Movie Mondays: Unofficial Trilogies

~posted by Frank

Most trilogies are in-depth stories told over the course of three films. But some films that we accept as being part of a trilogy were not originally conceived that way. The links between the films in these trilogies are the cinematic style and themes of four outstanding directors rather than a continuous story line.  

The Dollars Trilogy (aka The Man With No Name Trilogy).
Sergio Leone, the director most closely associated with the “spaghetti western,” developed the Dollars Trilogy. The common threads? Clint Eastwood as “the man with no name,” a score by Ennio Morricone, and long periods of silence interrupted by sudden violence and offbeat humor. In A Fistful of Dollars (1964), Eastwood plays a gunfighter who pits two families against each other by duping them into believing he works for them to fight the other. In For a Few Dollars More (1965), Eastwood and fellow bounty  Lee Van Cleef team up to capture a menacing outlaw. Last but certainly not least is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966), with Eastwood (the good), Van Cleef (the bad) and Eli Wallach (the ugly) as three men on the hunt for a hidden treasure buried in a cemetery.

The Paranoia Trilogy.
Director John Frankenheimer brought Cold War paranoia to the masses with The Manchurian Candidate (1962), with Laurence Harvey as a Korean War POW who’s being brainwashed to be an assassin by his mother (a terrifying Angela Lansbury), while fellow POW Frank Sinatra tries to save him. It was followed by Seven Days in May (1964), starring Burt Lancaster as a politician who plots to overthrow the president (Frederic March) because of his aversion to nuclear weapons. My favorite is Seconds (1966), which takes a sci-fi twist as Rock Hudson gets his wish to abandon his unsatisfying suburban life and start all over with a new face and new identity. Be careful what you wish for.

The Paranoia Trilogy, redux.
This informal trilogy from Alan J. Pakula begins with Klute (1971), starring Donald Sutherland as a detective whose investigation into the disappearance of a friend leads to a prostitute (Jane Fonda, in an Oscar-winning role) who has problems of her own. Set in Seattle, The Parallax View (1974) takes paranoia to another level as we follow a reporter (Warren Beatty), one of seven witnesses to an assassination, only to find the rest of the witnesses killed by a nefarious corporation. Pakula’s crowning achievement is All the President’s Men (1976), based on the true story of the Watergate break-in with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein, whose reportage led to the resignation of Richard Nixon. Jason Robards won an Oscar for his performance as editor Ben Bradlee.

The Vengeance Trilogy.
South Korean director Chan-uk Pak explores what happens when desperate times call for desperate measures. In Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), a man who’s lost it all abducts the daughter of his former boss to gain ransom money to help his dying sister. Park won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance for Oldboy (2003), the tale of a man who has five days to find the person who abducted him, without cause, for 15 years. And in Lady Vengeance (2005), a woman wrongly convicted of murder seeks to reunite with the daughter she lost while plotting revenge on the man who actually committed the crime.

One thought on “Movie Mondays: Unofficial Trilogies”

  1. Love the Dollars/Man with No Name trilogy! My all time favorite westerns. Leone is fantastic.
    Another one of my favorite unofficial trilogies is The Cornetto Trilogy. Three of the funniest movies with Edgar Wright directing. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are an excellent pair too. Incase you haven’t checked them out, you must!
    Great blog, keep up the awesome work!

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