—Here there be spoilers—
There are multiple scenes from The Good the Bad and the Ugly that I could be talking about here. Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack perfectly encapsulates the Western as a genre, and this is no more evident in tracks like The Ecstasy of Gold or the opening title theme. However, today I will be discussing the film’s final showdown with the track Il Triello (the trio, main title). What works so well here is not just the classic trumpet and guitar that have come to embody the genre as a whole. It’s how all of this works in relation to the editing and pacing of the scene. There are so many moments when the film cuts to an iconic image (e.g. a hand reaching for a gun on hip) puctuated by an equally iconic sound from the score. As the scene builds, the way in which the framing becomes tighter and tighter and the editing becomes more and more only ratchets up the tension, especially near the end of the scene. Then there’s the utterly over-the-top trumpet that comes in as the trio continue to stare each other down for minutes on end. And finally the song goes into its final stretch with a drum march toward the inevitable shootout. The way in which the entire scene is taken to the extreme—the excessive trumpet and guitar coupled with the on-beat editing and tight framing of the characters’ eyes as they dart back and forth—all of it just puts a huge smile on my face. I can’t say that I am ever that stressed about who will come out of the shootout alive, but the buildup is just so much fun—and that’s why it is one of my favorite musical moments of all time.