A Fistful of Dollars (Italian: Per un pugno di dollari) is a 1964 Italian-Spanish Spaghetti Western film directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood alongside Gian Maria Volontè, Marianne Koch, Wolfgang Lukschy, Sieghardt Rupp, José Calvo, Antonio Prieto, and Joseph Egger.
Released in Italy in 1964, then in the United States in 1967, initiating the popularity of the Spaghetti Western film genre. It was followed by For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), also starring Eastwood. Collectively, the films are commonly known as the "Dollars Trilogy " or "The Man With No Name Trilogy". This film is an unofficial remake of the Akira Kurosawa film Yojimbo (1961), which itself drew inspiration from earlier Westerns. In the United States, the United Artists publicity campaign referred to Eastwood's character in all three films as the "Man with No Name".
As one of the first Spaghetti Westerns to be released in the United States, many of the European cast and crew took on American sounding stage names. These included Leone himself ("Bob Robertson"), Gian Maria Volonté ("Johnny Wels"), and composer Ennio Morricone ("Dan Savio").
A Fistful of Dollars was shot in Spain, mostly near Hoyo de Manzanares, close to Madrid, but also (like its two sequels) in the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park in Almería province.
A stranger, Joe (Eastwood), with innkeeper Silvanito (José Calvo), watches as Mexican soldiers bring a shipment of gold through San Miguel. The Stranger, spying an opportunity to make money from the situation, decides to play both families against each other. His opportunity comes when a detachment of Mexican soldiers escorting a shipment of gold passes through the town. The gold is ostensibly being delivered to a troop of American soldiers in exchange for weapons, but following the Mexican troops out of town, the Stranger witnesses them being massacred by members of the Rojo gang, dressed in American uniforms and led by Ramon Rojo. The Rojos take the gold.
The Stranger takes two of the bodies to a nearby cemetery and sells information to both sides that two Mexican soldiers survived the attack. Both sides race to the cemetery, the Baxters to get the "survivors" to testify against the Rojos, the Rojos to silence them. The factions engage in a fierce gunfight, with Ramon managing to "kill" the "survivors" and Esteban capturing John Baxter's son,Antonio. While the Rojos and the Baxters are fighting, the Stranger searches the Rojo hacienda for the gold, but accidentally knocks out Ramón's beautiful prisoner and unwilling mistress, Marisol (Marianne Koch), when she surprises him. He takes her to the Baxters, who in turn arrange to return her to the Rojos in exchange for Antonio.
During the exchange, the Stranger learns Marisol's history from Silvanito: "... a happy little family until trouble comes along. And trouble is the name of Ramon, claiming the husband cheated at cards, which wasn't true. He gets the wife to live with him as hostage." That night, while the Rojos are celebrating, the Stranger rides out and frees Marisol, shooting the guards and wrecking the house in which she is being held in order to make it appear as if it was attacked by the Baxters. The Stranger tells Marisol, her husband, and their son to leave town, at the same time giving them some money to tide them over. Marisol asks the Stranger, "Why do you do this for us?", and for the first and only time the Stranger provides an insight into his actions: "Why? Because I knew someone like you once. There was no one there to help. Now get moving".
Discovering that he freed Marisol, the Rojos capture and beat the Stranger, but he escapes, killing Chico (Mario Brega) and Vincente (Fernando Sánchez Polack) in the process. Believing the Stranger to be protected by the Baxters, the Rojos set fire to the Baxter home and massacre all the residents as they are forced to flee. Among the dead are John Baxter, his wife, Consuelo (Margarita Lozano), and Antonio. Now the only gang left in San Miguel, the Rojos confront and beat Silvanito, whom they think is hiding the Stranger.
The Stranger returns to town, where he faces the Rojos in a dramatic showdown. With a steel chest plate hidden beneath his clothing, he taunts Ramon to "aim for the heart" as Ramon's rifle shots bounce off. Killing all present except Ramon, the Stranger challenges Ramon to reload his rifle faster than he, the Stranger, can reload his pistol. He then shoots and kills Ramon. Esteban Rojo, unseen by the Stranger and aiming at him from a nearby building, is shot dead by Silvanito. The Stranger says his goodbyes and rides from the town.
- Clint Eastwood as Joe, the foreigner ("The Man with No Name")
- Gian Maria Volontè (as John Wells on some prints, and as Johnny Wels on most English-language prints) as Ramón Rojo
- Marianne Koch as Marisol
- José Calvo (as Jose Calvo) as Silvanito
- Joseph Egger (as Joe Edger) as Piripero
- Antonio Prieto as Don Miguel Rojo
- Sieghardt Rupp (as S. Rupp) as Esteban Rojo
- Wolfgang Lukschy (as W. Lukschy) as John Baxter
- Margarita Lozano (as Margherita Lozano) as Donna Consuelo Baxter
- Bruno Carotenuto (as Carol Brown) as Antonio Baxter
- Mario Brega (as Richard Stuyvesant) as Chico
- Daniel Martín as Julián
- Benito Stefanelli (as Benny Reeves) as Rubio
- Aldo Sambrell (as Aldo Sambreli) as Manolo
- Enrique Santiago as Fausto
- Umberto Spadaro as Miguel
- Fernando Sánchez Polack as Vincente
- Lorenzo Robledo as Baxter Gunman #1
- Luis Barboo as Baxter Gunman #2
- Raf Baldassarre as Juan de Dios
- Nino del Arco as Jesus
- Enrico Maria Salerno as Joe, the foreigner ("The Man with No Name")
- Nando Gazzolo as Ramón Rojo
- Rita Savagnone as Marisol
- Luigi Pavese as Silvanito
- Lauro Gazzolo as Piripero
- Mario Pisu as Don Benito Rojo
- Bruno Persa as Esteban Rojo
- Giorgio Capecchi as John Baxter
- Anna Miserocchi as Donna Consuelo Baxter
- Renato Turi as Chico
- Sergio Graziani as Rubio
- Klaus Kindler as Joe, the foreigner ("The Man with No Name")
- Rainer Brandt as Ramón Rojo
- Hans Hinrich as Silvanito
- Klaus W. Krause as Don Miguel Rojo
- Werner Lieven as Chico
- Ulrich Bernsdorff as Julián
- Wolfgang Hess as Rubio
- Erich Ebert as Baxter Gunman #1
- Jesús Nieto as Joe, the foreigner ("The Man with No Name")
- Carlos Revilla as Ramón Rojo
- Ana María Saizar as Marisol
- Francisco Sánchez as Silvanito
- Manuel de Juan as Piripero
- Joaquín Vidriales as Don Benito Rojo
- Francisco Arenzana as Esteban Rojo
- Benjamín Domingo as John Baxter
- Mari Ángeles Herranz as Donna Consuelo Baxter
- José Luis Yzaguirre as Antonio Baxter
- Rafael Calvo Revilla as Chico
- Vicente Vega as Baxter Gunman #1
- Clint Eastwood as Joe, the foreigner ("The Man with No Name")
- Bernie Grant as Ramón Rojo, Esteban Rojo, John Baxter, and additional voices
- Joyce Gordon as Marisol and Donna Consuelo Baxter
- Jack Curtis as Silvanito
- Robert Dryden as Piripero
- George Gonneau as Don Miguel Rojo
- Ray Owens as Chico and Juan de Dios
- Peter Fernandez as Antonio Baxter
The film's music was written by Ennio Morricone, credited as Dan Savio. Morricone recalled Leone requesting him to write "Dimitri Tiomkin music" for the film. The trumpet theme is similar to Tiomkin's El Degüello theme from Rio Bravo (1959) (that was called Un dollaro d'onore in Italy) while the opening title whistling music recalls Tiomkin's use of whistling in his Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957). "Some of the music was written before the film, which is unusual. Leone's films were made like that because he wanted the music to be an important part of it, and he often kept the scenes longer simply because he didn't want the music to end. That's why the films are so slow - because of the music." Though not used in the completed film, Peter Tevis recorded lyrics to Morricone's theme for the film. As a movie tie-in to the American release, United Artists Records released a different set of lyrics to Morricone's theme called Lonesome One by Little Anthony and the Imperials.
Home video releases
- The film received its first home video release in January 1982 on the Betamax and VHS formats through Twentieth Century-Fox Video, initially for rental only. This release uses a high-contrast print which, while missing three minutes of footage, looks the closest in terms of colors to director Sergio Leone's original intentions. The United Artists logo on this print is a simple textual graphic which fades in and out. This release runs 96 minutes and 21 seconds.
- Soon after, the film was released on the CED format by RCA SelectaVision VideoDiscs. It is unknown whether it uses the Fox print.
- A rerelease by CBS/Fox Video in 1985 uses the same print as the 1982 videocassette release, except for the United Artists logo at the start being updated to the first incarnation of their familiar “connected letters” logo. The film is now available on laser videodisc in addition to Betamax and VHS. The Betamax and VHS versions of this release are reissued for a limited time in September 1986 as part of CBS/Fox's “Five Star Collection”. This release runs 96 minutes and 34 seconds, though the laser videodisc release inexplicably loses approximately 7 seconds of footage around the side break, consisting of the last few seconds of the scene where Consuelo Baxter pays Joe for bringing Marisol over to the Baxter mansion and the first few seconds of the prisoner exchange scene.
- MGM/UA Home Video rereleased the film on VHS at a lower price on May 17, 1988. This film uses a different print which looks rather muddy in its visuals and screws up the “day for night” footage but still retains some noticeable color. The logo on this one is the MGM/UA Communications logo, with a new 3D glass logo from UA, using its new, more familiar design, following. This is the first time the film is made available uncut. A letterboxed version was released on laser videodisc in 1990, but without any opening logos. The 1988 VHS was reissued on September 25, 1991, as part of a Clint Eastwood-themed gift set release with For a Few Dollars More and Hang 'Em High.
- The film was reissued on January 12, 1994, with an R rating on VHS and, as part of a box set called the Clint Eastwood Trilogy, on letterboxed laser videodisc. It is unknown whether it uses the 1988 print or a new print, but the VHS uses a shortened version of the 3D glass UA logo.
- On October 5, 1999, MGM Home Entertainment rereleased the film on VHS and debuted the film on DVD. While the VHS was pan-and-scan only, the DVD offered both pan-and-scan and letterboxed versions. This release used UA's mid to late '90s logo and features letterboxed opening credits. This is the earliest known home video print to credit United Artists at the end of the film.
- A special edition was released on DVD on June 5, 2007, both individually and as part of the Sergio Leone Anthology, after a two-year delay. This uses the same newly-restored 2005 print as the British DVD from 2005; colorwise, it's the same as the 1988 print, only a lot muddier.
- The film appeared on Blu-ray as part of the Man with No Name Trilogy box set on June 1, 2010, and later individually on August 2, 2011. The 2005 print is reused. This release runs 100 minutes 4 seconds.
- Kino Lorber rereleased the film on Blu-ray on May 22, 2018. Though excessively yellow, the new print, based on a 2014 restoration, is closer to director Sergio Leone's intentions, and is second only to the '80s Fox releases in that regard. The original English mono track appears on home video for the first time ever with this release. This release runs 100 minutes 39 seconds with an added UA logo and restoration credits.
- In June 1983, Warner Home Video released the film on VHS and Betamax for rental only. This release is panned and scanned differently from the Fox releases across the pond, and some somewhat questionable cropping choices are applied, resulting in portions of the opening sequence being cropped with others squeezed (whereas all pan-and-scan releases in the States show the opening credits either fully squeezed or fully letterboxed) and some shots adjusting themselves right after beginning, such as a shot of “Adios Amigo” and his horse approaching the camera. Its color scheme is also somewhat less faithful to director Sergio Leone's intentions than the Fox releases. The United Artists logo is the same as on the 1985 CBS/Fox release. This release runs 91 minutes 55 seconds at 25 frames per second and appears to be slightly longer than the UK theatrical cut, restoring footage of Chico grinding Joe's hand into the floor with his foot, Consuelo Baxter falling backwards upon being shot by Esteban, and Ramon dripping blood from his mouth.
- Warner Home Video released a second cassette in 1987. This was submitted to the BBFC for rating on May 29, 1986, and came back with a 15 rating. The print is exactly the same as the one released during the pre-cert era, though the BBFC submission listing gives a length of 97 minutes 2 seconds; it's likely the BBFC webmaster, when adding the entry to the BBFC's official website, flip-flopped some numbers.
- The film was released on Blu-ray using the 2007 restored print. Aesthetically, it's the best-looking home video print, closely resembling a better-saturated version of the British Warner Bros. cassette. This release runs 100 minutes with restoration credits.
- The film is available on Blu-ray from Tobis, using the 2007 restored print at slightly lower quality than the Italian release, with a bit of an emphasis on reds. This release runs 100 minutes 17 seconds, adding a Tobis logo to the print.
- When the film aired on television for the first time on February 23, 1975, a four and a half minute prologue written and directed by Monte Hellman was added depicting the Stranger being offered a pardon by an unidentified official (played by Harry Dean Stanton) to clean up the situation at San Miguel. The Stranger is shown from behind, with two closeups of his eyes from the film, making it easier to hide the fact that the Stranger here was not portrayed by Clint Eastwood. The scene was added by ABC (the network that aired the film) as a moral justification to American viewers for its violence. This scene would be seen before the film for the next few years before being dropped.