Long before Quentin Tarantino made it fashionable for bag-men to be movie heroes, Eastwood gave us his wiry, take-no-shit drifter in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Sergio Leone's sprawling, corpse-laden contribution to the spaghetti western genre.
The film, first released with an Italian soundtrack in December 1966, was the third in Leone's trilogy of revisionist westerns starring Eastwood. Although it was released after A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a prequel to the other two movies. Besides Eastwood, it stars gnarly dudes Eli Wallach, the Mexican bandito, and Lee Van Cleef, the bounty hunter, all scrambling to outsmart one another and snag a hidden trove of Confederate Army gold. (Eastwood's anonymous character, with his flinty stare, stubble and chewed-up cigarillo, has been referred to as Blondie, Joe or the Man with No Name.)
The restored, re-edited film contains 18 minutes of scenes not included in the original 1968 English version. With the blessing of Italian producer Alberto Grimaldi, the restoration was done by Houston-bred film archivist John Kirk, who works for MGM in Hollywood.
MFAH Brown Auditorium Theater, 1001 Bissonnet
7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, November 28 and 29, and 5 p.m. Sunday, November 30. On Saturday, Kirk will introduce the film and answer audience questions; 713-639-7515. $6.
Last year, Eastwood and Wallach recorded their lines for the new scenes at the studio. The void left by Van Cleef's death in 1989 was filled by celebrity impersonator Simon Prescott. The original film, shot by Leone's Italian crew in Spain, was made in an era when no sound was actually recorded by Italian filmmakers, so all the lines had to be dubbed in later.
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Kirk says film geeks might be able to discern how the actors' voices have aged in the newly dubbed scenes. But that's just a small part of the fun. "The other thing about this movie, besides the epic style," he says, "is the subtle humor compared to most other westerns -- especially Eastwood's wisecracking, witty comebacks."