“For three men, the Civil War wasn’t hell. It was practice!”
Il Buono, il Brutto, il Cattivo
1966, Italy, 180 minutes
Director: Sergio Leone
Producer: Alberto Grimaldi
Screenplay: Age, Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Leone
Director of Photography: Tonino Delli Colli
Editors: Nino Baragli, Eugenio Alabiso
Original Music: Ennio Morricone
Lee Van Cleef
as Sentenza “Angel Eyes”
as Union Captain
as Father Pablo Ramirez
as Cpl. Wallace
Plot * Spoilers ahead *
The movie starts out by introducing the three main characters, who are aptly labeled the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Tuco and the nameless man, who is called “Blondie” throughout the film, are two con artists in cahoots, duping unsuspecting townspeople out of hundreds of dollars. Tuco commits a series of crimes that place a large bounty on his head and is “turned in” to a number of different towns by Blondie. After receiving the money, Blondie saves Tuco through his expert marksmanship and the two make off into the desert with their reward. However, Blondie breaks their relationship when he leaves Tuco in the middle of 70 miles of desert and rides away with the money. Meanwhile, Sentenza learns of a hidden $200,000 belonging to an eye-patch wearing man named Bill Carson while on his job as a hired assassin.
Miraculously, Tuco survives his trek back to civilization and promptly finds Blondie. After marching Blondie 100 miles into the desert, Blondie is on the verge of death when a horse-drawn carriage appears out of nowhere containing a number of dead bodies. The only one alive happens to be Bill Carson, who offers Tuco $200,000 in return for some water. Tuco pressures Carson into telling him the location of the money, an old graveyard, before giving him water, but fails to find out which grave the money is buried in. Tuco rushes to get him water, but when he comes back Carson is laying next to Blondie dead. In an ironic twist, Blondie found out the grave that the money is buried in. With Blondie close to dying, Tuco has no choice but to keep him alive in order to get the money.
Blondie and Tuco, after trying to kill each other, reluctantly travel together in order to find the money. They are soon captured by the Union army, with Sentenza as a leading officer. In a trick he uses to find the money, Sentenza does a roll call and asks for Bill Carson. Tuco, who isn’t enrolled in army, steps forward and steals the name Bill Carson. Sentenza, knowing something is wrong, feigns hospitality towards the Carson imposter, calling him an old friend. When Sentenza learns that Tuco is not the real Bill Carson, he tortures Tuco until he tells him the name of the graveyard containing the money. Sentenza deports Tuco and becomes Blondie’s new partner in his journey to find the $200,000.
Through his trademark trickery, Tuco escapes and hunts down Blondie. The reunited partners, who apparently respect each other more than they realized, escape Sentenza and his goons in a totally sweet gunfight highlighted by the explosions of mortars and foggy, dust-filled streets. After another hold-up involving the Civil War, which involves the two armies fighting for control of a bridge, they take matters into their own hands in the famous explosion scene where they decide to blow the bridge to pieces. Instead of using models, Leone decided to actually construct the bridge. The bridge and damn underneath took six weeks and 500 laborers to build. In addition, he only had one shot to film the scene. He used eight cameras to capture every possible angle in what became one of the most jaw-dropping action scenes ever filmed.
Finally, Tuco and Blondie make it to the graveyard, with Sentenza on their heels. The result is a brilliantly shot showdown with camera shots that become shorter and shorter, building a suspense that very few films have ever been able to capture. Who gets the money? Well you will just have to find out…
Tuco: There are two kinds of people in the world my friend, those with a rope around their neck and the people that have the job of doing the cutting!
Tuco: When you have to shoot, shoot - don't talk!
Tuco: God is on our side because he hates the Yanks!
Blondie: God is not on our side because he hates idiots also
Angel Eyes: When I'm paid, I always follow my job through. You know that.
Blondie: You see, in this world there's two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.
Vorbis has pointed out that Setenza should be spelled Sentenza. On my dvd it is spelled without the N but Vorbis says that his does include it, as well as the IMDB. I'll look some more into then change the writeup later
*Update* Most other sources are saying Sentenza. I don't know what's wrong with my DVD, perhaps they changed it for the English version?