The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans

For a Few Dollars More aka Per qualche dollaro in più (UA, 1967)

The best of the three

Spaghetti buffs reckon this
second part of the Dollars threesome
to be the best of Leone’s work. Even as a non-fan I can see that it is a
considerable improvement on A Fistful of Dollars. The budget was higher
(still only $650,000 but that was astronomical for Leone) and there were now
many extras and stuntmen and several towns. Leone built an El Paso in Almeria.
There is even that top luxury of budget-strapped Westerns, a train.
Even a train
Then there is Lee Van
Cleef, rescued from obscurity by Leone to star as Colonel Mortimer, the
Virginian gentleman bounty hunter, who partners the callow but tough Clint, a
little as Gary Cooper teamed up with Burt Lancaster in Vera Cruz. And
indeed, there are many references in this movie. Leone loved 50s Hollywood Westerns and
he quotes, affectionately, I would say, not as rip-offs or clichés, various of
them, notably The Bounty Hunter (Warner Bros, 1954), a Randolph Scott B
-oater directed by André de Toth. Van Cleef is actually very good, far better
than the stereotyped script allowed, and for the first time almost introduced
an element of the moral into a spaghetti western: he actually has a reason for chasing
El Indio, played by Gian Maria Volontè, who is even more vicious and depraved
than he was as Ramon in Fistful.
They didn’t make it just for a few more dollars – or did they?
It was made rapidly to cash
in on Fistful’s success (hence the title) and Clint has exactly the same
poncho, cheroot, gun and grunt, but this time he is a little more relaxed and
shows the odd twinkle, the occasional double-take, the odd one-liner. Actually,
the whole movie is more confident and self-assured.

Roger Ebert wrote that “the film is one great old Western
cliché after another. They aren’t done well, but they’re over-done well.” I
suppose the movie’s amusing, in that way.
Those shot-at titles
But it’s still a spaghetti
western, i.e. a stylized, trash-art movie. The music is lousy again: this time
each character has a theme, like a (very) poor man’s Wagner opera. Of course
there is something operatic about these westerns. It’s just not so much grand opera as horse opera. 

Everything is dubbed: the lip-synching
is poor and the sounds are absurdly magnified (Leone was obsessed by ‘sound
design’) and the whole thing looks, well, cheap.
Colonel Mortimer: the best actor in it
Even later big-budget Leone
films looked cheap. The scenery is wrong, the Boccaccio faces are too European,
even the horses are some fancy high-stepping Andalusians. There are the same
Roman Catholic references throughout: the duel in the church, Volontè planning
the bank robbery from the pulpit with his gang around him, lit like Renaissance
disciples. Very stylish, no doubt, even arty – in short, European, and no doubt
the French auteuristes loved it, but it’s
not a Western with a capital W, only a spaghetti western.

A good ratty town

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