A Fistful of Dollars (Blu-Ray)
A drifter, later to be known as The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood), is born in director Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western, A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. The stranger arrives in a small Mexican village that is over run by two competing gangs who control the guns and the liquor. The only legit business that seems to prosper is the old coffin maker. The anonymous drifter decides to make money by working both sides of the gang as a hired killer, adding more fuel to the hatred feud between the two families.
Clearly, this is a small budget film with a limited production. The dubbing is poor, story continuity is a little off and I hope this doesn’t sound racist but I had trouble, keeping track who was who. Eastwood’s character would jump between the gangster lord’s houses; I had no idea what henchmen belonged to whom. First he would be at Ramon Rojo’s camp then the next minute at John Baxter’s camp. Many of the night time scenes appeared to be filmed during the day and time and distance were inconsistent.
With that said, the important thing is we always knew who our anti-hero was and we always knew who the lead villains were. Leone makes up the lack of order and production with great camera work, music and casting. This is definitely the director’s film. Give the same story and money to someone else and this film would fail to be remembered. It’s not quite there yet but you see great brilliance and style in this early work of Sergio Leone. His extreme close ups and interesting angles from the feet and pistols creates a tension and brings a higher quality level of excitement for a film obviously thought to be forgettable on paper. It doesn’t hurt that he hired Ennio Morrocone to fill in the memorable energy-generating score.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the film is that our hero isn’t really a good guy. He watches evil happen and then only seems to kill the villains for his own profitable gain. Eastwood is the other key ingredient with the charismatic quiet strength that keeps you rooting regardless of his actions or motives.
Video: (2.35:1 Widescreen) This is a terrific transfer quality especially after seeing some of the original footage.
Audio: (5.1 DTS-HD) As I said before the film is poorly dubbed. The sound of the words does not sync up with the movements of the mouths. But the music and sound affects come in nicely.
The Christopher Frayling Archives: Fistful of Dollars (18:40): An expert goes over all the different posters and marketing for the film covering all nations and explains how the film was based on Akira Kurosawa’s YOJIMBO. This is quite a fascinating piece. Some of the posters and artwork are excellent but don’t necessarily capture the movie nor even contain pre-superstar Clint Eastwood.
Commentary by Noted Film Historian- Sir Christopher Frayling: I wish all films had commentaries by film experts. Frayling discusses the film as an extremely intelligent fan giving many technical and historical tidbits.
A New Kind of Hero (22:54): This is also by film historian Christopher Frayling who was also the biographer for Sergio Leone. He talks about the influence of the character on action heroes and how the character came to be and what Eastwood brought to the table. He also speaks about the close up shots and why the movie was poorly dubbed or synched up. This is an extremely fascinating look at the film. Find out who originally was meant to be the man with no name.
A few weeks in Spain: Clint Eastwood On the Experience of Making the Film (8:42): An excellent 2003 interview with Eastwood discussing the low budget production of the film and his experience. .
Tre Voci: Fistful of Dollars (11:12): Translated to “Three Voices,” these are interviews with producer Alberto Grimaldi, screenwriter Sergio Donati and Actor Mickey Knox who all discuss working with Sergio Leone
Not Ready For Primetime: Renowned Filmmaker Monte Hellman Discusses the Television Broadcast of a Fistful Of Dollars (6:20): An explanation about the making of an additional scene to help create the illusion that the man with no name actually has a cause in what he is doing rather than being a villainous hero.
The Network Prologue – With Harry Dean Stanton (7:44): A short intro from the fan who owns this rare piece of footage that this added made for TV scene comes from. The scene is very poorly constructed with a stand in double far too short to be Eastwood. It is very funny yet interesting to see how the network forced this scene to be created which was only aired one time.
Location Comparison: Then to Now (5:22):
10 Radio Spots: All basically the same short variations of radio ads.
Double Bill Trailer: This is a trailer for both A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and A FEW DOLLARS MORE as a double-header movie experience.
Fistful of Dollars Trailer: Its always interesting to see how a film is advertised and what scenes they chose to show in the trailer.