Three films that have been chosen for this analysis are: a) The Good The Bad and The Ugly, b) For a Few Dollars More and c) Fist Full of Dollars. They all are directed by Sergio Leone and belong to the Western genre. Clint Eastwood is the protagonist of all the three movies. They are all blockbuster movies with a huge popularity and business all over the world during sixties and seventies. Originally, these movies were made in Italy, Germany, and Spain, as the terrain was similar to northwest American terrain.
The movies present the nineteenth century American culture, the time spam of around late 1800. It was the time of exploration, development and American Civil War. They all are unique because represent the typical countryside gang wars and rivalry of bandits and the quest of the bounty hunters. In that age, Americans were influenced by other cultures of that period like the Mexicans, Hispanics, and Indians cultures.
The heroic moment of all the films is the popular ‘Mexican standoff’ of the hero. ‘Mexican standoff’ is a condition in which two or more opponents use revolver to aim each other. A person wins if he kills and shots the opponent first. The main theme of all the three movies is the same that, everyone including the hero is after the gold and money.
The bandits are looting people, robbing banks, there is rootless killing, everyone is running after the money by whatever means possible. These movies entertain us by countryside epic, the deserted terrains, horses and the hard lifestyle of the cowboys. The three movies have created many famous character, Tuco, Angel Eyes, Ramon, Indio and Client Eastwood’s character, ‘the man with no name’.
Scene selected: The prison camp in the movie: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: (from 90 min to 105 min)
The prison camp scene of the movie is selected for this analysis. The scene is roughly around 10 to 15 minutes. The sound affect is very prominent in also most every clip, and the music plays important part to in the movie. The latest DVD version of this movie was released in 2003.
However, the original movie’s music was complete in itself. It demonstrated wonderful effort of designing, recording, mixing and editing of the sound. The sound crew has demonstrated professionalism and mastery of their art. These movies are considered as masterpieces. They got famous because of the lyrics and sound affect.
As the other sequels of the films, the selected scene is composed using the postproduction sound. The ‘sound design’ exhibits the skillfulness of the composing crew. The director has taken especial care that the sound runs side by side with the action. An Academic Award winner Mnnio Morricone, has composed the lyrics of all the three films including the sound of the selected scene. He is known as influential sound composer in film industry.
Sergio Leone hired him for his films, to work on the ‘gunshots, whistles, jaw harps, trumpets, voices, guitars, and other orchestra arrangement’. His early budget was not enough for a full orchestra. With the major success in Sergio Leone’s two films ‘Fist Full of Dollars’, ‘For a Few Dollars More’, he was now no more restrict due to the budget.
Hence, in his major work ‘The good the Bad and the Ugly’ Mnnio Morricone’s was available with his full team of orchestra. He created the most famous lyrics, ‘The Death of a Soldier’, ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’, ‘Marcia Without Hope’ and the famous ‘Title lyrics’. He collaborated with the other sound staff of the movie in mixing his orchestral arrangement with other sounds like gunshots, gallops, cannon fires and other punching and kicking sounds.
In the selected scene, the hero and Tuco were traveling together in quest of Bill Carson’s gold. While they were on their way through a desert, Union forces captured them as prisoners. As the selected scene starts, the prison camp’s sergeant is asking the prisoners to form a ‘single file’ by saying ‘left right left right….’ The Foley artists are used in producing the sound of the solider footsteps. In the selected scene we also see the example of the both the sounds.
The whole of the film has both ‘diegetic’ and ‘nondiegetic’ sounds. It means the source of the sound is coming from within the world of the film and outside as well. As the prisoners entered the prison camp, the pitch of sound was normal.
The prison guard was calling the names of the prisoners, but suddenly the pitch and loudness of the music intensified when the sergeant called the names of the prisoners “Robert Clark, Sam Richmond, Bill Carson… Bill Carson” The theme of the movie is connected to the name of Bill Carson.
The name ‘Bill Carson’ was glorified, as frequency, loudness, and pitch of the sound gained the momentum. On the other hand, five or six different sounds are mixed to create the movie’s special effects. We could hear the soldiers march, and the raven’s sounds, the music, and other different kind of sounds of prisoners and the labors.
The overall sound in the scene is quite ‘faithful’, however when Angel Eyes offers Tuco the Bill Carson’s tobacco from the Tobacco box, we hear a beautiful short tone as if something good is about to come. However, as Tuco raises his hand to the Tobacco box, Angle Eyes shuts it close and crushes his fingers.
Tuco screams and shouts with pain suddenly the music comes out to be unfaithful for Tuco, because at the exact moment the prisoners outside the sergeant’s room were ordered to start their music. Tuco screams with pain, as Angel Eyes interrogate him. The torture sounds overlap with the song of the soldiers. We hear the music in such a way as if it is especially written for this scene. There is no agitation in the music. He was tortured because of his own ugliness.
His fate is against him because he is not a morally good and honest person. He is been given the name ‘ugly’ in the title. Therefore, the music is not showing any sympathy to him for his abysmal situation. The violence of the scene is making an affect that the outside world is calm and nobody is bothered. The music in general is illustrating an emotional touch to the scene.
Tuco now hears this simultaneous music, now he knows that he cannot save himself without telling the secret he is hiding from Angle Eyes. The background music was normal, but due to the sound’s rising momentum, the music creates the atmosphere of tension in the movie. It helped us in distinguishing it from other sound; the prisoner’s violins are played with smooth harmonic sounds.
The hero on the other hand is also hearing this external music (originating within the film) with another perspective. This music has different meaning for him. It shows us that the fate and luck is with the hero instead of Tuco. He is standing outside the sergeant’s room, and another prisoner is telling him that ‘whenever the commander orders the prisoners to play the music, he is interrogating, torturing and beating someone in his room’.
This prisoner’s song seems nondiegetic, however it is coming from a diegetic sound source, as it was coming from onscreen prison band. In fact, it is a mini orchestral band. Many orchestral instrument were visible onscreen except the grand piano. The group of seven or eight prisoners was having flutes, violins, drum, clarinet, cornet and trombone. The sound editor has professionally dubbed Mnnio Morricone’s song,’ The Story of a Soldier’ over the prison band in the scene.
Although the movie is old, it is rich in its sound effects. There are no ‘sound narrations’ within the film. The dialogues articulate the entire story itself. Ambient sounds, as discussed earlier, are those originating from several things on the screen. In the chosen scene, we could hear dialogues and at the same time, other background sounds, like birds etc. Instead of using the traditional recorded sound tracks, Foley staff is used to create environmental sound.
These sound effects are: ‘punches of the solider and the prisoners’, ‘Tuco’s eating sounds’, ‘sounds of beating’, ‘things falling at the table’, and ‘Tuco falling on the ground’. These sound effects are created in the editing session. They are used in a way that the sounds match and correspond the action of the scene. However, prerecorded sounds are also used, for example the sound of the crows.
The music in the selected scene is giving a sad impression, as if it is the music of mourning. The sound composing team has chosen the sad tones for this scene. They want to show all the destruction that is taking place in the war and many men are wasting their lives. The viewer can interprets that the prisoners are enduring the troubles of war.
The selected scene starts with the song ‘Marcia’ composed by Ennio Morricone. It is beautifully overlapped with the troops shouts followed by a march. The sound editing team tried to make especial impression on the audience by increasing the frequency of the sound. The music creates special sympathy with the soldiers. The slight whistling runes over the music, and tries to provoke a feeling, as if the audience feels like they are in the ninetieth century American Civil War prison camp.
Music, sounds, and voices are used at appropriate point. The music create sympathy with the character on the screen or to increase the interest of the audience. The sounds are giving signals in the movie, when the audience hears the particular signal they are engaged in the action and excitement that is about to occur on the screen.
Barsam, Richard Meran and Dave Monahan. Looking at Movies: An Introduction to Film. 3rd Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010.