'Fistful of Dollars' [Blu-ray]
(Clint Eastwood, Marianne Koch, John Wels, Wolfgang Lukschy, Sieghardt Rupp, et al / Blu ray / R / (1964) 2011 / MGM)
Overview: A mysterious gunman (Eastwood) has just arrived in San Miguel, a grim, dusty border town where two rival bands of smugglers are terrorizing the impoverished citizens. A master of the "quick-draw,"the stranger soon receives offers of employment from each gang. But his loyalty cannot be bought; he accepts both jobs...and sets in motion a plan to destroy both groups of criminals, pitting one against the other in a series of brilliantly orchestrated setups, showdowns and deadly confrontations.
Blu ray Verdict: When I saw 'Fistful of Dollars' for the first time - I was then a young college student, whose hobby was watching action movies - I was completely transfixed by the mysterious character with apparently no name (even though he was addressed as Joe once by the under-taker in the movie). Everything about him was a mystery, except for his deadly proficiency with a gun.
Clint Eastwood played the laconic, steely-gazed, squint-eyed, serape-cladded, cheroot-smoking, invariably unshaven gunfighter, who was able to blast four to five baddies with bullet holes in one single sweep of his gun. He practically redefined the notion of a true hero in the wild wild west, as often exemplified by Randolph Scott (clean-cut, good-looking, & confident), Gary Cooper (stressed out, worried look), John Wayne (tough-guy, always wise-cracking) & Robert Mitchum (nonchalant, have-seen-them-all demeanor, lazy style) and the others.
The plot was indescribably simple: A wandering gunfighter played out two families, the Baxters and the Rojos, against each other in a god-forsaken town, somewhere near the Mexican border, which had been torn apart by greed, pride and revenge.
The cinematography was visually stunning: wind-scoured deserts, dusty landscapes, empty streets. The director, Sergio Leone, obviously knew his craft as he intertwined them with a dazzling array of massive close-ups & panaromic long-shots. He had an incredible eye for details. The close-ups were sometimes quite chilling ... dusty streets, rundown houses, town-folk with expression-less faces & shabby clothes, as well as baddies with twitching faces, dripping sweat, blood-oozing wounds as they fell.
The movie flowed at more or less break-neck speed & every scene was riveting and compelling, backed by a brilliant music score that combined trumpets, guitars, harmonica, bells & other sounds - never heard before - that often enliven the occasional slack in between scenes. During gun-fight scenes, the accompanying music score tended to be somewhat haunting and eerie.
The movie often had a style of gritty realism and expert build-up of tension, interlaced here & there with dry humour. The climactic sequence involving an eventual but deadly confrontation between the hero and the villian (a character of real menace and sadistic cruelty, played extremely well by Gian Maria Volonte) was amazing - definitely the best scene in the movie.
The villian was inordinately obsessed with his own ability to shoot a man in the heart at any distance. That proved to be his fatal mistake as our hero had fashioned an armoured steel plate as bullet proof vest. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.66:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.