For a few dollars

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German title For a few dollars
Original title Per un pugno di dollari
For a handful of dollar.svg
Country of production Italy , Spain , Germany
original language Italian , English , Spanish
Publishing year 1964
length 100 minutes
Age rating FSK 16
Director Sergio Leone
script Sergio Leone
Duccio Tessari
production Arrigo Colombo
Giorgio Papi
music Ennio Morricone
camera Massimo Dallamano
cut Roberto Cinquini
(as Bob Quintle )

Successor  →
For a few more dollars

For a handful of dollars (original title: Per un pugno di dollari ) is a spaghetti western by Sergio Leone from 1964 . It is the first part of Leone's so-called dollar trilogy and leads Clint Eastwood in the role of a mysterious stranger to the Mexican desert town of San Miguel. There he is confronted not only with ruthless brutality, but also with death. The leading roles are occupied by Marianne Koch , Gian Maria Volonté , José Calvo , Wolfgang Lukschy and Sieghardt Rupp .


A lone rider approaches the remote desert town of San Miguel, a shabby patch of Mexico. San Miguel is ruled by two rival family smuggling clans, the Anglo-American Baxters, led by Sheriff Baxter, and the Mexican Rojos, led by the vain and brutal Ramón. The stranger witnesses the mistreatment of a young boy and his father by a gang of villains, and a woman is apparently held captive. Nobody interferes. At most, the locals look out behind their curtains from behind their curtains from a safe distance. A noose dangles from a tree that suggests nothing good. Only the bell ringer tries to address the stranger, who remains monosyllabic, which does not change when some men try to mock him. They shoot the stranger's mule in the legs, whereupon the terrified animal flees in panic. However, the stranger stops at a sign above a bar. Their host Silvanito entertains the unexpected guest, but at the same time advises him to leave San Miguel again. Only if he doesn't mind killing can he find a job quickly, he adds with resignation. The stranger tells Silvanito that if the Baxters are on one side and the Rojos on the other, his place is probably in the middle.

First he hires Don Miguel Benito Rojo as a killer and kills the four Baxter henchmen who mocked him. The next morning he and Silvanito followed a stagecoach closely guarded by soldiers of the Mexican army. You will witness how the Rojos, wearing the uniforms of US officers, together with their gang, start a shootout with their gang while the carriage rested on the Rio Bravo, after they had previously killed a squad of American soldiers, and stole the boxes of gold. All soldiers accompanying the carriage are killed. They leave the bodies of the American and Mexican soldiers who have been killed in order to pretend that they killed each other.

The stranger now begins to play the warring families off against each other and to play a perfidious game with them by alternately offering them to work for them and setting traps for them. He collects a handful of dollars for every betrayal . In the presence of Silvanito, the stranger placed the bodies of two officers in the cemetery to make the clans believe that they had survived the massacre on the Rio Bravo. The result is that there is a wild shooting between the warring clans in the cemetery. Meanwhile, the stranger searches the Rojos camp for the gold and comes across the captured Marisol, who was gambled away by her husband while playing poker with Ramón. He hands it over to the Baxters. Since the Rojos now have Antonio, the son of the Baxters, under their control, an exchange takes place. The stranger sees that Marisol has to return to Ramón Rojo against her will. By means of a ruse, he succeeds again in freeing not only Marisol, but also her husband and the young son, who is serving as hostage, and in casting suspicion on the Baxters. The family flees to the nearby woods on the advice of the stranger.

When Ramón Rojo realizes that the stranger helped Marisol escape, he has him tortured because he wants the beautiful woman back at all costs. However, the stranger escapes the following night and sets the Rojos property on fire. The Rojos suspect the stranger to be with the Baxters and murder the entire family. The stranger is meanwhile secretly hidden in a coffin by the local coffin carpenter and undertaker and taken from the village to a hiding place, where he can recover from his injuries. Then he returns to San Miguel, where he settles accounts with the Rojos and especially with Ramón.

Genre, origin, background

Already in the opening credits "artfully implemented and energetic" by Luigi Lardani it becomes clear that the film is "really down to business". Silhouettes in red, black and white appear, with a whipping sound of gunshots, there is extreme riding, shooting and death. Even the lonely gunslinger appears on horseback at a frenzied gallop, stops in front of a horde of bandits and then rides leisurely on. Ennio Morricone's music sets the mood right from the start that a “heroic, gloomy, violent”, but also “emotional” film awaits us. Morricone's music was completely new at the time, it was perfectly adapted to the film images and not only underlined the gripping tension of many scenes, but also gave the film plenty of pathos, which was not insignificant for its success. Morricone underlined his compositions with elements such as clattering hooves, horse whining, gun shots, bells and the cracking of whips, electric guitar sounds were accompanied by choirs, a spectrum of human and animal screams, whistling, grunting and moaning sounds were mixed. A banally whistled melody sometimes turned into an operatically increasing swirling vortex of tones. Morricone's music had something operatic about it in its intensity and effect. With her dissonances and unexpected chords she underlined and defined the characters' emotions.

This film, directed by Sergio Leone (in some copies he uses the pseudonym Bob Robertson) founded the genre of the spaghetti westerns and made Clint Eastwood , who was already one through his role as the likeable cowboy Yates in the US long-term series Thousand Miles of Dust had become a star. Eastwood saw the role offer as an opportunity to make a change that lay beyond the image of the "glorifying Wild West myth". In this role he was able to bring what he had missed so far, a mysterious level. “The stranger” with his sun-tanned face, stubble of beard and dingy brown clothes becomes part of the landscape through which he rides. The writer David Nichols gave his first impression of the film in retrospect in the winter of 1980/1981 in Sight and Sound : “The sight of Eastwood - unshaven, a cigarillo stump in the corner of his mouth, dressed in a poncho and riding along on a mule - loosened one Shock off. Should he really be the hero of the film? ”Eastwood, on the other hand, saw the opportunity offered by the role of a mysterious and dangerous character as an effective means of increasing the suspense of a film. He drew on this in some of his later films, for example in A Stranger Without a Name (1973) and Pale Rider - Der namenlose Reiter (1985), where the characters also appear out of nowhere.

The follow -up films For a Few Dollars More (1965) and Two Glorious Scoundrels (1966) emerged from the collaboration with Leone , which together are now known as the Dollar Trilogy . Sergio Leone told producer Iain Johnstone that his interest in westerns dates back to antiquity: “I've always believed that the greatest western writer of all time is Homer . Achilles , Agamemnon and Ajax are the archetypes of today's cowboy. That ultimately led me to shoot a western. ” In his biography“ Sergio Leone: Something to do with Death ”, the historian Christopher Frayling documented the influence of other westerns on Leone's work, including My Darling Clementine - Faustrecht der Prärie (1946), Rio Bravo (1959) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).

For a handful of dollars, it is based heavily on Akira Kurosawa's 1961 samurai film Yojimbo , a film adaptation of Hammett's novel Red Harvest from 1927, which Kurosawa is said to have served as a template, which the director always denied. Since no one from Leone's staff had taken care of the copyrights in advance, a legal dispute arose, which was finally settled out of court: Kurosawa received the exploitation rights for the Far East and a worldwide profit sharing. Kurosawa's film features elements of George Stevens' western My Great Friend Shane (1953) , a film that also inspired Eastwood's western Pale Rider (1985). Further cross-references to other works can be found in the film, such as passages from the Bible , some from Shakespeare and features of the Commedia dell'arte , such as Carlo Goldoni's play The Servant of Two Masters from 1745.

The donors stipulated that a US actor had to play the leading role. Leone's efforts to win Henry Fonda or Charles Bronson for the film failed, both refused. Even Rory Calhoun could not warm to the story; James Coburn showed interest, although he later announced that the script was the worst he had ever been offered, but charged $ 25,000, too much for Leone's meager budget. It was Richard Harrison who recommended Eastwood, as he could not himself because of other commitments. So Clint Eastwood only came into play as an alternative. When he arrived in Italy, he wore a sleeveless sheepskin jacket, a bleached black Levis, a cowboy hat and a poncho and had thin black cigarillos with him, all the utensils he had bought to give his character an outward appearance. Leone later announced that the appearance of "the stranger" was created by him. Actually, Leone Eastwood seemed too intellectual for the role, he wanted to "make something more virile, harder out of him", "something older - hence the beard, the cigarillos and the poncho that made him appear somehow more massive". In the entire crew, Eastwood was the only native speaker of English. As a precaution, the scripts were available in four different languages. Since the languages ​​Italian, Spanish, English and German were spoken on the set, no sound recordings were made from the outset. The voices of all participants were subsequently synchronized.

Clint Eastwood saw the film as a welcome opportunity to get to know Italy and Spain and learn about how films are made in other countries, so he accepted for $ 15,000. The total budget for the film was $ 200,000. The film was shot mainly in the rugged landscape of the Spanish province of Almería (particularly on the Cabo de Gata peninsula and in Colmenar ). Some scenes were created in the Cinecittà studios in Rome. The scenes on the main street of San Miguel were shot in Hoyo de Manzanares near Madrid. For some of the sets, such as the Mexican border town of San Miguel, existing ones from other film productions were used, for example for the spaghetti western The Last Two from Rio Bravo (1964). The conditions on the set were very different from Hollywood productions and were different from what Eastwood was used to. He later said: “We had no electricity, no caravan with a toilet, and the filming had to be partially suspended due to a lack of money, but Leone did not let that bother Leone. He was improvised and ingenious. ”Eastwood's boots and the revolver belt were loaned from the western series Thousand Miles of Dust . This penchant for frugality suited the character of the actor and later also accompanied his own films after he had taken a seat on the director's chair. The fact that Leone had a formative influence on Eastwood is made clear by the celebrated Western Merciless (1992), which the star realized together with his other mentor Don Siegel .


At the time there were quite a few scoffers who mocked the film project: a low-budget western, an unknown director, filming in Spain and Italy. But Eastwood had shown several times in his career how bold he was when he was convinced of it, and success proved him right more than once. Because of the script, which the director and two collaborators had written down in three weeks, there were initially differences of opinion between Leone and Eastwood, as Eastwood wanted his role to be more taciturn. Above all, the hero should appear mysterious through his laconic manner, as a counterpoint, so to speak, to the macabre humor of the story. He managed to convince Leone of his idea and to make his role less dialogue-heavy. In contrast to the flamboyant game of his Italian colleagues was Eastwood's reserved portrayal of the taciturn stranger. He later said: “Italian actors tend to be bombast. I guess they all thought I wasn't acting at all. Everyone except Leone, who knew exactly what I was up to. ”The director and leading actor were not wrong, the film was also a box office success because of their interaction. Eastwood's willingness to take risks - he'd accepted the role although his agent and business manager advised against him - had paid off once again.

The film was not only successful because of the well-staged story of the lonely cowboy, but also because of its impressive pictures in Techniscope and the unusual, creative music by Ennio Morricone , without which Leone's spaghetti westerns are difficult to imagine. Morricone was still little known at the time and Leone was skeptical whether he was the right one. Another factor contributing to this was that Leone believed that Morricone had copied one of his most recent works from the Russian composer Dimitri Tiomkin , without knowing that the composer had been commissioned to produce a poor imitation of Tiomkin's. The “gorgeous sounds” that Morricone composed for For a Fistful of Dollars had a major impact on the brilliant reviews and, ultimately, on the film's making history. For a handful of dollars, it is widely considered to be the film that revolutionized the western genre and gave it important impetus.

After the completion of the film, Eastwood returned to the USA and did not even notice that Leone's western was becoming a hit in Europe. In a report by Variety he then read that an Italo-Western wave had been triggered in Europe by a staggering success of the film Per un pugno di dollari , which, however, did not mean anything to him, since his film was entitled Il Magnificio Straniero when he left had worn. It wasn't until a few days later that he found out about the outstanding box office results that Per un pugno di dollari had achieved - with Clint Eastwood in the lead role. After a few test screenings in Rome and Naples, where neither the critics nor the cinema owners could see anything from the film, it was shown in a backyard cinema in Florence in August 1964. Although it received minimal advertising, the performance sold out last night. After just a week, people were lining up to buy a card. In November the film had its premiere in Rome; at the end of 1964 it was even the most successful Italian film of all time. When Eastwood arrived in Paris for the film's premiere, he received an enthusiastic welcome: he had become a superstar in Europe. The way for the two sequels was paved.

In the United States, the film only opened two and a half years later, on February 2, 1967, in eighty New York cinemas. Few of its critics did not tear it apart. As in Italy, word of mouth ensured that the film continued to grow in popularity in the United States, which was ultimately clear to United Artists . And so the European success story in the USA only continued with some delay, although the critics in most cases stuck to their initially expressed opinion, often with reference to the brutality and amorality of the trilogy. However, the views changed little by little in individual cases. Eastwood not only made the film an international superstar, it also became a type of mysterious anti-hero.

Of course, there was the question of why For a Fistful of Dollars developed into a downright cult film, even though the story was not new and Kurosawa's version actually only ran reasonably well in arthouse cinemas. "The difference was in Leone's extrapolation of Kurosawa's themes into the context of a western" and in Eastwood's charismatic embodiment of the antihero. In addition, his role was very much in keeping with the zeitgeist. He didn't just play a role, he created a myth that audiences around the world could identify with. The actor was well aware of this: “Every film actor needs something special. That's what makes him a star, while a whole load of damn good actors are regularly overlooked. Audiences value their skills, but they don't stand in line at the box office because of them. They only do that for one star. "

Ingredients for a spaghetti western

The protagonist is portrayed as a "hardened" and "cool" antihero who naturally knows his pistol inside out. He is confronted with a villain who has no scruples and who leads a number of like-minded fellows. Memorable, powerful, pithy dialogues and catchy music are essential; Supplements are just as essential as blood, sweat and dust. Extreme close-ups, quick cuts between the protagonists' faces, their hands and pistols, counter-cut with long shots, are the genre-typical means of captivating the viewer. Bernardo Bertolucci summarized the situation of the American western in the magazine Film Comment from July / August 1989 as follows: “The American western was - more dead than alive - in agony. If he was ever resurrected, it is in some ways thanks to Sergio Leone. ”The director, who co-wrote Leone's masterpiece Play Me a Song of Death , knew exactly what he was talking about - a discontinued model. The once so profitable genre of the western threatened to go under, until Sergio Leone took the stage with his film For a Fistful of Dollars and a second and third part were not long in coming. Other Italian filmmakers also jumped on the bandwagon. It was preferred to shoot in Europe with a focus on Spain (hence “Paella Western”), and funding from several European countries was also acquired. It is true that the production conditions for many of these films were confused and lacking any order, and the dubbing also left a lot to be desired, which initially did not affect their success. It was the new heroes who no longer corresponded to the old cowboy cliché, created a crackling tension and drew people to the cinemas. The mystique that surrounded these heroes made them interesting to the public. The dialogues only allowed a brief glimpse and made them all the more curious because of their puzzling nature. Since this curiosity was never fully satisfied, the tension that surrounded her life remained constant.

As more and more hackneyed parodies hit the market, the spaghetti western had passed its peak in the mid-1970s. According to Bertolucci, "Sergio Leone took over the American western to give something back to Hollywood". And it is a fact that without Leone's “pioneering achievements” the films of “Sam Peckinpah, Don Siegel, but also Quentin Tarantino would probably have looked very, very different”.

The pseudonyms

Since the Italian audience wanted to believe that they were presenting a US western to them, the names of some of those involved hid themselves behind a pseudonym, and also to make the film more attractive for the international market. It also played a role that the test screenings of the film did not go well. So director Sergio Leone became Bob Robertson, composer Ennio Morricone became Dan Savio, cameraman Massimo Dallamano became Jack Dalmas, actor Gian Maria Volonté became John Wells, alternatively Johnny Wels and Johannes Siedel, Mario Brega became Richard Stuyvesant, Josef Egger became Joe Edger, Benito Stefanelli to Benny Reeves, Bruno Carotenuto to Carol Brown, alternatively Bruno Caroth, Daniel Martín to Dan Martin, Margarita Lozano to Rita Lozan, José Calvo to Josef Calvo, Antonio Prieto to Anton Prieter, and the producers Arrigo Colombo and Giorgio Papi became Harry Colombo and George Papi.

In the German dubbed version, the surname of the family clan "Rojo" was sometimes given as "Rocco". Marisol's husband was named "Julian" and her son was named "Joseph".


In the first US television broadcast, an additional prologue was inserted before the opening credits , which has a meaningful content: Joe is still an inmate here and is released by the prison director (played by Harry Dean Stanton ) on the condition and with the official order, to restore order in the village of San Miguel.

Clint Eastwood was not involved in the prologue: his role is played by another actor with similar costumes and props . To hide this, the face is seldom and never fully seen; besides, Joe has no text in the prologue.


The film is a joint production by Constantin Film , Munich, Jolly-Film, Rome and Ocean-Film, Madrid. The first dubbed version by the dubbing company Aventin Film, Munich, Lunatic Synchron, Munich (post-synchro), cinema version from 1965, dialogue script and dialogue director: Horst Sommer / Joachim Brinkmann looked like this:

The German-speaking actors Marianne Koch, Sieghardt Rupp, Wolfgang Lukschy and Josef Egger spoke to themselves.

1975 re-performance logo

In 1980 the film was re-dubbed by Tobis , who had acquired the rights in 1978 after the Constantin bankruptcy, and brought it back to the cinemas again, shortened by two minutes. This time the dialogue book came from Rainer Brandt , who also directed the dialogue, although some of the dialogues deviated from the first synchronization. Eastwood was again voiced by Klaus Kindler. Sieghardt Rupp's part was spoken by Rainer Brandt himself; Marianne Koch was dubbed by Brandt's wife Ursula Heyer . Only Wolfgang Lukschy spoke to himself again. Other speakers:

Film data, further adaptations, DVD

  • German premiere: March 5, 1965 ( For a handful of dollars )
  • Italian premiere: September 12, 1964 in Florence ( Per un pugno di dollari )
  • Spanish premiere: September 27, 1965 ( Por un puñado de dólares )
  • First performance in the USA: January 18, 1967 ( For a Fistful of Dollars )

On September 23, 1964 the film was shown at the Sorrento Film Festival, and it was released in 1964 in Turin, Milan and Rome. It was released in theaters in Japan in December 1965. It was first seen in France in March 1966. Other countries in which he started in 1966: Argentina, Sweden, Portugal, Denmark and Canada. It also ran in 1967 in Turkey, Norway, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Uruguay. It started in Finland in 1968, was revived in Italy in 1968 and in the USA in 1969. It started in Hong Kong in 1969, was revived in Argentina in 1971 and started in Belgium in 1973. It was shown in cinemas in Finland in 1977 and was re-released in 1979 in the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1986 he came to the cinema in Hungary. In October 1991 it was shown for the first time on television in the Federal Republic of Germany. In June 1995 it was presented in Italy at the Festival dei Due Mondi , in 2001 it was screened at the Festival Internacional de Cine de Mar del Plata and in July 2002 at the Taormina Film Festival . A restored version was shown at the Venice Film Festival in 2007 and at the Tallgrass Film Festival in the USA in 2014. A restored version was presented at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in November 2014. In June 2016 the film was shown at the Transatlantyk Festival in Poland. The film was marketed in other countries.

In 1996 Walter Hill re-directed the film under the title Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis in the lead role and a plot that was postponed to the 1920s. In this version, the film has to a certain extent returned to its original.

The DVD release by Paramount is completely uncut and contains the original cinema dubbing from 1965. In addition, a Blu-ray released by Tobis on February 15, 2013 is available, which also contains an uncut version of the film. The film is also part of DeAgostini's large Clint Eastwood DVD collection, where it appeared as number 4. The DVD comes with a 14-page booklet accompanying the film.


In the USA, the film was almost invariably panned by the critics, for example James Powers let the Hollywood Reporter announce that he missed “any continuity”, but the triumphant advance of the spaghetti western could not be stopped: “Leone succeeded with the dollar Trilogy a cinematic revolution ”.

Judith Crist dismissed the film version in the New York World Journal Tribune as a "cheap production" that was "neither really bad nor mediocre". "The whole thing [is] far too constructed [...] a substitute Western that [wants] to prove that you [can] kill people by stabbing, burning, trampling and shredding." Other comments included: “blown cowboy parody”, rape of the myth of the “good old west” or “cold-blooded, sterile imitation”. The low budget was also taken on the corn: [...] "The film suffers from the terribly mechanical sounding synchronization and the tiresome generality of the Mexican sets," wrote the influential critic Andrew Sarris , for example, and praised America's good taste, which is superior to the rest of the world “In The Village Voice . Later he revised his total dismantling, fell into the "other extreme and extolled the religious symbolism that reappeared in the three films".

All American reviews united a certain “piquancy”, perhaps even anger, “that the Italians had dared to usurp the most American of all cinema genres”. Had the film gone more in the direction of Kurosawa's yojimbo or had taken the neorealist line of films from 1940s Italy, it would have been almost certain to receive critical acclaim, as was its success with the limited art house audience.

“The film Sergio Leones, which was inspired by Kurosawa's 'Yojimbo' and initially received with reservations because of his violent acts, became a huge box-office success and created a new genre, the spaghetti westerns. At the same time he founded the career of Clint Eastwood. "

“Formally surprisingly appealing European western, which lives almost exclusively from shootings, murder and sadness. Because of this tendency and the hero's undifferentiated striving, even from 18 with reservations. "

“This film gives Clint ample opportunity to present the facets of his expressiveness in a nuanced way - the growls, the squinting of the eyes, the malicious grin. [...] Clint has mastered the art of small gestures perfectly. It is also fitting that Leone confessed to the American Film Institute in 1984: 'The truth is that I am not an action director, any more than John Ford. I am more of a director of gestures and silence.' "

- Clint Eastwood No. 4 by DeAgostini

The critic Henry Hart wrote in his review in March 1967 that Eastwood's character was nothing more than "a samurai in a poncho with a broad-brimmed hat, who wields his rifle instead of a sword".

In Illustrierte Film-Kurier No. 32, which was released for the theatrical release of For a Fistful of Dollars , the film was apostrophized as “a master class Western”. Eastwood did his job "with dignity, serenity, lightning-fast and supple feats with horse and colt - and that handwriting of his fists that nobody has seriously ever felt!" [...] ... "which, however, is entirely what makes a special flair is the charisma of his gaze, combined with the tiger-like, supple way of moving ”. [...] Leone's film is “not just a western as it stands in the book; he even outclasses a whole series of relevant Hollywood productions ”. For a handful of dollars an "excellently written story, staged with an almost unbelievable realism, of 'down at the border', namely of the restless border region between the USA and Mexico".

Influence on film culture

  • In the third part of the science fiction film Back to the Future from 1990, the character Marty McFly, played by actor Michael J. Fox , uses the same trick with the bulletproof poncho as in the western For a Fistful of Dollars in a revolver duel for a showdown by McFly tucking the iron door of an oven under his outerwear. In addition, the character Marty McFly in the film Back to the Future III gives himself the name Clint Eastwood as a pseudonym in the Wild West .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Certificate of Release for For a Fistful of Dollars . Voluntary self-regulation of the film industry , January 2013 (PDF; test number: 33 082 V).
  2. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o The great Clint Eastwood DVD Collection No. 4 For a handful of dollars by DeAgostini, Verlag DeAgostini Deutschland GmbH, Hamburg, editorial management: Ariane Ossowski, editing: Joachim Seidel, Project management: Niklas Fürer, 2014, pp. 1–7, 10–12.
  3. "Gringo", "Yankee", "American" or "Joe" is what the coffin maker Piripero calls the stranger. In the film announcement there was talk of the "man without a name". It was left to the critics to develop their own theories about the identity of the alien.
  4. a b c d e f g A Fistful of Dollars Articles at TCM - Turner Classic Movies (English)
  5. a b c d e f g h i Gerald Cole, Peter Williams: Clint Eastwood His films - His life , Heyne Filmbibliothek , Wilhelm Heyne Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Munich, 1986, pp. 41, 44, 46, 49– 50, 55, 60, 85-86.
  6. locations according to
  7. a b Illustrated Film Courier No. 32 For a handful of dollars. United Publishing Companies Franke & Co. KG, Munich, pp. 1–2, 9–10
  8. a b A Fistful of Dollars at TCM (English)
  9. Raf Baldassarre mentioned in does not play in the film
  10. For a handful of dollars at
  11. For a handful of dollar DVD at
  12. For a handful of dollars. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed December 10, 2019 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  13. Evangelischer Presseverband München, Review No. 99/1965