Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns are my transition to Western films in general. They were the first Western films that I truly appreciated. After Leone's trilogy, this led me to other western films like The Magnificent Seven and 3:10 To Yuma. A Fistful of Dollars was the first of the trilogy and in my opinion is the weakest out of the three.
The film was written by a couple of writers, one of which includes Sergio Leone. This is the area of the film that I felt was the weakest as simple the plot may be, it lacks a strong build up to the memorable and exciting climax. The characters aren't as interesting in this film in comparison to the subsequent films, an example of poorly written characters in this film are The Baxters. They feel two dimensional and plain. I did enjoy the banter between Clint Eastwood and Jose Calvo. The dialogue in this film feels a lot more cheesier than the other films, most of it is good but there are moments that feels cringe-worthy. It is definitely a big risk in creating a protagonist with no background, it can be hard to empathise with but at the same time it allows the audience to become curious of the character and allows him to become unpredictable. The film's plot showcases the protagonist's greed and it's aftermath.
The film's biggest strength is Leone's direction. Leone wanted to create something different from other westerns and focused on building tension between events making it much more effective. Leone has created something patient and at times quiet, in particular the first few minutes of the film. The film is definitely limited by it's budget, with the setting feeling plain and lifeless.
Massimo Dallamano is the cinematographer of this film, and also for the next film. Dallamano and Leone has focused on using close ups and at times they are extreme. These shots are commonly found on iconic moments of the film, like the climax or the switch in the middle of the film. The film's overall look feels much more grittier, this may be due to budget constraints or the filmmakers are not as confident with their shots in comparison to the subsequent films. There is a particular scene, which I thought was beautifully done and the scene was the first time we see Eastwood uses his gun, having the camera placed low and shooting it on the point of view of the gun.
One of the most memorable aspect of this film is the score. Ennio Morricone has created something that sticks with you and have you thinking of his score when you ever think of a Western situation. The beautiful sound of the guitar as it plays Eastwood out and that whistle that sticks with you throughout the film. The score is definitely influenced from the previous released Western films in that era but makes it his own. The score doesn't try to sound complicated or innovative but rather stripping it down, which fits the protagonist of the film.
Eastwood definitely stands out in this film, as his character and his portrayal of it is the main reason people are so hooked to this film. Eastwood has created a character that makes the audience wonder and at times idolise as he never seems to get corrupted by the cliche things found in Westerns, aside from money of course. The other stand out in this film is Giari Maria Volonte playing the film's antagonist and Jose Calvo as Silvanito. Volonte creates a villain that doesn't feel over the top and times look really cool and slick, while Calvo plays as the comic relief supported by the banter between him and Eastwood.
This film may not be perfect in my eyes, while other praise it. It definitely is an important film for me as it introduced me to a genre of film that I never thought I would appreciate. A Fistful of Dollars sets up the style and genre that is found on Leone's next few films.