I think this might be my favorite of the trilogy. Lee Van Cleef is pure awesome as ‘The Man in Black’ , it has the most compelling story, and El Indio is a fantastic villain. It’s funny how The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly gets all of the notoriety, it’s still one of the greatest westerns ever — but it For a Few Dollars More is the only film that comes close to the level of Once Upon a Time in the West. It’s an operatic, awesome, beautiful film and it’s definitely a must see.
I’m sort of indifferent towards this film. It has Clint Eastwood and Robert Duvall in it, and it should be awesome — but it isn’t. Meh. It’s also directed by John Sturges and written by Elmore Leonard, which makes it even more disappointing. There’s cool shootouts, I guess. Yay?
I’ll admit I was a little surprised by this film. There’s no big names in this, but damn if it isn’t a gritty, and sometimes poetic little western. It might actually be the most de-romanticized western I’ve ever seen, next to The Proposition. The story follows a group of cowboys and their newest young member, who’s always dreamed of being a cowboy. He quickly learns what a bleak and violent existence that can be. The ending is pretty great as well, maybe not quite as good as The Great Silence, but it sure is up there.
Vera Cruz is an incredibly influential Western from 1954 starring two of my favorite actors, Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper. Robert Aldrich directs the two greats in a story about an ex-Confederate soldier who teams up with a gunslinger and his gang to help escort a countess to the city of Vera Cruz. But when everyone finds out about the large amount of gold they’re secretly transporting it’s every man and woman for themselves.
While the film is tame by today’s standards, at the time it was one of the first Hollywood Westerns to really tap into the cynicism and amoral brutality of the old west. It was no doubt an influence to filmmakers like Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah, whose films a decade later would revolutionize the genre. With revolution, romance, and a hell of a shootout at the end, I’m not sure what more you need in a Western.
Night Passage is one of those films that may not have a terribly interesting story, but the presence of Jimmy Stewart and the beautiful Colorado scenery sure help to hold your attention. Stewart is an accordion playing man working for the railroad to safely deliver a $10,000 payroll to the railroad workers. When the train is hijacked he hides the money in the shoe box of a little boy, who just happens to be friends with one of the outlaws trying to steal it. There’s a fair amount of tension as our hero spends the rest of the film fighting to get the money back, save the little boy, and save his reputation.
I’ve always been a fan of Stewart’s westerns — he’s the gentler answer to someone like John Wayne. The caring cowboy who can still kick some ass when need be. While Night Passage isn’t one of his more notable films, it’s still a decent effort that’s traditional without being overly stereotypical.