The stylized, subversive, and astonishing legacy of the Spaghetti Western starts here, with Sergio Leone’s explosive genre breakthrough, making the careers of not only himself, but also squinting star Clint Eastwood and legendary composer Ennio Morricone. Despite its infamous plagiarizing of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai smash Yojimbo (1961), A Fistful of Dollars has carved out its own respectable place in film history as an excitingly original take on the Western genre, completing the circle of genre influences passed between the cowboys and their Japanese counterparts. Eastwood bursts onto screen with immediate, enigmatic charisma. His iconic turn as the laconic hero of the west is cemented as one of the most immutable in all of cinema. Morricone saw his star rise just the same, with an earth-shattering soundtrack that changed the way we think about Westerns today. With this single accomplishment, the legacy of Hollywood’s escapist fantasies was wiped from the zeitgeist, and Italy took center stage in the realization of America’s favorite mythology. Better films were still to come, but A Fistful of Dollars lit the match that set the genre ablaze.
The Twin Geeks · Ep. 77: A Fistful of Dollars (1964)