‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ – the ultimate spaghetti western on Max

Clint Eastwood stars in Sergio Leone's 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly'

There are two kinds of people, my friend. Those who love Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and those who resist the machismo and gallows humor of what is arguably the definitive spaghetti western.

Leone’s first real attempt at mythologizing his vision of the American west (shot, of course, in the barren Spanish desert) is a cynical, mercenary “Odyssey” of con men and opportunists who make and break volatile alliances as they race to find stolen Yankee gold while the Civil War blasts around them. Clint Eastwood’s curiously named Blondie is “the good” only in contrast to the cold-blooded smiling cobra of Lee Van Cleef’s “the bad” and Eli Wallach’s cackling career lizard Tuco, the uncontested “ugly.” Shot on empty streets of clapboard towns and stark landscapes of endless, sun-blasted deserts and captured on the wide CinemaScope frame, it’s a cynical, ruthlessly violent western of opportunists out for no one but themselves.

In 2003 the film was restored to its original, longer Italian cut and the extended three-hour version features 18 minutes of footage unseen since its Italian premiere (Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach went back into the studios to dub the scenes with voice artist Simon Prescott, substituting for the late Lee Van Cleef). The additions are hardly essential but a couple are marvelous discoveries, notably Tuco in an abandoned mine shaft, drafting a trio of confederates (who slither down ropes into the cave from above) for his mission of revenge. His jovial duplicity puts a whole new spin on their demise and his devious scheming.

It remains the same epic of blood, sweat, and searing sun, where lives come and go cheap (and often meaninglessly) and guns blast with an unmistakably mechanical/musical ring. And as cool as Clint Eastwood plays it, steely-eyed Lee Van Cleef is even cooler.

Rated R

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video and other services. Availability may vary by service.
The Good, the Bad & the Ugly (Two-Disc Collector’s Edition) [DVD]
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Remastered) [Blu-ray]
The Man with No Name Trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars / For a Few Dollars More / The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly) [Blu-ray]

Don’t miss a single recommendation. Subscribe to the Stream On Demand weekly newsletter (your E-mail address will not be shared) and follow us on Facebook and X (formerly known as Twitter).


Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

Related posts