A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
The first part in the iconic Dollars Trilogy, this was the film that propelled a young Clint Eastwood into international stardom. Its release and immediate success resulted in a slew of cheaply made Italian westerns being unleashed onto to market, many of which were of an exceedingly low quality. A Fistful of Dollars is also an unofficial remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961). This prompted legal action from the Japanese, resulting in Kurosawa making more money from Leone’s reinterpretation than he did from the original film. Leone’s film nevertheless contains many unique elements,both thematic and technical, that would be refined in his subsequent works.
For a Few Dollars More (1965)
Released just one year after A Fistful of Dollars, the second chapter in the trilogy, For a Few Dollars More, boasted a noticeably larger budget than its predecessor. Consequently, the action takes place on a much larger scale. Gian Maria Volonté, who played the villain in Fistful to great effect, returns as an even more villainous and psychotic character who leads a band of outlaws in terrorising all those who are unfortunate enough to cross their path. Eastwood is a bounty hunter who teams up with Lee Van Cleef in an effort to take him down and get his hands on the reward. The notion that the main character in a western would primarily be motivated by financial gain or self interest was completely alien to the American traditions within the genre, as were the overt depictions of violence and unadulterated sadism relished by the bad guys. Questions of motivation and purpose would continue to dominate Leone’s films as his career progressed.