Show Me the Money

3-2

Saddle up…

The Man With No Name is back in 1965’s For A Few Dollars More, only this time he’s called Monco, and the world is a different place. The bounty killer is king, and his kingdom is built on taking out murderous, grabby bad men who think nothing of killing women and children if it weakens and demoralizes their enemies.

For A Few Dollars More came about as soon as A Fistful of Dollars became a hit because Clint Eastwood and director Sergio Leone thought they should strike while the iron is hot, and they succeeded.

Wikipedia

The movie opens with Colonel Douglas Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef) on the train to Tucumcari. Well, that’s what he wants, anyway. When the conducter comes around to punch tickets, Mortimer is buried behind a giant Bible. He doesn’t look up, but somehow knows where the conductor is standing and hands him his ticket. When the train gets to Tucumcari Mortimer pulls the emergency cord and gets off the train, much to the shock of the train crew, who assure him they would have let him off if he had made arrangements. It’s no big deal, though. Mortimer does things in his own way.

Mortimer has his eye on Indio, a particularly brutal killer who’s been terrorizing eastern New Mexico and western Texas, not only because there’s a mondo price on the guy’s head, but because he’s out for revenge. Indio broke out of prison after killing the guards and raped a woman who then shot herself. Mortimer now carries her pocket watch with him.

When Mortimer and Monco meet, they don’t like each other all that much because they’re too alike and they both have their eye on the Indio bounty. After using each other’s hats for target practice one night and being appropriately impressed at each other’s skills, Monco probably more so because Mortimer has the latest gadgets, the two of them decide to join forces. Mortimer promises that Monco can have all the bounty for Indio’s gang members, but Monco balks because Indio by his lonesome is worth way more.

Mortimer has this idea that Monco should infiltrate Indio’s gang so they have someone on the inside, and Monco dubiously agrees, breaking one of Indio’s friends out of jail to prove his cred. He joins Indio’s gang on several capers, including a bank robbery. However, the plan is not without its flaws, and the twin dangers of acting undercover are always this: Either the agent goes tribal or is discovered. The road to riches will be a rocky and painful one for Mortimer and Monco, but they’re not without surprises.

One of the effective things about this movie is how ambiguous Colonel Mortimer initially is. The dude is calculatingly dangerous, and it’s not until he announces his intentions that we know he’s one of the good guys. He can give Monco a run for his money, and his cool-eyed cred throws even our steely-eyed No Name off balance. The two of them keep each other guessing, although Mortimer is probably the better strategist, and it’s really cool when they team up because they’re a dynamic duo. They’re so much alike in a lot of ways that they learn to guess each others’ actions.

There’s a lot about More that is similar to A Fistful of Dollars, although the film is edgier, more brutal and more polished; namely the numerous closeups during tense moments. This, as I said before, is Sergio Leone’s trademark and stands in for dialogue much of the time. Faces are so much in the forefront of this movie it seems as if the characters are having staring contests. It’s not unreasonable to expect someone to blink, although in this case blinking is pulling a trigger.

What I like, though, is that the movie, while carrying over the No Name character, can be viewed as a standalone film. No Name doesn’t want us to remember his history because he’s mysterious and unflappable. He wants to be a shadow, remembered more for his deeds than for a conventional identity.

On the other hand, though, I have reservations about the film. It’s really hard to completely like it. Maybe it’s the high body count, but a high body count is to be expected with a movie like this.

The public in 1965, at least the Americans, seemed to feel the same way. The movie was a box office success, the iron was definitely hot, and the Italian public ate up For A Few Dollars More. It’s considered to be the fifth-most viewed film in Italy by MoviePlayer, which states that over fourteen million people saw it at the time of its release.

Americans were less enthusiastic, although the film still brought in healthy profits. It took two years for the movie to be released in the United States, and according to TCM, its violence and brutality-laced humor were a bit much for some audience members to take.

Critics especially disliked the film, at least at first. Bosley Crowther said that the Monco and Mortimer characters were too modest in scope and that the movie was too flippant in its portrayal of death, even if Indio and Company had it coming:

One may think that this is sheer fabrication, that the fantasies of killing contrived are devices for emotional escapism, that the foulness of the bandit leader…is a moral reason and justification for his being run down and slaughtered…But the fact that this film is constructed to endorse the exercise of murderers, to emphasize killer bravado and generate glee in frantic manifestations of death is, to my mind, a sharp indictment of it as so-called entertainment in this day. There is nothing wholesome about killing men for bounty, nothing funny about seeing them die, no matter how much the audience may sit there and burble and laugh. (Crowther, New York Times, July 4, 1967)

Nowadays, however, opinions seem to have softened, but we’ve probably been jaded by a few decades of harder-core action films.

For my part, I think A Fistful of Dollars is the superior movie. The story is meatier and the humor is more pronounced. I also prefer the music, although both scores are pretty cool, but I think A Fistful of Dollars’ theme sticks in the head a bit more. Still, For A Few Dollars More is a terrific movie and a great continuation of the Man With No Name series.

For more foreign westerns, please see Debbie at Moon In GeminiThanks for hosting this, Debbie–it was a great time, as always! Thanks for reading, all, and see you on Thursday for another post…


For A Few Dollars More is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.

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If you’re enjoying what you see on Taking Up Room, please look for additional content on Substack, where you’ll find both free and subscriber-only articles. I publish every Wednesday and Saturday.

7 thoughts on “Show Me the Money

  1. Is there a movie Bosley Crowther ever liked? Well, at least in the later portion of his career, when the Hollywood system was collapsing, he really didn’t get a lot of the great films of that time. I have many fond memories of watching these movies with my dad, he LOVED this series. Thanks so much for bringing one of them to the blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really need to see For a Few Dollars More again soon. I’m much more familiar with Fistful of Dollars and the classic “conclusion” to the trilogy, but I need to remedy that. Good review!

    Liked by 1 person

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