The Good, The Bad and the Ugly is the third movie in Sergio Leone’s “Man with No Name” trilogy. As in the second movie, “For a Few Dollars More,” Lee Van Cleef joins Clint Eastwood. And to round out the three eponymous characters we have Eli Wallach. Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach are the Good the Bad and the Ugly in that order. Eastwood is a nameless bounty hunter and con-man. Lee Van Cleef is a killer for hire that goes by the name of Angel Eyes. And Eli Wallach is a Mexican criminal named Tuco.
Eastwood’s racket is to capture criminals for the bounty but when the town gets ready to hang the criminal Eastwood shoots the rope just in time allowing the criminal to escape and Eastwood then sells him all over again in the next town. After several iterations of this Eastwood takes two shots to sever the rope and when Tuco complains about this treatment Eastwood dissolves the partnership leaving Tuco to walk seventy miles through the burning desert and swearing revenge.
Meanwhile Angel Eyes is helping a man locate some stolen army gold that was hidden by a man named Bill Carson. But then he decides he’d rather keep the money for himself so he kills his client. He finds out Carson is in the Confederate Army in Texas so he joins the Union forces and searches for Carson among the prisoners.
Tuco survives his trek through the desert and hunts down Eastwood or Blondie as he calls him. Eventually he catches up with him and forces him to walk bareheaded in the desert until he is close to death. But just at the point where Tuco prepares to shoot Blondie a Confederate stage coach filled with dead and dying men rolls up to Tuco and he finds Bill Carson dying but willing to tell him the whereabouts of the gold. Carson tells him it’s buried in a certain graveyard but he withholds the name on the grave until he gets a drink of water. But when Tuco gets back with the water he finds Carson dead and Blondie next to him. Carson told him the name before he died. Now Tuco brings Blondie to a Mexican mission for medical care for his sun stroke and the two men ride to find the gold. But dressed in confederate uniforms they are captured by Union forces and taken to a prison camp. By a coincidence Angel Eyes is at this camp and he knows Tuco and when he learns that he is pretending to be Bill Carson he has Tuco tortured to learn the location of the gold. Tuco tells him the name of the cemetery and tells him that Blondie knows the grave name.
After several escapes and gunfights Tuco and Blondie escape from Angel Eyes and head for the cemetery. On the way they run into a Union force that is waging a futile daily battle over possession of a bridge across a river. Blondie is struck by the futility of all these men dying over a bridge that has no intrinsic value. But it also occurs to him that as long as the bridge is there, they won’t be able to get past the Confederate forces to reach the cemetery so he dynamites the bridge and the two armies end the operation.
Finally, Tuco and Blondie reach the cemetery. But before the gold can be dug up there is a three-way duel between Tuco, Angel Eyes and Blondie. The form an equilateral triangle and blast away. Blondie kills Angel Eyes and Tuco discovers that Blondie took the bullets out of his gun the night before. So, Blondie reveals where the gold is buried and makes Tuco dig it up. But while Tuco is rejoicing Blondie has set up a hangman’s noose over one of the grave crosses and force Tuco to climb onto the cross and put his neck in the noose. After tying Tuco’s hands behind his back, Blondie leaves him suspended there and rides off with half the gold. But when he’s half a mile away he takes his rifle and shoots the rope and Tuco is freed to scream epithets at Blondie as he rides away.
This is the most entertaining movie of the trilogy. Although technically Tuco is as much a hardened criminal as Angel Eyes he manages to become a somewhat sympathetic villain probably because of the large dose of comic relief he adds to the film. Angel Eyes is the sadistic villain but he also is an interesting portrayal by Van Cleef. And Eastwood’s character is, as always, resourceful, cool under fire and damn lucky. This movie is highly recommended for fans of westerns and action-adventure films. And it has a fantastic main theme song.