The first two now join the third in being released on individual Blu-rays each packed with extra material; it’s hard to imagine that they have ever looked better.
Donning a now-iconic hat, poncho and soggy cigar, Eastwood makes a strong, silent impression as “the Man with No Name.” Supposedly, he’s playing a different character in each, but he sure doesn’t look it, nor does he play it that way. It’s the same squinting, ace-shot anti-hero, but that’s no complaint.
In “A Fistful of Dollars,” he and his horse mosey into a town where one either gets rich or gets killed. It’s a place overrun by bandits and smugglers in the form of two warring families who run guns and liquor. Eastwood brings some justice to the place via heavy, frequent use of his pistol. The disc includes a rare prologue shot by Monte Hellman (“Two-Lane Blacktop”) for the film’s ABC network TV broadcast. With Harry Dean Stanton talking to an obvious Eastwood double, it injects moral justification into the actions that follow.
In the may-as-well-be sequel, “For a Few Dollars More,” life continues to has no value, but death quite a price. Now an out-and-proud bounty hunter, Eastwood looks to face an enemy when the Man in Black (that’s Lee Van Cleef, not Johnny Cash) rolls into the Southwestern U.S., but gains an ally when they realize they’re both on the prowl to snare the same crook, and hatch a devious plot to bring him down.
From the animated credits to Ennio Morricone’s now-classic, indelible scores, this pair of entries in the “Dollars” trilogy represent a high-water mark for adventure cinema. Despite the language barrier that existed between director and star, despite the dubbing issues, their power remains and their influence incalculable. Whether he realized it or not, Leone’s work is revolutionary, breathing colorful life into a genre long gone stale. So deft was his hand, the films still seem fresh nearly half a century later. —Rod Lott