It seems that every popular genre, from sci-fi to action to fantasy to westerns, has a title or two or three that are considered “required viewing” by fans, definitive titles that must be seen, no matter what. Westerns are among the genres whose definitive titles are hard to nail down, as fans can’t seem to decide what they should be. But Italian director Sergio Leone’s “Man With No Name” Trilogy, starring Clint Eastwood in one of his best known roles besides Dirty Harry, is definitely on the list.
The first title in this series is A Fistful of Dollars, which itself is an unofficial remake of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai film Yojimbo. In fact, if you watch the two films back to back, you can almost say that Fistful is an almost shot-for-shot remake, with obvious cultural differences. That doesn’t stop it from being a great film that helped launch Clint Eastwood’s career and the “Spaghetti Western” genre to become popular.
Eastwood stars as a nameless stranger (known by fans as the Man With No Name), who wanders into the Mexican town of San Miguel, which is the middle of a feud between the Rojo brothers and the Baxter family. Seeing an opportunity, the stranger hires himself out to both sides, playing them against each other. But along the way, problems such as allies the stranger makes being put in danger and an innocent family caught in the middle arise, making things a little more difficult.
To say anything more of the plot would risk the chance of giving too much away. And to truly enjoy this film, you should know as little as possible so that when things pop up, you will be surprised and awed at how great it is. Chances are, though, you probably have seen or heard references to this movie, be it films like the Back to the Future sequels or even TV where shows like Futurama have spoofed it. Or you might have seen Last Man Standing, which is a gangster-style remake starring Bruce Willis. In any chance, any of that still makes you want to see Fistful, just to both see the source and see a truly great western at work.
Probably what really makes this film great are the characters. Among the main players involved, there’s no real good guys or bad guys, though some, like the Rojo brothers, are worse than others. This is especially true of the main character, as his main motivation when playing both sides is personal gain, not to help anyone in the town. Obviously things change as he learns things along the way, but for the most part, he’s still more of an anti-hero than some clear-cut “white hat” you might see in other movies. Again, to say more would spoil the movie too much, but it makes the film that much more realistic.
All in all, this is a great film that must be seen, whether you’re a fan of westerns, action films, or just great cinema in general. You’d never think this was directed by an Italian, but that makes little difference, as Leone truly knew what he was doing. A definite classic in the true sense of the word.
A Fistful of Dollars comes to you on blu-ray in a transfer that is by far the best we’ve ever seen for the film. Of course though being an older flick it does suffer from some film grain instances but nothing to sway a person to not buy this western classic. It has a gritty feel at times, but most westerns do wish to portray just that feeling anyways. The blu-ray is still the best looking edition of this film, and fans should be pleased as such.
A Fistful of Dollars blu-ray is brought to you with a 5.1 DTS HD Master audio track. This is by far the best audio quality this film has ever had, hands down. The gun shots ring out with great clarity, and while this is a front heavy track the sub still gets some nice action as well. Overall, the audio quality won’t be a section of this blu-ray release that would cause you to not purchase this release on blu-ray. You’ll have nothing bad to say about the audio.
A Fistful Of Dollars Blu-ray comes with a more than decent selection of bonus features.
Commentary with Film Historian Christopher Frayling
The Christopher Frayling Archives: Fistful of Dollars (1080p)
“Not Ready for Primetime” with Filmmaker Monte Hellman
The Network Prologue with Harry Dean Stanton (SD)
Location Comparisons: Then to Now (SD)
A New Kind of Hero (SD)
A Few Weeks in Spain: Clint Eastwood on the Experience of Making the Film (SD)
Tre Voci: Fistful of Dollars (SD)
10 Radio Spots (1080p)
Double Bill Trailer (SD)
Fistful of Dollars Trailer
Although the video quality lacks some, the audio quality and nice amount of supplements makes up for it in regards to this film. If you want this film already, then its the best we’re going to get. If you’re on the fence, then the video quality might set you back as its not the greatest. (though far from the worst.) You’re defiitely going to want this though if you buy The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly along with For a Few Dollars More which are two must-haves for western fans.