Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Western Gets back to Basics With Bang

Cleveland Press 1964

"A Fistful of Dollars" is an Italian-made American Western the likes of which hasn't been made in Hollywood in recent years. It gets back to the basic formula of action and more action.

In recent years Western heroes and villains have come closer to talking each other (and audiences) to death than simply having it out with six-guns.

GOOD GUYS AND BAD GUYS have been masses of neuroses and the evil man was that way because he hated his mother at the age of four. The hero, in turn, couldn't do him in because he was busy weighing all sides of the issue.

"Fistful" gets back to basics but varies from the classic formula only in portraying all of its characters as rather grubby individuals. Its hero is an anti-hero, not terribly noble, rather dirty, bearded, wears a dirty poncho and rides into town on a mule.

Clint Eastwood, and American TV cowboy ("Rawhide") plays this part, referred to throughout as the Man With No Name. Eastwood has never been better, but then, he has never had a role as good.

The Man With No Name rides into a little Mexican town just south of the border to find it under the divided control of rival families -- bandits and smugglers both.

HE ESTABLISHES HIS PROWESS with a gun by slaying four men in a quick fight, then plays off one gang against the other. Before it is over he is shot at and beaten, but both gangs are destroyed and he has left town the way he came in -- on his mule.

It bears a resemblance to some of the Japanese films which in turn were inspired by our westerns -- especially "The Seven Samurai" and "Yojimbo." In the latter it was Toshiro Mifune as the Fastest Samurai in the East who arrived in a town held by rival factions and who wiped out both sides before leaving.

This hokum has been well produced in color and wide screen and directed with an eye for speed and movement by Sergio Leone. It has a pulsating musical soundtrack by Dan Savio.