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When a stranger without a name (Clint Eastwood) hits a little town in the
prarie, & sees it divided between its constantly warring 2 rich families -
the Roccos & the Baxters - he sees a perfect opportunity to make a quick
buck or two from both the clans.
So, to get employ from the Roccos, he shoots
for of the Baxters' henchies. The Roccos are of course thrilled about this, but
when Ramon Rocco (Gian Maria Volonté) announces to form a truce with the
Baxters, the Stranger sees himself superfluous, takes his hat & leaves ...
or pretends to do so, as he knows Ramon & gang have just held up a gold
shipment from the Mexican army, which is too good an opportunity to let pass by
without stirring up muchos commotion.
First he gets a couple of (dead)
soldiers that were guarding the gold & places them on the local cemetary,
then he tells both the Baxters & the Roccos where to find them (carefully
forgetting to mention that they are dead of course), & while both families
& their henchies soon head for the cemetary - the Baxters to get witnessses
against the Roccos, the Roccos to get rid of the witnesses -, the Stranger
looks for the stolen gold, but is caught by Marisol (Marianne Koch), Ramon's
mistress, & has to knock her out & bring her to the Baxters, to keep
her from talking.
The Roccos meanwhile have shot the dead soldiers (again)
& even taken one of the Baxters - Antonio (Bruno Carutenuto), son of Old
Man Baxter (Wolfgang Lukschy) & Consuela (Margarita Lozano) - hostage, so
an exchange of hostages is soon taking place ... which is when the Stranger
learns that Ramon has actually taken Marisol from her husband & her son
(Fredy Arco), which encourages him to do a good deed for a change, as he
frees Marisol & sends her away with her family, but makes it look as if the
Baxters had stolen her.
Ramon however is too clever to fall for that scheme,
& he soon has the Stranger captured & brutally tortured. Only when
already badly injured does the Stranger manage to escape his prison, & when
the Roccos search the whole town for him, he manages to hide under the
boardwalk & later slip away in a coffin ... Furiously the Roccos set fire
to the Baxters' home & slaughter every last one of them.
In an abandoned
mine, the Stranger contemplates his next moves, his priority being how to
escape Ramon's deadly Winchester - until he has the decisive idea & builds
himself a steele-body armour strong enough to take several bullets to the heart
& when he hears his only friend in town, the innkeeper Silvanito
(José Calvo) has been taken prisoner by Ramon & his henchies, he enters
town for the final duel ... & manages to catch Ramon surprise with his
armour & ultimately defeat & kill him ...
By the early
1960's, the American produced Western was pretty much dead, as the production
of B-(or series-)Western was discontinued, the macho-attitude of heroes like
John Wayne seemed by then to be terribly out of place, & the genre was in
dire need of a new, a different approach to be kickstarted again.
however, the Western-genre rose to new heights in the early 60's, especially
thanks to the Winnetou-Westerns - produced by German company Rialto
-, which were essentially fairy tales transplanted into the American West, but
which - thanks to careful production & direction - hit the nerve of the
At this time, many other producers from all over Europe wanted to jump
onto the bandwagon with similar but inferior films. Among these films was Per
un Pugno di Dollari, which initially was thought as little more than a
quickly made cashcow for its producers. Director Leone however had the good
sense not to blindly ape the then prevalent fairy-tale formula, but he looked
to Japan for source material & in consequence used Akira Kurosawa's
successful samurai epic Yojimbo as a
blueprint (he would of course later deny having copied the film, even though in
large parts of the story & even some scenes it's painfully obvious).
Leone's film - itself a remake - became the standard blueprint for all future
Italian Westerns (soon to be called Spaghetti Westerns).
Even though Leone's
film is a rather blatant copy though, one can't deny that he is not a mere
copycat director, but incorporated Kurosawa's directorial visions into his own,
& what's more, understood to develop his own style from this, which was
already obvious here , & would continue to run through all of his future
films (which puts him rather in contrast to other, mostly American, copycat
directors like say Steven Spielberg or George Lucas, who never waste a single
thought to go beyond the images they have just copied).
The film - & the
Western genre in general - would greatly profit from this new approach,
combined with the novel Sergio Leone-soundtrack & the newborn anit-hero in
the person of Clint Eastwood (whose later world career was solely based on this
movie - which he did because he didn't get anything decent in America - &
its 2 [semi-]sequels Per Qualque Dollari in Piu & Il Buono, il
Brutto, il Cattivo).