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A Fistful of Dollars (Per un pugno di dollari in Italy, and officially on-screen in the U.S. as simply Fistful of Dollars) is a 1964 film directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood. Released in the United States in 1967, it initiated the popularity of the Spaghetti western film genre. It was followed by For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, also starring Eastwood. Collectively, the films are commonly known as "The Dollar(s) Trilogy". In the U.S., the United Artists publicity campaign referred to Eastwood's character in all three films as The Man With No Name.
The plot of the film involves Eastwood as a gunman (referred to as "Joe" twice by an old man in the town) who arrives in a small town on the frontier and plays the town's two rival factions, the Rojos and the Baxters, against each other in order to make money off both sides and save a family caught in the crossfire.
Although the film was advertised in trailers as "the first film of its kind", the plot and even the cinematography was based almost entirely on Akira Kurosawa's film Yojimbo (written by Kurosawa and Ryuzo Kikushima). Yojimbo itself is believed to have been based on Dashiell Hammett's novel Red Harvest, although Kurosawa never credited the author, despite acknowledging the source. Kurosawa himself reportedly liked Leone's film, but remained insistent that he receive compensation. He wrote Leone: "It is a very fine film, but it is my film." The producers of Yojimbo successfully sued the production of A Fistful of Dollars for copyright infringement, and gained an apology, $100,000 dollars and 15% of the box office totals in Asia to the movie in compensation. Kurosawa later admitted he quite liked A Fistful of Dollars and considered it a worthy remake.
Leone also referenced numerous American Westerns in the film, most notably Shane and My Darling Clementine. Stephen King has credited the trilogy with inspiring the atmosphere of his novel The Gunslinger.
A Fistful of Dollars, as the initiator of the 'spaghetti western', is referenced elsewhere in popular culture:
- Back to the Future trilogy: in Back to the Future Part II, a short scene is seen where Joe survives the final gunfight which foreshadows the scene in Back to the Future Part III where Marty does the same thing (in the same costume, and after having told locals his name was 'Clint Eastwood').
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: in the episode "A Fistful of Datas", Worf and Troi are trapped in a holodeck western until they play it out to the end of the story. Meanwhile, each of the characters is being replaced by a likeness of Data.
- The eerie, whistling theme of Ennio Morricone's score for the film has been widely spoofed, often in cartoons to set a scene with faux-Western camp.
- The movie was parodied in the Futurama episode "A Fishful of Dollars"
- In one of the Halloween episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xander Harris wore a costume similar to, and based on, the attire that Clint Eastwood's "man with no name" wore in the spaghetti westerns in which he starred.
- After a number of saves in MGS3 Para-Medic talks to Naked Snake about the movie, as the game is set in 1964.
- The band The Mars Volta uses themes from A Fistful of Dollars at their live shows.
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