Lee Van Cleef

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The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Review


Essential
Positioned in history between the earnest majesty of John Ford's The Searchers and Sam Peckinpah's doomed cowboy dirge The Wild Bunch, Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is animated by the best those classic westerns have to offer. Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western masterpiece is still committed to many of the basic conventions of the not-yet moribund genre, embracing the wide-eyed epicness of Ford's standard-bearer. But Blondie (Clint Eastwood), Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef), and Tuco (Eli Wallach), the respective title characters, occupy a brutal and complex moral world akin to Peckinpah, where women are beaten, crippled fathers are executed in their homes, and the ironically-named "good" guy earns his name for being only slightly less vile than the other gunslingers.

But Leone's mixture of seemingly incompatible elements is what makes The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly so great. Not only does he combine a Cinemascope-era outlook with an eye for grittiness, but he mingles tasteful realism with a flamboyant, self-conscious style. Freeze frames, intertitles, and point-of-view shots brilliantly co-exist with the meticulously appointed period sets and sweeping frontier vistas. This fusion, in addition to a surplus of creativity and lack of restraint, makes the third in the so-called "man with no name" series the crowning glory of his career.

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Escape From New York Review


Excellent
The idea of Manhattan being transformed into a maximum security prison isn't much of a stretch. Many New Yorkers already feel as though they're in jail every day, surrounded by monolithic skyscraper walls. John Carpenter imaginatively stretched that premise in his cult classic, Escape from New York. In his alternate version of 1997, the Big Apple is a cityscape jail. The rules are simple. Once the inmates are shipped in, they don't get out. The bridges are mined. The waterways are watched over by sweeping helicopters. The police force, like an army, is encamped on Liberty Island and the outer boroughs.

That's exciting enough, but Carpenter also calculates in a ticking time bomb narrative device. Air Force One is hijacked by some socialist radicals who crash-land the plane into the heart of "this inhuman dungeon of [an] imperialist prison." The President (Donald Pleasence) manages to escape in a safety pod, only to be captured by none other than the leader of a ferocious band of gypsies who control the island, the self-proclaimed Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes).

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Lee Van Cleef

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