A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE (Giù la Testa) (aka: Duck, You Sucker)

(director/writer: Sergio Leone; screenwriter: based on a story by Leone/Sergio Donati/Luciano Vincenzoni; cinematographer: Giuseppe Ruzzolini; editor: Nino Baragli; music: Ennio Morricone; cast: James Coburn (SeanMallory), Rod Steiger (Juan Miranda), Romolo Valli (Dr. Villega), Maria Monti (Adelita, woman in stagecoach), Rik Battaglia (Santerna), Franco Graziosi (General Huerta); Runtime: 138; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Fulvio Morsella; MGM/UA Home Entertainment; 1971-Italy-in English)

“An awkward, overlong and overblown actioner that was only interesting in parts.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Italian director Sergio Leone (“The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”/”Once Upon A Time In The West”) of spaghetti western fame, in his final western turns his attention to the Mexican Revolution and shows he’s all for the revolution and able to show off political commentary through slogans ala Godard, such as using a quote from Chairman Mao “The revolution is not a dinner party…”. Despite the tongue-in-cheek funning of ‘one revolution hat size fits all’ and the strangely comical musical score by Ennio Morricone, playing the self-mocking “Sean-Sean-SEAN” every time the film’s anti-hero Irish revolutionist gazes back at his past, this is still an awkward, overlong and overblown actioner that was only interesting in parts. It’s the director’s least interesting western, more Fordian in tone with additional touches of Peckinpah than his usual signature film. The director never wanted to make this film, it was originally slated to be directed by his assistant Giancarlo Santi. But when stars James Coburn and Rod Steiger rebelled and refused to be directed by the assistant, Leone was forced to direct.

It was originally released in America as “Duck, You Sucker,” a title taken from what Leone thought was a popular American catchphrase. It was re-released as “A Fistful of Dynamite.” Originally Steiger’s part was written for Eli Wallach, whose more humanizing and comical presence would have helped the film considerably.

Set in 1913 in Mexico. James Coburn is Sean Mallory an Irish soldier of fortune with an m.o for explosives and IRA activity, causing him to be on the run. Rod Steiger is Juan Miranda a greedy, crude Mexican bandito who shows a hatred for the rich (the film’s best and most energetic scene is the opening stagecoach scene that has the bandito robbing the rich passengers and showing his contempt for them). Juan wants to rob a bank in town and hooks up with Sean because of his expertise with dynamite. By accident Juan becomes a revolutionary hero when he blasts through the bank wall and instead of gold finds many political prisoners to be freed. Now the Irishman and Mexican bandito have no choice but to be linked to the revolt of the peasants. The federales are modeled on Nazi storm troopers (gunning down innocent peasants in mass killings) while the revolutionaries in contrast could be viewed as goodhearted Italian freedom fighters.

REVIEWED ON 3/22/2006 GRADE: C   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”