In the late sixties, Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966) was harshly criticized for its glorified violence and savagery, mostly by American critics. Oh how times have changed and it is easy to see why. Film-makers today celebrate its groundbreaking storytelling techniques, especially its rousing musical score as visionary. Quentin Tarantino once said that Sergio Leone’s epic masterpiece was “the greatest achievement in the history of cinema”.
It is without a doubt bold and original, but my own personal admiration for the film will be saved for another day, as I only want to focus briefly on arguably one of cinemas greatest scenes – the famous Mexico standoff, also known as the ‘trio’ scene. I wont bore you too much in describing the technical brilliance of the sequence, except to say that it just goes to show how important good editing can be in making a scene work.
What is interesting about the scene is how it is set up to unfold. A standoff in Westerns always sees someone come undone and this is no different in the breathtaking climax, where three anti-heroes prepare for a shoot out in a triangular arrangement at the centre of a massive cemetery. Director Sergio Leone visually builds up the anticipation and or the pressure of the scene, in the only way he knows how, by endlessly delaying the inevitable with bold close-ups of Clint Eastwood, Lee van Cleef and Eli Wallach’s face, eyes and hands itching to pull the trigger of their guns. Importantly, the musical score by Ennio Morricone, builds the tension and heightens and then stops at the point where guns are raised and fired.
There is no point me trying to convince you, simply watch the scene for yourself. Enjoy!
Photo Credit: The image of the iconic Mexican standoff is presumably owned by United Artists, the distributor of the film. I make use of the image under the rationale of ‘fair use’ to help illustrate arguably the films most important sequence. It also enables me to makes an important contribution to the readers understanding of the article, which could not practically be communicated by words alone. I am not the uploader of the You Tube clip.