An extreme close-up of a grotesque, sneering face. A gaping longshot of a ramshackle building clinging to unyielding scrubland. A coyote-howl vocal echoing on the soundtrack. Laconic gunmen dealing death in long, dusty coats. And not a hero in sight... Instead we get a grimy trio of amoral drifters (Clint Eastwood's Blondie, Lee Van Cleef's Angel Eyes and Eli Wallach's Tuco), all scrapping for a wad of cash while civil war rages around them.
Safe to say that, having spaghettified the nag opera in A Fistful Of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More, Sergio Leone sealed his rep for irreverent reinvention with The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. Not only did he re-energise the Western as an art form, but he also made it more palatable for the counterculture-savvy American kids of the late '60s. Not that they saw the full, 177-minute version - US distributor United Artists chopped into it, fearing that the hefty running time would put audiences off. Thankfully, MGM has now restored the missing footage for this DVD release and even roped in Eastwood and Wallach to freshly loop lines that only previously existed in Italian.
The good news? UA were wrong, the extra minutes doing nothing to damage Leone's bold, stately action masterpiece. The bad? Now 89 years old, Wallach's croaky dubbing sticks out like a jagged tombstone. The ugly? There isn't any. The idiosyncratic score, pithy dialogue and central performances make sure this extended cut still stands as an ozone-piercing tower of achievement.