This is the movie that launched the spaghetti Western and catapulted Clint Eastwood to stardom. Before director Sergio Leone picked him out, Clint had played only a few bit parts in features plus his role as Rowdy Yates in the TV Western series Rawhide. Leone cast him for his stillness and physical presence, famously remarking that when Michelangelo was asked what he had seen in a particular block of marble, he said Moses, but that what he, Leone, saw in Eastwood was just that, a block of marble. Leone also claimed that it was he who gave the character his trademark cigar and poncho, though Eastwood has said he brought his own wardrobe to Italy. Whoever takes credit, A Fistful of Dollars (Per un pugno di dollari in Italian) was an extraordinary success when launched in Italy in 1964. Eastwood had to wait longer for it to be a hit in the USA.
The film was based on Kurosawa's 1961 samurai picture Yojimbo, but Leone had forgotten to clear the copyright. Eventually a deal was done, but A Fistful of Dollars was not released in the USA until 1967. It scored an equally resounding success, as did its sequels in the Dollar Trilogy, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The advertising campaign promoted Eastwood's character, laconic, amoral, dangerous, as The Man with No Name (though in the film he's clearly referred to as Joe), and audiences loved the film's refreshing new take on the Western genre. Gone are the pieties about making the streets safe for women and children (women are virtually absent from the Trilogy). Instead it's every man for himself. Striking too was a new emphasis on violence, with stylised, almost balletic gunfights and baroque touches such as Eastwood's armoured breastplate. The popularity of the Dollars films had a marked influence on the Hollywood Western, for example Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, but its most enduring legacy is Clint Eastwood himself, still in action at the age of 70. --Edward Buscombe
2.35 Wide Screen
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Original Theatrical Trailer
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