Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The Good, the Fan and the Theory - A Spaghetti-Western Dollars Trilogy Head-Canon

'The Good, the Ugly and the Bad'
It's halfway through the year already and I've hardly posted on...Well I just haven't really posted! Laptop troubles and stuff...Anyway! Finally time for a post that's suitable to the background!

As we all know, we're in the thick of the new generation of Star Wars movies; saga installments supplemented with anthology spin-offs! Spectacular! ^^ But of the inspirations and influences for the original trilogy, the one area of cinema that always speaks to my preferences are the Spaghetti-Westerns. In particular, those three films directed by Sergio Leone, scored by Ennio Morricone and starring Clint Eastwood as 'The Man with No Name'; A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, & The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
   For specific references, Eastwood's 'Man with No Name' character(s), 'The Good' in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, heavily influenced the bounty hunter Boba Fett for The Empire Strikes Back. Whilst more recently Lee van Cleef's 'Angel Eyes' (aka 'The Bad') influenced the take-no-prisoners bounty hunter Cad Bane for The Clone Wars.

Cad Bane - Clearly Inspired by 'Angel Eyes' ('The Bad')
Boba Fett - Inspired by 'The Man with No Name'

So why am I going through this? Well, this year marks the 50th anniversary of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, one of my most favourite films of all time. And there has been discussions over whether it is connected with the other 'Dollars' films or not...it was released after the other two, so because of the acquisition of the iconic costume Eastwood wears (poncho et all) occurs at the end of GBU, some assume that it's a prequel. Officially, the three films are separate entities, as evidenced by 'The Man with No Name' being referred to with a different name in each film, among other slight inconsistencies (though it's never explicitly stated that Eastwood's character names are his...he never introduces himself...they are always given by others and they are how others refer to him). However, with a bit of creativity, there are ways that you can consider them as a trilogy and, as such, an ideal way to watch them all together (similar to how '451236' is the best way to watch the original Star Wars films)...The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, THEN A Fistful of Dollars, THEN For a Few Dollars More (or...'312' if you prefer!)

The Man with No Name
But does '312' work for the characters and events if Eastwood is the same character the whole way through? Well, here's where the titled head-canon begins:

First, there's the big question of the end of GBU and then the beginning of AFOD; what happened to all that money Blondie rode off into the sunset with? When we do consider that he's the same character throughout, the $200,000 in gold coins that he obtained had all gone by the time we see him again. So let's consider the biggest factor in his acquisition of that money; Tuco (aka 'The Ugly').

The Good and the Ugly - A Partnership Made in Hell
Throughout GBU, Tuco was just greedy for as much money as possible. But after he felt betrayed by Blondie by being left in the desert, he relentlessly pursued, and then tortured, Blondie for revenge. And since he told Blondie from the start that 'nobody crosses Tuco and lives', Blondie must have known that leaving him alive at the end of GBU (after what Tuco would have seen as another betrayal), would come back to bite him in the bum, sooner or later. But Tuco wasn't present during two 'Dollars' films, so one solution would be that Blondie would have spent/ditched the money to help throw Tuco off and then kill him...though that would seem a little bit harsh for Blondie, especially considering how lenient we have seen him be towards Tuco. A more likely scenario would be if Blondie had only managed to spend a small proportion of that gold (it was a heck of a lot of money) before Tuco tracked him down again...and since it's all Tuco lives for, Blondie would end up giving up all of his money to the ratty bandit. Even if it was a case of Blondie ditching the majority of that gold to throw Tuco off, you can still picture a scene in which Blondie thinks he still has something for food and drink, but then Tuco appears away from him, chuckling as he jingles the last pennies Blondie had, before riding away.

So now Blondie has nothing but his clothes, his effects and his horse...Tuco is now out of his life for good, but at a literal price. And so begins the next chapter of his life, keeping a low profile, wandering from small town to small town, making a decent dollar where he can, even being payed in meals and drink. He starts to get crafty in the ways and means of his earnings...learning to keep an eye open for any situation possible where money can be made. He no longer has anyone to refer to him by his old nickname, so he takes to the most average name folk refer to him as (instead of 'stranger'); 'Joe'.

AKA 'Joe', in San Miguel
Soon enough, Joe rides into the town of San Miguel and discovers that being in the middle of two feuding families is an ample opportunity to make some money. For the most part, he is successful. However, since the Rojo gang worked out that he freed their hostages, he was tortured again...this time resulting in a severe injury to his firing hand. He eventually managed to slip away and train himself to fire properly again in order to kill his torturers, but his hand was a lot weaker than it used to be. Leaving San Miguel as soon as the violent Rojo gang were disposed of, Joe knew that a simpler approach to making money was his true calling. As such, he once again got back into the business of what he did best; hunting down bounties...but now, on his own and having learned not to trust bandits at the very least, he works more in favour of the law.

In the few more years that go by, Joe makes a bracer-gauntlet for himself to help strengthen his wrist when firing and actually saves his whole arm for when he needs it the most, learning how to do everything else with just his left hand; lighting (and smoking) his cigars, drinking, even developing a one-handed fighting style. This helps to define his new bounty-hunting reputation with a new moniker; 'Monco' (Spanish for 'one-armed').

(The following segments will also attempt to explain why there seems to be multiple characters who look like other characters...For the different bandits who are played by the same actors, a broad explanation can be attributed to coming from large families and generations of bandits...Mostly illegitimately...Because, y'know, sordid crimes...)

AKA 'Monco' (Note the bracer on his right arm)
And so 'Monco' makes his way as a bounty killer and eventually lands his eyes on a huge prize; El Indio. He is content with hunting the average price to pay for his own upkeep, but something about El Indio strikes him; he has heard, and taken note of, El Indio's gang and the relatively low prices on their heads, but he had never seen a poster with El Indio himself before...this criminal looks similar to (at least one of) the Rojo brothers he encountered (and killed) a few years before...Could they be related? It wouldn't be a surprise...And if he is, it's a good enough reason for Monco to start pursuing him and ending the twisted bloodline. However, as would be expected, he isn't the only hunter to be bold enough to go after El Indio...

On the trail of El Indio, Monco lands in the town of El Paso, Texas. There he gets word of another bounty killer, so he goes to investigate...Strangely enough; this is another person who looks like a figure from Monco's past. Back when he was known as 'Blondie', he and Tuco tussled with a common enemy who used to be a big part of their past; 'Angel Eyes' ('The Bad'). Monco is curious; how can two, seemingly unrelated, figures from his past have prominent look-a-likes in his present?

The Other Bounty Hunter, Colonel Mortimer...
...And the long-dead Angel Eyes...Brothers...?
May all be a coincidence...But with the slightest chance that this other bounty hunter is related to 'Angel Eyes', Monco cannot trust him. After a late night where he tries to throw the other hunter out of town and they subsequently butt heads, the two begin to realize their skill-sets are evenly matched and decide to work together to bring down El Indio's gang. Despite this, Monco still doesn't completely trust this other bounty hunter; one Colonel Douglas Mortimer. (And does his name imply 'Angel Eyes'' real name?)

An Alliance they Had to Work at to Achieve...
Monco's clear distrust makes him try at least once to throw the Colonel off...but this is a man who fought in the civil war; he's wily in his years and, most important to Monco, he's a man of integrity...Ultimately they go after El Indio for different reasons and it's Mortimer's reason that Monco discovers by the end that really makes him trustworthy. El Indio was responsible for the death of Mortimer's sister...The Colonel has pursued him for her honour and subsequently did not take a single cent of the cash rewards for El Indio and his gang members.

Twisted Family Connections - El Indio Holds the Image of Mortimer's Sister
A family connection between Mortimer and Angel Eyes would make sense; Mortimer's service in the army would have been wildly different from Angel Eyes, the black sheep of the family who used positions in the army that he hadn't earned to pursue his own dastardly interests. Colonel Mortimer would have felt too disconnected from Angel Eyes, feeling like he had lost him, so he would end up focusing on looking out for the one member of the family he has left; his sister.

Monco, meanwhile, rides off into the sunset with nothing but the riches he had wanted from the start with no hassle. He was told by Mortimer that bounty hunting is a line of business where you don't last long. One could take that to mean it would kill you, but Monco would apply the 'Old Man's' words to his desire to eventually settle and retire from the business. With the money he now has, he's in the best position to call it quits. But whether people have known him as 'Blondie', 'Joe' or 'Monco', he leaves a lasting impression like no other across the American west as 'The Man with No Name'.

And there we go! Hope this provided to be an interesting read! (And I am aware there have been extended tales in literature, but since I'm only familiar with the films, that's what this post is based on). Any comments or queries, do stick 'em below!


(Images - Lucasfilm, MGM)

Monday, 6 June 2016

City in the Sky

A new documentary series started on BBC Two last night (Sunday, 5th July) called City in the Sky, with Dallas Campbell and Dr. Hannah Fry, detailing the inner workings of air travel...it's fascinating, mesmerizing and even a little bit thrilling. I recommend to anyone with access to iPlayer to have a look.

Anyway, I came up with the most ridiculous idea just because the title sounds like a pun, so here's a parody of the song Spirit in the Sky, for the show:

When I fly and I lay back to rest
Gonna be on a plane by Southwest
When I get on board to fly
Goin' up to the city in the sky

Goin' up to the city in the sky
That's where I'm gonna go when I fly
When I fly and I lay back to rest
Gonna be on a plane by Southwest

Adventure though; you know it's a thirst
Gotta have a friend in Airbus
So you know that when you fly
They gonna recommend you to the city in the sky

Gon' recommend you to the city in the sky
That's where you're gonna go when you fly
When you fly and you kick back to rest
Gonna be in safe hands with Southwest

Never filled my case...too much
I got a friend in Qantas
So you know that when I fly
They're gonna set me up with the city in the sky

Oh set me up with the city in the sky
That's where I'm gonna go when I fly
When I fly and I lay back to rest,
I'm gonna go to a place in the west
Gonna be on a plane for the west

Hope you like!