A Fistful Of Dollars

I’m going back to the beginnings of mainstream Spaghetti Western today and back with Sergio Leone, with his 1964 (US Release – 1967) film, A Fistful Of Dollars, the first in the ‘Dollars Trilogy’ and the film that really introduced us all to Clint Eastwood!!

Unlike the other film posts I’ve put up recently, I’m going to take more of an informative take with this one…due to its importance in creating one of my favourite sub-genres, the spaghetti western, and for its importance in introducing the iconic actor and one of my favourite directors to the world.


The beginning of a movie icon

This film is widely regarded as the first spaghetti western film and while that is not true…there were many before it made and distributed solely in Southern Europe…it was the first widely internationally released of the genre. Leone wanted to introduce the world to this genre and set about trying to find an American star to get the audience in. Among the names considered and approached were Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Charles Bronson and Richard Harrison and when it turned out that these great actors could not appear in the film, Leone’s production team turned to the TV series, Rawhide.

Eastwood wasn’t even the first actor from Rawhide approached to star in the film. In fact, he was suggested to Leone by co-star Eric Fleming. Looking back now, it’s mad to think that Eastwood was so far down the list of desired actors considering he came to epitomise the western anti-hero in Leone’s ‘Dollars Trilogy’…but of course, the rest is history.


A perfect Western setting – and a perfect Western confrontation

Now I watched this film after watching ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’, the third film in the trilogy and it’s evident from the beginning that Leone really knew what he was doing. The stylishness that was perfected in the later film is hugely apparent in this one and adds to the enjoyment and the admiration that you have for it. The beauty of the landscapes, as I’ve constantly talked about in these Western posts, is also there, giving us some more truly stunning Leone cinematography.


The famous ‘Hanging Tree’

It’s important to know that this film is essentially a westernised remake of the 1961 Akira Kurosawa film, Yojimbo which, in itself, is a terrific film and another that’s well worth the watch. The narrative, although not original, is excellent with Eastwood’s ‘lone wolf’ character wandering into a divided village and pitting the two rival gangs off against each other to releive the town of the feud. It’s a compelling story, told with sublime style and acted incredibly.

The second notable actor in the film is Italian-born, Gian Maria Volonté who is wonderful as the main ‘villain’ and gang leader, Ramon Rojo. He brings, quite similarly to No Country For Old Men’s, Anton Chigurh, a cool sadism to the role and excels in it…despite Volonté considering this and the second ‘Dollars’ film, For A Few Dollars More as mere financial films on his part.


Gian Maria Volonté as gang leader, Ramon Rojo

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss For A Few Dollars More, an improvement on this first film but still not quite up to the genius of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Despite A Fistful Of Dollars being, in my opinion, the weakest (apart from the narrative) film of the three, it’s still an excellent film and one that’s well worth the watch for western lovers, spaghetti western lovers, lovers of integral films…where am I going with this list?…just watch it, you won’t be disappointed!

Let me know your thoughts on this film in the comments and contact me at morgan@thepurpledon.com if you have any inquiries or suggestions for improvements to posts!

For A Few Dollars More Tomorrow


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