Considered by many to be the greatest Western ever (spaghetti or otherwise), The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo) is clearly still influencing filmmakers more than 40 years after its release. In 2007, we saw Hollywood usher in a new generation of Westerns (3:10 to Yuma, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood), and watching Sergio Leone's classic recently, I found myself chuckling at the similarities. He so dramatically left a mark on the genre that it's nearly impossible not to accuse everyone of copying him. Consider, for example, how often we see extreme close-ups and freeze-frame character intros in contemporary films. Every element of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is seminal (e.g., the writing, acting, cinematography, score, etc. ), and yet it received not even one Oscar nomination. In fact, it didn't win any measure of any award - ever. I don't know what its eligibility status was as an Italian film, but its American competition in 1967 was stiff anyway: The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, In the Heat of the Night, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, to name a few.
Part of the genius of the film is its simplicity. It doesn't have twisting plot details or fancy special effects, and it's not meant to be a symbolic saga for the ages. Rather, it's an epic that finds its power in fascinating characters and an impossibly balanced blend of humor, action, suspense, violence, tragedy and adventure. We've seen versions of Blondie (Eastwood) show up in everybody from John McClane to Jack Foley to Jason Bourne. And Tuco (Eli Wallach)? He has almost no equal, though many have tried over the years. The ensemble cast is simply brilliant, but while it's perhaps the most impressive aspect of the film, you can't overlook the sweeping cinematography (it was filmed in Spain) or the iconic score by Ennio Morricone - easily one of the most recognizable ever.
If you were impressed with any Westerns from the Class of '07, do yourself a favor and take another look at The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. It's currently making the rounds on the United Artists 90th Anniversary festival/tour, which is suffering from absolutely terrible marketing - including the lack of a website that I can link to here.