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A Fistful of Dollars: Collector's Set

The Sergio Leone Anthology

When people think of what a "Spaghetti Western" is, they think of the anamorphic widescreen vistas, the extreme close-ups, and that music. They think of Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood, and Ennio Morricone. Of Fistful of Dollars (1964), The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966), and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). And though the genre (defined simply as westerns made in Italy or Spain) produced other great films (including The Great Silence) and other iconic characters (like Franco Nero's Django), Leone is the director, and Eastwood's "Man with no Name" is the star. Fistful wasn't even the first of the Italian oaters, but it was the breakthrough effort. Strangely enough, it owes much to Akira Kurosawa, by way of Dashiell Hammett. The film tells the story of a "Man With No Name" (Eastwood) who wanders into a Spanish-American frontier town where he is caught up in a feud between two rival bootlegging families. The stranger exploits the mutual hatred between the two clans to his own advantage, with the unmentioned desire to destroy both. The plot itself is Yojimbo redressed as a western, which required little to no effort, since the Kurosawa film was simply a western redressed as Samurai film. And Kurosawa's tale wasn't all that original to start with — it was lifted from Hammet's Red Harvest. But if the story was all Hammett's, the sensibility is all Leone's. Well served by Morricone's indelible twang, it was how Leone shot A Fistful of Dollars that made it explode internationally. Nonetheless, the most salient feature that Fistful gave movie history was Clint Eastwood's flinty-eyed stare. You know, that stoic "keep pointing that gun at me and I'll kill you" look. Eastwood would eventually use this nasty, wordless glance as the foundation for his iconic film career (in addition to his immense talents as an actor and director), but credit is owed to Leone, with his memorable close-ups, for being the first to capture it in all its imposing glory. Fistful was Leone's second film, and his first of five gunslinger pictures, and while it earned its place in cinema history, it's also fair to call it Leone's weakest western. But that only bespeaks Leone's sui generis.

MGM's second DVD release of A Fistful of Dollars arrives as a two-disc "Collector's Set," and it's a must-have for fans. In addition to the improved anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) from a reasonably good (but not pristine) source-print, audio has been upgraded with a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, along with English and Spanish mono tracks. Film historian Sir Christopher Frayling offers a feature commentary, while Disc Two includes the featurettes "A New Kind of Hero" (23 min.), "A Few Weeks in Spain: Clint Eastwood on Fistful of Dollars" (8 min.), "Tre Voci: Three Friends Remember Sergio Leone" (11 min.), "Not Ready for Primetime" (6 min.), "Network Prologue with Harry Dean Stanton" (7 min.), and "Location Comparisons" (5 min.). Also on hand are 10 radio spots (approx. 30 min. total) and a gallery of MGM trailers. Dual-DVD keep-case. Also available in the eight-disc digipak "The Sergio Leone Anthology."
—DSH



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