This is like an ultimate foreign fare… it’s a mix of Italy, Spain, and West Germany doing a western remake of a Japanese samurai film. And it stars an American. Now, I’m not huge on westerns, but in this particular trilogy, I have already seen The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. I’ve also seen Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, which this is a remake of. And I think that may have been a bit of an issue. The film follows Joe and/or The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood) as he enters a Mexican border town that’s run by two rival gangs. He stays with the town’s barman, Silvanito (Jose Calvo), and decides to make a little money by craftily pitting the two gangs against each other. But in the process, he discovers Marisol (Marianne Koch), a woman who one of the gangs is keeping as their own, despite the fact she is married with a kid and belongs to the other group. So Joe must help her, but in the process puts himself in a bad situation with the gangs.
I will say straight up here that I think I preferred Yojimbo. This could be for a few reasons: 1) I saw it first, 2) I prefer eastern culture and swords over westerns and guns, or 3) I felt the tone was different between them. It’s always an issue with remakes that you will constantly be comparing one to the other–especially if you see the original before the remake. And you will almost always prefer the first one you saw (not every time, but most times). Unfortunately, all I could do while watching this one was think about Yojimbo and compare the two in my head, which got to a point of being a bit distracting. I’ve also always had a fascination with Asian cultures, as well as anything to do with swords. And while both films are very similar to each other, my preference here will be automatically biased toward the one with the swords rather than guns.
As far as tone goes, both films are comedic, but I felt Yojimbo was much funnier than this one. This film felt much more serious much more often than the original. And while that’s not a bad thing, you get two different feelings. The original, to me, had the gangs be much more incompetent. There’s a great scene where they go to battle each other in the street, but both are deathly afraid of the other. So they’ll run at each other but then quickly back away, and nobody wants to actually shed blood. It’s really funny, and I liked that tone and style. Here, the same situations happen, but instead of taking a lighter tone, it’s taken very seriously with grand shootouts and dastardly villains. Though, again, this one did have comedy, especially in some of the ways the Eastwood reacted or in anything to do with coffin maker.
All of that being said, I want to stop comparing the two and talk about this as its own beast. On its own, I did like it. Again, I’m not a huge western fan, but I do like the story and the idea behind the character here. Eastwood, of course, plays the character well (after all, it is a character he would play two more times and become incredibly famous for). What I like about this film as opposed to most westerns is that it’s not really a slow burn. I mean, it has a fantastic (and iconic) shootout at the end, but there are other big moments spread throughout the movie to help with the pacing.
A couple final things to mention as I wrap up. I’d probably be attacked if I didn’t mention the music, so I’ll say that I did like the score. The dubbing is a lot more blatant in this one than The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, at least to me. Probably because there’s a lot more dialogue. It’s goofy, but I understand why it was done in these spaghetti westerns. So, yeah, I did like it as far as westerns go. But for me, personally… I’ll probably go for Yojimbo when I ever want to watch this story again.
(P.S. If you’re unaware of how I score, I usually score based on entertainment, not quality, so don’t hang me for what you might feel is something a bit low.)