film's original US release; the restoration was funded by American Movie Channel. The 19 minutes of cut footage, obtained from Italy's Cineteca Nazionale and other sources, includes the legendary grotto scene in which Tuco recruits three outlaws who later attempt to shoot Joe, and a sequence in which Angel Eyes visits a Confederate Army fort. Since no English-language dialogue elements existed, the 35-years-older Wallach and Eastwood dubbed their lines, while voiceover artist Simon Prescott was hired to impersonate the late Van Cleef. This version of the film debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival and was shown on AMC and in select art-film venues.