For A Few Dollars More



The film begins by showing us something of the character and methods of the two main characters in the film, Colonel Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef) and Manco (Clint Eastwood). Both of them are working as bounty hunters.

Colonel Mortimer

We see Colonel Mortimer first. He is travelling on a train, posing as a preacher. When he finds that the train will not be stopping at his destination, he takes matters into his own hands by pulling the emergency cord. The train stops exactly at Tucumcari station, where Mortimer gets off.

Image: I did get off
"I did get off."

Mortimer walks over to the ticket office, where he sees a wanted poster for Guy Callaway, offering a $1,000 reward. For some reason, there is a small child, probably about three or four years old, beside the clerk in the ticket office. Someone has scrawled two additional zeros on the poster, making the amount $100,000. The clerk tells Mortimer that Guy himself saw the poster, and was insulted that the reward was only a "measly" thousand dollars, and so he added the two zeros. He adds that nobody has the guts to confront such a killer. Mortimer just gives him a steely-eyed stare, and then takes down the poster. The clerk comments, "At least, it's been that way till now."

The Saloon At Tucumcari

Mortimer arrives in the saloon in Tucumcari. Despite the lively tunes on the piano, the place appears to be occupied by the piano player, a bartender, a woman cleaning the floor, and two guys drinking. Perhaps the harsh edge on the piano has driven away the other patrons.

"Where is he?"
Image: Where is he?
"I've no idea where he'd be today."
Yeah, right.

Or perhaps it's the presence of Guy Callaway, who turns out to be upstairs with one of the saloon prostitutes. Despite an initial reluctance to answer, the bartender eventually looks upstairs while denying any knowledge of Callaway's whereabouts.

Mortimer goes upstairs, and shoves the poster under the door to Callaway's room, which is obviously his because of the noise of the fun and games coming from inside. Clearly visible on the poster is a continuity error - the two extra zeros that Callaway wrote there earlier are now missing.

Callaway hears Mortimer knock, and puts four bullets through the door before escaping through the window and beginning to gallop away on his horse.

Killing At A Distance

Image: Guy Callaway looking like the trapped rat he is
Guy Callaway looking like the trapped rat he is

Mortimer shows that he goes for long-range combat by shooting the horse, and then Callaway, with a rifle. Callaway is only wounded, however, and tries to shoot Mortimer with his pistol. The range proves too much for this, and Mortimer's use of a detachable stock enables him to shoot Callaway with a pistol despite the long range.

When Mortimer claims the reward from the sheriff, he sees a poster advertising a $2,000 reward for Baby "Red" Cavanagh. The sheriff tells him that Cavanagh was in White Rocks a week before, and that someone else is also on Cavanagh's trail, someone by the name of Manco.


Image: Manco walking into White Rocks
Manco walking into White Rocks

The scene then switches to Manco (Eastwood) who, obviously, is also a bounty hunter. Manco arrives in White Rocks in an early evening rain storm. In a stark contrast to the clean, well-dressed Mortimer who travels by train, Manco is on foot, leading a horse. He is scruffy and, on this occasion, soaking wet. The saloon in White Rocks is pretty crowded, although the piano doesn't sound much better.

A man with a sheriff's badge tells Manco where in the saloon Cavanagh is sitting. As Manco goes to confront Cavanagh, the sheriff walks quickly out of the saloon. Manco interrupts Cavanagh's poker game, and deals one hand for Cavanagh and one for himself. They play briefly, and Cavanagh's hand of three kings, a ten, and a queen loses to Manco's three aces, a queen and a jack.

Up Close And Personal

During the card game, we see the sheriff getting the attention of a customer in a barber shop. After a rather one-sided fist fight between Manco and Cavanagh, three toughs, including the half-shaved man from the barber shop, make their last mistake by confronting Manco. Cavanagh makes his last mistake also, by going for a gun while Manco is distracted.

Manco collects the $2,000 reward, and the sheriff tells him that this is a lot of money. In fact, it's so much that the sheriff has to work for three years to earn it. We are seeing a recurring theme in Spaghetti Westerns - the corrupt, cowardly, and/or conniving sheriff being put in his place by the protagonist. Manco is no exception. He asks, "Tell me, isn't the sheriff supposed to be courageous, loyal, and above all honest?" When the sheriff answers, "Yes, that he is," Manco takes his badge and gives it to two men standing outside, saying that they need a new sheriff.


The next thing we see is a jail. Judging by the uniforms worn by the guards, the jail is probably in Mexico. We see some of these guards being efficiently and quietly murdered by some invaders, before the next principal character is shown to us.

This is El Indio, ably played by Gian Maria Volonte. He is lying, apparently asleep, on a bed in a cell that he is sharing with another prisoner. The other man is playing with a small white box, whose importance becomes clear later. From outside, we hear the sound of painful death, followed by the jangling of keys as a group of scruffy men, obviously the invaders, appear in the corridor outside. They open the door and come into the cell. The sleeping man slowly wakes up and lifts his hat to look at the newcomers, then suddenly sits up.

Hasta Luego, Amigo

His next action is to request a gun from one of the invaders. He then gets up and bids farewell to the other prisoner, saying, "Hasta luego, amigo," before shooting him. As Indio and his rescuers are about to leave the prison, there is a slightly mysterious scene, where Indio knocks on a door, and shoots the man who looks out. The way in which this is done suggests that there is some kind of bad blood between Indio and the now-dead man, but there is no explanation for what this might be.

They move on, and more soldiers are killed as the gang leaves the building. One last soldier is discovered hiding below some stairs, and El Indio lets him live so that he can tell the world what happened. As he says this, he starts to laugh, and then we cut to a new scene.

Another Wanted Poster

In another town, a man uses a pistol as a hammer to nail a poster to a wall. This poster advertises a $10,000 reward for El Indio, dead or alive. Indio's picture looks as if it, too, is laughing. Manco sees it, and then the scene shifts, and we see that Mortimer sees it as well. The rapid switching back and forth between the poster and an ever-tighter shot of Mortimer's face gives us reason to believe that there may be more to Mortimer's interest than just the money, but there is no clue yet what it might be.

A Traitor

We see El Indio next at his hideout, where they have taken another man and his wife and child. This man turns out to have taken money for the information that led to Indio being in prison for the last eighteen months, and Indio is (understandably, I'd say) upset. When Indio learns that the child is eighteen months old, he becomes more angry, because the traitor took the money to imprison Indio, and used it to start a family. Indio has the woman and child taken outside and murdered.

We then see a very powerful scene, as Indio gives the traitor untied, and gives him a gun. He offers to give the traitor a fair chance at shooting him, unlike the last time. He produces a pocket watch-sized music box from his pocket and, opening it, tells the traitor that when the music stops, he should begin.

The music box plays, and the two men draw. A single shot rings out, and the traitor is dead. The scene is more powerful than this brief description suggests because of the way in which the tension is built, accompanied by an organ with at least some of the stops pulled out.

Indio then waves the others away, except for Niño (Mario Brega), from whom he takes a cigarette, presumably made of something stronger than tobacco.

Looking For A Secure Bank

The next scene shows Mortimer going into an unnamed bank, although we later learn that this bank is in Tucumcari. He is greeted by the manager, who has obviously heard of Douglas Mortimer, but incorrectly identifies the state from which he comes. Mortimer is looking for a secure bank, one where he can deposit a large sum. The manager assures him that this bank has "all the safeguards you are looking for", but Mortimer is looking for something more. In fact, he is looking for the most secure possible bank. He asks the manager to suppose that he, Mortimer, is a bandit with a large band of killers, and then identify the most impossible target. At this, the manager gets one of those pasted-on, desperate grins, and tries to be subtle about nudging the door of a safe behind his desk closed.

Mortimer's eyes move, suggesting that he has noticed, but he says nothing. After a moment, the bank manager suggests that Mortimer should be visiting the Bank of El Paso, which is more like a fortress than a bank. Indeed, it is so secure that "not even Indio would dare to attack that one." Mortimer asks him when is the next train to El Paso. When he hears this, the manager's relief is palpable, and he promises to telegraph the Bank of El Paso to inform them of Mortimer's imminent arrival.

El Paso

Manco has obviously also selected El Paso as a likely target, for the next scene shows him riding into the town. He is greeted by one of the local contenders for a "Young Entrepreneur Of The Year" award, a lad by the name of Fernando. Fernando appoints himself to be Manco's guide, and suggests a hotel and a stable. When Manco asks him why that hotel, Fernando answers that at the other hotel, the rooms are infested with cockroaches, and that the preferred hotel has much cheaper rooms, and (sly leer) "there's a landlady at this one señor." Manco asks, "Married?" and Fernando replies, "Yes, but she doesn't care."

Manco looks around, and Fernando tells him that that building is the bank, and that when he (Fernando) gets some money, he'll put it in. Manco tells him that he can earn some by telling Manco about strangers - and here's fifty cents. Fernando immediately points out Mortimer coming out of the other hotel, the one with the cockroaches. When asked where the stranger is staying, Fernando holds out for another coin, and then (points), "The hotel." It's a fine line, and he is treading it well, so far.

Getting A Room

Manco goes into the hotel, and is greeted by the landlord and the landlady. They are a mismatched couple, I suppose. The landlady is a tall, buxom redhead, and stands a head taller than her husband. When Manco enters, he asks for the room above the lobby. The landlord tells him that this room, their best, is already taken, and that, in fact, there are no rooms free at all.

Manco asks who is staying in the room, and then crosses the name out of the register before going upstairs to eject Señor Martinez from the room. Señor Martinez comes downstairs, and although the landlord attempts to give him a different room, he insists on departing. Perhaps the reason why there were no rooms free is that Manco's height offended the diminutive landlord; Señor Martinez is only a few inches taller than the landlord. Manco settles into the room, and lies back on the bed to look at the poster that he carries, advertising the reward for El Indio.

A Nice Little Parable

At this time, Indio is in his hideout, an half-ruined old chapel. Indio is awakened by the sound of the bell, while the members of his gang are eating some kind of meal. We see what kind of men they are when Cochelio (Aldo Sambrell) says, "Watch this!" before throwing his knife so that it sticks into Wild's (Klaus Kinski) chair right next to Wild's shoulder.

Word of Indio's escape has obviously reached some other members of his old gang, and Groggy is announcing his arrival by shooting at the bell. Groggy tells Indio that one other of Indio's associates, by the name of Sancho, will not be coming, because he is in jail for the next four years.

Groggy (Luigi Pistilli) asks what plans Indio has, and Indio announces that he intends to raid the Bank of El Paso. He outlines the problem, referring to a plan of the bank that he has acquired from somewhere. It is a formidable problem, because the bank's big iron safe weighs three tons, and supposedly cannot be opened with dynamite. Indio, however, knows a secret about the bank.

Image: A nice little parable
"I'd like to relate a nice little parable."

He tells the gang that he will tell them a parable, and climbs to the pulpit, where he tells them that the man who shared his cell, a carpenter, made a wooden drinks cabinet that contained a hidden safe, and that the bank's money, almost a million dollars, is inside this safe, not the big safe.

Learning About The Bank Of El Paso, Part One

The final shot in the previous scene is of the carpenter's model of the cabinet, and the first shot of this scene shows the real cabinet, as Mortimer talks to the bank's president about the security of the bank. The president tells him that they have almost half a million dollars on deposit, and we see a clerk taking some of it (supposedly, that is) from a large iron safe. The president goes on to tell Mortimer about the armed guard who remains inside while the bank is closed, and the patrol who are on guard outside. Mortimer comments that the Bank of San Fransisco isn't that well protected, and the president agrees, adding that the protection is so good that only a complete fool would attempt to rob it. Mortimer says, "Yeah. Or a complete madman."

How Not To Light A Match

Four of Indio's men ride into El Paso, and decline the aid of the local urchins. Fernando sees this, and goes to tell Manco. For the first coin, he tells Manco about the first new stranger. First? There's four, all arriving at once! For another coin, he mentions the second stranger, and this proves to be his undoing. Manco grabs a handful of Fernando's shirt, "You listen to me, you sawed-off little runt, I want to know how many men there are altogether." Fernando sensibly tells him about all four, and also tells him that they are in the saloon.

In the saloon, we see Groggy, Niño, Cochelio and the hunchback Wild at the bar, drinking beer. Manco walks in and leans against a pillar near the door. The saloon is in the bottom of Mortimer's hotel, and the next thing is that Mortimer walks down the stairs.

Mortimer decides that he wants to light his pipe, but in defiance of social convention, picks Wild's hump as the place to strike his match. This leads directly into a tense scene. Wild definitely looks as if he cannot believe what just happened, and start to turn around. Groggy and Cochelio also look round. As Wild finally faces Mortimer, we see the bartender duck down behind the bar, presumably to get out of the line of fire. Wild blows out Mortimer's match. As Mortimer stands there, Wild starts to go for his pistol, but Niño, without looking, stops him. Wild lifts his cigar as if to take a puff, but Mortimer takes it from his hand to light his pipe. This time, Niño has to actually grab Wild's hand to stop him from pulling his pistol.

In the end, the tension evaporates as Indio's men file out of the saloon, all four refusing Mortimer's wordless offer to return Wild's cigar. The bartender gets up from behind the bar, asking Mortimer, "Listen mister, why'd ya choose my place to commit suicide?" They briefly discuss why a man would carry a pistol and let himself be insulted, then Mortimer has an idea, and goes upstairs.

Learning About The Bank Of El Paso, Part Two

Mortimer's idea, apparently, was to watch Indio's gang watch the bank. It is closing time, and they are here to watch the "changing of the guard" as the nightwatchman arrives to guard the interior of the bank, and the patrol arrives to walk around the bank.

Mortimer and Indio's men count the seconds as the patrol walks around the bank:

After this, Indio's men mount up and ride away. Mortimer, humming tunelessly, looks around the town with his telescope, and sees Manco watching him with binoculars from the other hotel.

Learning About Each Other, Part One

Image: Manco's picture in the El Paso Tribune
Manco's picture in the El Paso Tribune, captured from DVD
Image: The date enlarged
Look closely at this shot from the VHS tape.
The Editor's name is Albert Grimaldi, just like the film's producer.
The date sure looks like Monday June 23, 1872.
Can anyone with a 16mm print of this film get a better view? Let me know if you do.

The next thing we see is Mortimer delving through the archives of the El Paso Tribune, where he finds a news story, complete with a picture, concerning a bounty killer who looks suspiciously like Manco. Have a look at the Inconsistencies Page for more on the implications of this page.

Manco, of course, does things rather less scientifically. He goes to see a local "Prophet" (Josef Egger), a distinctly cracked old man. However, despite his antipathy towards the railroad, which goes right past his house, he eventually provides Manco with the information that he needs. Mortimer is, in fact, Colonel Douglas Mortimer, "a brave man, a soldier." Mortimer's position is somewhat reduced, of course, since he was a famous soldier, and the finest shot in the Carolinas, but is now reduced to being a bounty killer, just like Manco. This is a wonderful scene, as the Prophet denies that he can help, on the grounds that he is dead. At one point, Manco lights a match so he can light a cigar, but wisely puts it out as the entire house - floor, ceiling, and walls - starts to shake. I certainly wouldn't want a lit match waving around that close to my face, although it's a wonder that the place is still standing.

(More to come)

Hosted by