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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Though the Man With No Name cleans up the town of all its criminal elements (and he goes out of his way to protect their innocent victims), the character's ruthless attitude, avarice, and easy way with a gun made even TV networks uneasy in the 1960s. Most of the supporting characters are supposed to Mexican (but are played by a melange of Europeans).
Violence & Scariness
Lots and lots and lots of shooting, with six guns, rifles (and a machine gun). There's no blood, but plenty of bodies. Another man killed with a flung knife. There is a firebombing, and characters are tortured with severe beatings. Eastwood strikes a woman unconscious by mistake.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A married woman is held hostage by a murderous suitor, but he doesn't lay a finger on her.
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Villains told to go to hell.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Saloon drinking, and Eastwood and others have cigarettes clenched in their teeth a lot of the time.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is more violent than many of the Hollywood Westerns that preceded it -- though ones that came after were worse. Lots of men (and one woman) die, even if we don't see bullets leaving exit woods. A little boy is tormented by being fired at (but not hit) by bullies, and the hero suffers an excruciating beating. One character uses a plate of metal under his poncho as an effective bulletproof vest -- a real don't-try-this-at-home detail. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
There's no shortage of violence and guns here. In the 1960s, Italians, Spanish, Germans, and even Israelis started making their own Westerns, sticking to the classic iconography of gun duels, saloons, and desperadoes on horseback, but without the censorship codes of Hollywood. In the case of Italian director Sergio Leone, there was not just an elevated level of violence, but also a then-groundbreaking filmmaking style, with an emphasis on long, tense close-ups of the actors' faces, widescreen camera compositions, and hauntingly unusual music by Ennio Morricone. Westerns had been jokingly called "horse operas" before. Leone made them something close to real opera, and his style was much imitated.
It also helped that Leone was recommended the lean, little-regarded young actor Eastwood to play his recurring unnamed hero (Morricone originally wanted Henry Fonda or James Coburn), triggering another illustrious career. Though he doesn't come across as all that horrible these days, The Man With No Name was so disturbing to American tastes that when A Fistful of Dollars first aired on U.S. television, the studio hastily shot a prologue (with an Eastwood stand-in with his back to the camera) to explain that he's got a higher purpose than profit -- he's really an undercover lawman being sent on a mission to clean up the town, by guile and stealth. That little addition is missing from the home-video release versions of A Fistful of Dollars. Instead there's just a scrap of incidental dialogue to indicate that the gunslinger empathizes deeply with the victims in San Miguel, not the victimizers.
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Our Editors Recommend
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