Duck, You Sucker (A Fistful of Dynamite) (1972)
Duck, You Sucker (A Fistful of Dynamite) (1972)

Genre: Spaghetti Western Running Time: 2 hrs. 18 min.

Release Date: July 7th, 1972 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Sergio Leone Actors: Rod Steiger, James Coburn, Romolo Valli, Maria Monti, Rick Battaglia, Franco Graziosi, Vivienne Chandler, David Warbeck, Giulio Battiferri

 


 

A

lone, barefoot, filthy traveler, Juan Miranda (Rod Steiger, donning an accent that sounds like a Mexican Marlon Brando), hitches a ride with a stagecoach full of uppity American citizens, quietly listening to them speak ill of his people and ancestry. Minutes later, when the vehicle approaches a small station, the group is held up by bandits – whose leader is none other than Miranda. After stripping the passengers of their weapons, clothes, and belongings, they head back down the road, only to cross paths with explosives expert and Irish terrorist John H. Mallory (James Coburn), a man armed with enough unstable substances to disintegrate half of the Mexican countryside.

Having tired of scouring the lands as a silver miner for a slave-driving German, and after receiving persuasion from Miranda’s pistols and the slaying of troops that will certainly be blamed on Mallory, John joins Juan on the road to the National Bank of Mesa Verde, though their reluctant partnership finds the Irishman continually escaping the fragile arrangement. At Mesa Verde, now overrun by soldiers, Dr. Villega (Romolo Valli) organizes a band of rebels to stage diversions throughout the city when both Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata plan to attack simultaneously in a few days’ time. The real target, the bank, is to be held up by the wanted dynamiter and Juan’s family of outlaws.

The level of violence has increased back up to that of the “Dollars” trilogy (a.k.a. the “Man with No Name” trilogy), with a large-scale machinegun ambush and frequent, massive explosions posing particular moments of excitement. There’s also a noticeable decrease in seriousness – in the dialogue, through witty editing that demonstrates Leone’s flair for humor amidst turmoil, and in Ennio Morricone’s lighter, vocal-infused, playful score. The music is now of a contrasting nature, instead of supplementing the adventure. But, with Sergio Leone at the helm (though the director of photography is now Giuseppe Ruzzolini), the cinematographic focus on landscapes is still prominent, paired with extreme close-ups and details of grit, dirt, and sweat. And flashbacks are once again utilized, chronicling Mallory’s republicanism past as it parallels the ongoing Mexican Revolution.

As with “Once Upon a Time in the West,” “Duck, You Sucker” has a slowness about it, with its attention to lingering on faces and expressions, even though combat sequences arise rather regularly. Heavier themes are examined this time around, shifting the tone back and forth as a focus on prejudice, racism, politics, guilt, waning beliefs, mass executions, and, finally, revenge, affects the main characters – alternatingly enraging, saddening, and motivating them. Several scenes are actually more moving than the iconic gunfights seen in Leone’s previous epics – chiefly those involving the character’s backgrounds and families (with some cinematic slow-motion and Morricone’s equally stirring music), which were intentionally absent in his earlier works. The film is generally overlooked, missing big name stars, and was released with numerous different titles since its premiere (including “A Fistful of Dynamite” and “Once Upon a Time… the Revolution”), but it’s still a memorable entry in Leone’s Western pantheon.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10