Classic Intel: A Fistful Of Dollars - DVD Review

'a one-hundred minute rip-roaring blockbuster of a show-pony if ever there was one'

Accepted wisdom is that A Fistful Of Dollars is the worst in Sergio Leone's 'dollars' trilogy, all featuring Clint Eastwood's iconic 'The Man With No Name', here, rather confusingly, referred to as 'Joe' in a later scene. Of course though, whenever mentioning anything that classes as 'accepted wisdom' it's only prudent to refer back to the time a mere few years ago when several scholars resolutely declared the world to be flat.

This point is particularly worth making with Fistful, as is the point that 'worst' is an operative word, especially when referring to such artfully crafted slices of Western invention, violence and character as this: a one-hundred minute rip-roaring blockbuster of a show-pony if ever there was one.

Leone's simple tale - of a drifter who arrives in a town divided between two warring families and subsequently attempts to play both sides off against each other for his own ends - is basically told and sparsely populated, minute scenes of conflict and tension driving the narrative which was based on Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo, a fact which led the Japanese director to successfully sue Leone and co before the film's release.

Regardless of Leone's source material, Fistful is unmistakably his film, the now familiar style of moody and patient close-ups well matched to a narrative which, whilst not quite twisting, is well orchestrated by a master of storytelling. With the relatively tight running time, Leone has to keep things short and punchy, something which he does successfully, providing modern directors with a lesson in how to eliminate unnecessary exposition.

It's easy too to forget that this, and the subsequent dollars films, were Clint Eastwood's breakout roles, moving him from Rowdy Yates in television series Rawhide to bona fide film star and roles such as his turn in Where Eagles Dare just four years later. Having taken just four roles in the last ten years (one of which was in Space Cowboys), Eastwood will, for the first time, face the possibility of being introduced to a generation as a director, rather than an actor. Just another one of the many reasons that make Fistful an important landmark, a stirring production and an excellent film.

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'It is notable that the lanky gringo who rides into San Miguel and virtually depopulates the area before he rides out again is in no way devoted to justice or aiding the good against the bad' - The NY Times (Bosley Crowther)


  1. I think when talking about the worst of the trilogy, I might agree with the consensus. However, all that means is that the other two get six stars out of five!