Perhaps it’s because I like my agony in widescreen that I so appreciate any Sergio Leone movie. Or perhaps it’s the reoccurring theme of the bad guy getting his due that’s so appealing. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Leone was the most esteemed film director of the sixties. The popularity of his debut Western, A Fistful of Dollars (1964), turned Clint Eastwood into a worldwide star and founded the ‘spaghetti western’ style. U.S. publicists called Eastwood’s hero ‘The Man With No Name’, which became his name. Fistful’s success ensured two sequels: For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). These films became very popular, resulting in dozens of imitative European westerns. As Leone noted, ‘They call me the father of the Italian western. If so, how many sons-of-_____ have I spawned?’ Conservative estimates exceed 500.
Once Upon a Time in the West is not only my favorite Leone film, but my favorite film period. Key Largo runs a close second. Claire Trevor’s performance in Key Largo is spectacular. Once Upon a Time in the West is the quintessential ‘bad guy gets his due’ flick. Charles Bronson plays the protagonist and proves as Pete Townsend once said, “All the best cowboys have Chinese eyes.” Henry Fonda, with his shocking blue eyes, is the villain. Bronson pursues Fonda through the entire film. Fonda has committed a crime against Bronson and his brother and he can’t live a full life until he makes sure Fonda pays for what he’s done. The shootout between Bronson and Fonda is like every other shootout in a Leone film. It’s grand and the pacing makes you feel every anxious moment. The bad guy goes down. When he looks into the face of the person he’s wronged he knows exactly what he’s done. He’s not necessarily sorry for his actions, but he is fully and completely aware of what he’s done. That’s what makes Once Upon A Time in the West great. For me it fulfills the overwhelming desire to see justice served here and now. Fonda’s character doesn’t die to serve as a model for what will happen to all bad guys if they don’t do right. Fonda’s character dies because of what he did to Bronson’s character’s brother. It doesn’t matter if anyone else knows why he was killed. It only matters that the bad guy knows. Real life bad guys get away with murder. They go on with their lives without a care in the world, without a moments thought to the lives they’ve ruined by their actions. It must be wonderful to look into the face of the bad guy as she goes down for her crime and know that she is completely aware of what got her to the ‘point of dying.’ Think I’ll watch Once Upon a Time one more time.
Today’s focus isn’t on The Pinks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still
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