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For a Few Dollars More

Per qualche dollaro in più a.k.a. For a Few Dollars More


I generally smoke just after I eat. Why don't you come back in about ten minutes?


Country: Italy

Year: 1955

Directed by: Sergio Leone

Screenplay by: Sergio Leone and Luciano Vincenzoni

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Lee van Cleef and Gian Maria Volonté


*it may contain spoilers*

For a Few Dollars More is the second spaghetti-western directed by Sergio Leone and the middle title of the "Dollars trilogy". It’s also his second partnership with Clint Eastwood and with Ennio Morricone, one of the most brilliant and prolific soundtrack composers of all time.

The basic plot is quite simple, but Leone takes a while to reveal it: during the first 30 minutes we are presented to Colonel Douglas Mortimer (Lee van Cleef), a quiet and clever bounty hunter specialist in long range shooting, Manco (Eastwood), also a bounty hunter who’s very quick on the trigger and with an obscure moral code, and Indio (Volonté), a twisted and ruthless bandit with a genuine relish to kill. These 3 men stories will naturally cross when Indio, helped by his gang, escapes from prison killing most of the guards what immediately puts a prize on his head, a prize that both bounty hunters want for themselves.
Manco and Mortimer eventually meet and, after a tense strength comparison, form a partnership to hunt the villain and his gang, who are in the meantime planning to rob the Bank of El Paso, said to contain a million dollars in a disguised safe.
On the center of this story are also two identical musical pocket watches, one used by Mortimer and the other one by Indio. Soon we understand that there is more than money at stake between these 2 men as the pocket watches seem to exert some kind of obsession upon their carriers.

Manco, Mortimer and Indio

For a Few Dollars More has all the advantages of not being the first major spaghetti western, being more mature than its predecessor, For a Fistful of Dollars (1964). Everyone knows now exactly how to do things: Leone has solidified his style and technique, Eastwood and Volonté are much more comfortable with their characters (Eastwood, in particular, delivers his best performance on a Leone film) and the new guy, Lee van Cleef is an amazing addition to the cast, lending his coolness and experience to this masterpiece.
Also in the acting field, it's a pleasure to watch Klaus Kinski and Luigi Pistilli as member of the gang. Small roles but huge actors!

I've already talked about Leone being more mature. In fact, it's his direction that makes of this film such a great one. From beginning to end, the tension is built at a slow yet steady pace, fitting perfectly its 2 hour length. It’s not made to be an “opera” like Once Upon a Time on the West (1968) or even The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1965) and it’s its almost lack of grandiosity that makes this such a brilliant western. It’s hard, gritty and straight to the point and the italian director is clever enough to make of every aspect of the film perfectly tuned with his concept: the calm but relentless music of Morricone’s outstanding soundtrack, the quiet personality of the 3 lead characters, the great pacing management and the glorious cinematography and camera work create the ideal conditions to an apotheotic final duel, where the tension is stretched to an almost nauseating point, and solved with a fast and powerful explosion. And that is Leone’s secret: creating impact by contrast.

The final duel and the misterious watch.

Speaking of the final duel, the key scene of the film, again the musical pocket watches play a very important part. Indio always used the chimes from the watch to begin his duels: “When you hear the music finish, begin."
The obsession he had with that watch and the uncertainty created on his opponent of when the music would actually stop, always gave him advantage. However, Mortimer knew well the tune and had even stronger reasons to be attracted by that watch. For the first time, Indio had no initial advantage. On the other hand, Mortimer is using Manco’s gun, lighter and smaller than his own, hence faster to draw. The result is not hard to predict and yet the suspense created is breathtaking.
When it’s all over and the two bounty hunters go separate ways it’s hard not to feel a void inside, as we see Mortimer riding to the sunset perhaps not to be seen again.