The Watcher - Horrors of war

It was early in 1966, and filmmaker Sergio Leone had a problem with Two Magnificent Rogues, his sequel to For a Few Dollars More. The initial screenplay was a slapstick farce that Leone charitably labeled a "disaster." In desperation, Leone turned to dramatist Luciano Vincenzoni, who in 11 days rewrote Two Magnificent Rogues as a sprawling, picaresque epic about three men hunting for Confederate treasure amid the chaos of Civil War Texas.

The problem now was the title.

Vincenzoni's draft brought the story's hawklike villain to the forefront, suggesting the script should be rechristened Three Magnificent Rogues. Leone frowned. Then, with the quick scratch of a pencil, Vincenzoni put forth a more intriguing option: Il buono, il cattivo, il brutto. Translated into English it meant, "The good, the ugly, the bad." Even after United Artists re-sequenced those nouns for English audiences, Leone was delighted.

It may seem strange that the greatest film ever made about America's Civil War was shot in Spain by Italians, but the horrors of combat were still fresh in post-WWII Europe. Now available in a double-disc DVD special edition, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly emerges as an even broader panorama of the devastation wrought by huge armies. Restored to the length of its original 1966 Rome premiere, GBU contains wrenching images of prison camps, field executions and (in a sequence never before seen in American prints) a harrowing visit to a military field hospital surrounded by sharpened chaveaux-de-frise.

Among the extras on the bonus disc is the answer to a niggling question about an odd image from the movie's lively opening credits, the glimpse of Tuco (Eli Wallach) firing a cannon. A vintage French trailer shows this deleted sequence from the film's climax. Tuco's cannon comically falls apart as it discharges, a mood-breaking slapstick bit of business — perhaps a final vestige of the original draft — wisely trimmed by Leone as Two Magnificent Rogues began its 38-year journey toward becoming these two magnificent discs.