19 Mar For a Few Dollars More – 50 Years on
In 1967, Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone released “For a Few Dollars More” in the US. Previously released in Italy as “Per qualche dollaro in più” in 1965, it was a follow-up to his hit Western “A Fistful Of Dollars”. Although “For A Few Dollars More” wasn’t a strictly sequel to “A Fistful Of Dollars”, it came to form the second part of what is unofficially known as the “Dollars” trilogy, rounded out with the “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966 Italy, 1967 US) where the Clint Eastwood Poncho was originally made famous.
Although Sergio Leone only directed seven full-length feature films, his work has been both massively influential in modern cinema. Fifty years after its release, “For A Few Dollars More” feels both fresh and original today. Many elements of the film, however, were groundbreaking at the time.
One legacy of this film is that the “Dollars” trilogy made Clint Eastwood into an international movie mogul. Before Sergio Leone cast him as The Man With No Name in “A Fistful Of Dollars”, Eastwood was a TV actor struggling to break into movies. Today, he’s one of the most famous stars in the world. Not only is Eastwood an Oscar-winning actor, he has also won Academy Awards for both “Unforgiven” (1992) as Best Director, and for “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) as Best Picture. By giving him not only his first film lead, but then bringing him back for “For a Few Dollars More”, Sergio Leone gave Eastwood a body of work that launched Eastwood’s film career.
Gian Maria Volonte’s villainous El Indio is a truly terrifying on-screen creation that has also endured through the years. El Indio was also a revolutionary character in that he is frequently shown smoking marijuana to deal with memories of his past crimes. Although short cautionary films about drug use had been made before “For a Few Dollars More”, the use of marijuana by a character in a major feature film production was groundbreaking. Fifty years on, there exists an entire genres and subgenres of “stoner films”, but Leone’s portrayal of El Indio was a milestone in portraying drug use on screen.
The film was also groundbreaking in bringing over-the-top violence mixed with dark humour to American audiences. The film has a total body count of 30 deaths, with 28 of those shown on-screen. The movie ends with Eastwood’s Man With No Name riding contentedly off into the sunset… atop a wagon piled high with dead bodies. This hilarious, subversive moment is still as shocking, funny and influential today as it was fifty years ago. Quentin Tarantino has stated that “The spaghetti Western is one of the greatest genres, as far as I know, in the history of the world cinema”, and Leone’s mix of humour and gore in the ending of “For a Few Dollars More” is echoed through the work of Tarantino and contemporaries like Robert Rodriguez, Guy Ritchie, Roger Avary, and more.
With a “For a Few Dollars More”, Sergio Leone worked again with his childhood friend Ennio Morricone. The music “For A Few Dollars More” was significant for its unusual blend of soundtrack and in-world music moments. Morricone used a recurring musical motif from the identical pocket watches belonging to El Indio and Colonel Mortimer for both diegetic and nondiegetic music. “The music that the watch makes transfers your thought to a different place,” said Morricone in a 2010 interview with online music magazine The Quietus. “The character itself comes out through the watch but in a different situation every time it appears.” Morricone’s novel music choices remain of special interest remain of interest and influence in movies and music today.
Even the town of El Paso, in which the film’s main bank robbery takes place, is still enduring after fifty years. The town of El Paso, designed by Carlo Simi, was built in Almeria in Spain where the exteriors of ”For A Few Dollars More” were shot. It was re-used the following year for several scenes in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966) in which it was made to represent several different towns. The set is still standing to this day in Spain, where it is called Mini Hollywood.
Sergio Leone’s was the originator of the “Spaghetti Western” subgenre with his “Dollars” trilogy of films. But if he had made only “A Fistful Of Dollars”, would a single film have had as much influence? “For A Few Dollars More” was a more sophisticated film than its predecessor in terms of plot. It was more groundbreaking in terms of content, character and music. It was an overall leap forward from “A Fistful Of Dollars”. But as well as demonstrating Leone’s growing skill as a filmmaker, “For A Few Dollars More” was important because by revisiting the film world he had established in the “A Fistful Of Dollars”, Leone could establish the “Spaghetti Western” as a true genre and evolution in films, rather than a making one-off curiosity. On its own, “A Fistful Of Dollars” might have simply been an anomaly, but by making “For A Few Dollars More” (and later, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”), Leone created a genre. And that is the greatest legacy of all of “For A Few Dollars More”.