Chum's Sergio Leone Film Guide
Submitted by grandpa_chum on Wed, 11/10/2004 - 09:56
Leone's Films Listed Chronologically
- Once Upon A Time In America(1984) Jewish Organized Crime Drama
- My Name Is Nobody(1973)(Uncredited/Semi-Directed) Absurd Spaghetti Western Slapstick Comedy
- Once Upon A Time... The Revolution(1971) Zapata Western Focusing On The Revolution
- Once Upon A Time In The West(1968) American Western References Galore
- The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly(1966) Three-sided Western Race For The Gold
- For A Few Dollars More(1965) Where Life Had No Value, Death Sometimes Had It's Price
- Fistful Of Dollars(1964) Better Than Yojimbo, Adapted To The West
- The Colossus Of Rhodes(1961) Sword And Sandal
- Once Upon A Time In The West(1968) Leone's final sendup to his favorite genre... The western... In my opinion his the best film he ever made, filled with references to his favorites, such as High Noon, Shane, The Searchers, 3:10 To Yuma, The Iron Horse, and The Magnificent Seven. Outside of bit parts in How The West Was Won, OUATIW has probably the best cast a western has ever seen. Bronson and Fonda at their best, Robards as the romantic bandit, the beautiful, but dubbed over, Claudia Cardinale, the amazing but little known outside of Europe Gabriele Ferzetti, and small parts from some of the best in the biz including Keenan Wynn, Jack Elam, Woody Strode, and Lionel Stander. The title really is fitting, it may be a western but it doesn't have your run-of-the-mill bad guys vs. good guys plot. This movie has one of the greatest, fullest, widespreading stories in all of western history. The train baron, the man who does the dirty work, the stranger with unfinished business, the woman left all alone, the framed bandit who smells money, the dream, the railroad, it's all here and you'll have to see the movie to really appreciate it. On top of all this it has one of the greatest scores one of the greatest film composers, Ennio Morricone, ever composed. Each character has their own theme and as they interact their themes meld together untill the climax, when all we have is the finale. If you want a lesson on film to film score interaction, this is it as far as i'm concerned, perfection. Not to mention they had the score done before they shot the movie.
- Once Upon A Time... The Revolution(1971) The least known of Leone's masterpieces. Probably because Leone was only supposed to produce it and Peter Bogdanovich was supposed to direct it, that came to a halt when Bogdanovich realized that when leone produced a film he was all but credited as director. Eventually when Peter quit, the two stars insisted that Leone Direct it. Speaking of stars, this is by far James Coburns best and most involved performance, not to mention he is one of my favorite actors, although underused. Stieger is okay but nothing special, even annoying at times, but that doesn't ruin this wonderful movie. A very underrated, always great, Morricone score, at top form blaring during the best flashback sequences in movie history. A very fun, political, and moving film about a poor bandit stuck in the middle of the mexican revolution and an IRA fugitive there to help out, they meet, realize they need each other and the rest is history. Quite a grand glorious ending, for two of grand glorious heros of the revolution... Probably the most underrated film of all time... you wanna see top notch war battle scenes and some great morricone scoring... here it is at it's best.
- The Colossus Of Rhodes(1961) The only Leone Film I wouldn't recommend, It's not a terrible film, it just isn't very good and has almost no sign that it was even directed by Leone... good practice, but nothing compared to anything he'd do in the future.
- Fistful Of Dollars(1964) Although not his best, it's the first movie I would show someone who has never seen a Leone Film. The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly along with his 3 Once Upon A Time... films may be too slow-paced and long I've found to really grab the attention of a non-fan of Leone's movies... I don't know how many people... cinephiles or not have been turned off to Leone simply by having to sit through a 160min western when they hated westerns in the first place... Fistful Of Dollars, however not considered to be, is really up there with his best and the only one he made under 2hours long... underwatched and underappreciated, if you've seen one or both of his two masterpieces and liked them, i highly recommend Fistful Of Dollars, much better IMO than the wonderful For Few Dollars More, which alot of people like, I'm telling you... see this movie, specially if your a fan of westerns... and even if your not you'll be able to appreciate the work of a very talented director making his first successful film... i mean you have to be super-talented to adapt a kurosawa story, film with leftovers(both actors and sets and equipment) from an already no-budget second rate spaghetti western, starring a second rate american television actor and somehow make it better than the Kurosawa film it was adapted from.
Other Leone Reviews
- Once Upon A Time In America(1984) Considered Leone's masterpiece, probably because he spent whole film life trying to get it made right, it started when he read a book, "hoods" by Harry Grey, just before he started shooting The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. As soon as he finished he decided he wanted to make a movie out of it. Took him almost 2 decades to get it off the ground and even turned down directing The Godfather just to do it. OUATIA is not just a shoot 'em full of cliches gangster movie, which is the reason he turned down The Godfather in the first place. He wasn't interested in cliche Italian gangsters, instead he focused on a semi-biographical book on a group of Jewish friends who got into the business of organized crime. But like The Godfather, this is a film about friendship and family, and the things that come between them. OUATIA also has one of the greatest stories I've ever witnessed and made me very eager to get my hands on the book. It may not have the commercial success The Godfather had, mainly because of the hack job the production company ordered the editor from Police Academy 4(no kidding) to do on this film, which included putting the non-linear story in chronological order and cutting the run time in half from nearly 4 hours to 2 hours, and oh yeah, they changed the ending as well. Either way the cast rivals that of The Godfather, with De Niro and Woods in the leads and significant performances from Tuesday Weld, Treat Williams, Joe Pesci, Burt Young, and Danny Aiello. Again with a masterful Ennio Morricone score which includes a moving version of "Yesterday" by The Beatles that accompanies two of the best scenes in the movie. Overall quite an accomplishment for one of the most talented directors of all time, my third favorite, but definitly too close and too good not to include it in honoring his best film. But the other two are just too good for that.
- The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly(1966) The best of the dollars trilogy, and i know this doesn't mean much because I think they are all great, but up there with leone's best, just not quite the masterpieces that West and America are. Obviously the best known of his movies, it's simply amazing the feel he gave to this movie, atmosphere is probably the thing Leone does best and it's amazing the different atmospheres he can put out with each movie, they are all so different. This movie is up there with High Noon and OUATIW as the best of the best of the Westerns. It's a three-way cutthroat race for the gold, Eastwood is amazing, the gunfights are top notch and often, some of my favorite war sequences... the civil war that is. And again, of course a bridge gets blown up, that would make 3 of leone's 6 movies where this happens. The last half hour will amaze you, whether you like the movie or not, whether you like westerns or not, whether you like showdowns or not, it truly is a triumph of filmmaking. The music in the last half hour is also quite amazing and fits perfectly... probably because they made the music before they shot the showdown. Another Morricone Gem that far exceeds the popular theme song, which isn't all that good compared to the rest of the score.
- For A Few Dollars More(1965) The lesser of the dollars trilogy, not quite as good as the other two... although many would argue. Has some iffy flashback sequences and an average story, but of course leone makes it all work. Eastwood and Van Cleef are rival bounty hunters who need to team up to stop the biggest robbery in history from the craziest criminal played by Gian-Maria Volonte, gotta love him. He holds the movie together. Other than a couple pointless campy scenes the rest is just as good as anything else in the dollars trilogy.
- My Name Is Nobody(1973)(Uncredited/Semi-Directed) A funny movie, the most spaghetti-western-esque movie leone was involved in. Gags and jokes about the ridiculousness of the spaghetti-western subgenre... besides that a great story with Henry Fonda and Terrance Hill... not as bad a movie as alot of people make it out to be... granted it's not even close to being in Leone's top 6, but it's still a pretty good movie. Leone technically produced it while his second-unit Director from the Dollars Trilogy was credited as director, but rumor has it, and it's a bit more than just rumor, that basically Leone Directed it from the back seat... Leone for some reason was known to be hesitant to take credit for a film until he was sure it was going to be good and often had another director in place for all of his productions but at the last minute came to his senses and took the bull by the horn... this one though he let Valerii have... besides rumor and theories there are actually about half an hour of the film that are known to physically be directed completely by Leone himself... so i'm not coming out of left field with this one. Once again a good Morricone score that really fits the film... it's quirky and catchy and really works well.
Leone's Best Known For...
- The Dollars Trilogy
- Making Clint Eastwood A House-Hold Name
- Extreme Close Ups
- Being The King Of Spaghetti-Westerns
- Being A Favorite Of QT's(go figure)