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Eastwood and Leone master western genre

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Directed by Sergio Leone.

Written by Age Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni, and Sergio Leone.

Starring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef.

LSC Friday.

By Stephen Brophy

Clint Eastwood has by now achieved iconic status, but in the early 1960s his acting career was going nowhere. He had been second lead in Rawhide, a popular TV series for a few years, but didn't seem able to transfer that success to the movies. So when he was asked to make a low budget western in Spain, to be directed by an Italian whose only previous experience was with the "sand-and-sandals" genre, he didn't think he had much to lose.

That movie was A Fistful of Dollars, and by the time its second sequel, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, (tonight's LSC Classic Movie) was filmed, Clint Eastwood was an internationally known superstar.

Eastwood plays The Man With No Name, a drifter of few words whose philosophy is "you either get rich or you get dead." His character was based on an amoral samurai bodyguard created by Toshiro Mifune in Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo. In tonight's movie, he is searching for a buried treasure with two other men, played by Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef. Each man naturally wants the treasure all to himself, and they are constantly pairing off to oppose the third. Their attempts to outsmart each other become increasingly brutal until their final standoff in a huge graveyard.

But the violence of these three rogues begins to seem insignificant as the background, America's Civil War, comes more into the foreground. The most magnificent set piece in the movie involves a battle between Union and Confederate soldiers for the control of a bridge, whose strategic value seems not too high. The squandering of so much life for so little purpose makes the machinations of the three protagonists seem almost humane in comparison, and also makes this the most violent film in director Sergio Leone's career. However, this is not a celebration of violence: The death of individuals is treated with a respect and seriousness that foreshadows the concerns of Eastwood's Unforgiven.

Another reason to go to 10-250 tonight is to check out the excellent wide-screen cinematography. A movie like this cannot be properly appreciated on a television screen. Cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli, who has also worked with Federico Fellini and Pier Paolo Pasolini, lavishly displays the arid Spanish vistas that fill in for the American West.

He also effectively frames the various permutations as our protagonists alternately cooperate and compete with each other. And his great tracking shot in the previously mentioned battle scene, as the camera slowly pulls back and back to reveal the magnitude of the carnage, is not to be missed. Finally, Ennio Morricone contributes a truly memorable score.

Because this film is three hours long, it will start at 6:30 p.m. This gives you time to get to the 10 p.m. showing of Stargate in 26-100, provided you buy a $3 Classics Double Feature ticket and want to use it immediately. Seats are reserved for Classics patrons until 15 minutes before the show starts.

If you don't want to use it tonight, Disney's latest animated feature The Lion King will be screened tomorrow night, and Witness, the Harrison Ford thriller, is playing on Sunday. The barn-building sequence in Witness is almost worth the price of admission all by itself. Enjoy!