Archive for October 14th, 2013

by Sachin Gandhi

Where life had no value, Death, sometimes had its price.

That is why the bounty killers appeared.

The above words that appear shortly after the opening credits of For a Few Dollars More highlight the economic climate that ensured bounty hunters thrived in Sergio Leone’s appropriately titled film, the second in the Dollars Trilogy. In the film, killing a wanted outlaw fetched $1000, more than an average person’s annual pay. When the reward on a $2000 outlaw is collected, a town sheriff comments that it would take him three years to earn that money. The high gains for such murder means that being a full-time bounty killer is a lucrative, albeit risky, profession. The underlying need for money drives the film’s plot but money also plays a crucial role in the film’s production. The first Dollars film, A fistful of Dollars, made no money for Sergio Leone but he made some off For a Few Dollars More. He also had some extra money to shoot the second film with, something illustrated by the elaborate stylish sequences in the film which add nothing to the plot and extend the length by 30 minutes over the first film. Further, money also played a part in the casting of Lee Van Cleef as per Film Historian Sir Christopher Frayling. After failing to land his original choices of Henry Fonda or Lee Marvin, Leone remembered Lee Van Cleef, a character actor, who hardly got more than a few lines in films such as High Noon and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Leone and his production manager, who happened to be carrying a suitcase full of dollar bills, were scheduled to meet Van Cleef in Los Angeles. When Leone saw Van Cleef dressed in a long raincoat in the parking lot, he told his production manager to sign Van Cleef right away and told him to use some of the dollar bills in the suitcase to seal the deal. Lee Van Cleef’s casting proved to be inspired and likely would not have happened if the film production didn’t have any money to offer. (more…)

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