A Fistful of Dynamite was director Sergio Leone’s last Western and is seen by many as one of his lesser known movies but has grown in statue over the years.
Released in 1971 as Duck You Sucker the film stars Rod Steiger as Juan Miranda, a peasant-turned-outlaw who befriends an on the run Irish revolutionary and explosives expert John Mallory played by James Coburn. Together they attempt to liberate political prisoners, defend their compatriots against a well-equipped militia, and risk their lives on a train filled with explosives.
The film had a troubled original release, first in the USA with original title Duck You Sucker, it was heavily cut and failed badly. Then re-released as A Fistful of Dynamite it still did not do great business. (It also had another title of Once Upon A Time in the Revolution for its French release). The 157 minute directors prefered version is what is on this disc, if slightly trimmed of Horse falls by the BBFC.
Another reason why the film was not a success was the tone of the piece. The political angle and also the way in which it shifted from jokey comedy to tragedy as the movie progressed may alienate those that are used to his more famous Italian Westerns. Rod Stieger is superb in the role of Juan, all cigar chomping anger but with a heart of gold where his friends and family are concerned. The last thing he wants is to be a hero to the revolutionaries but cercumstances propel him to help but with tragic consequences. Coburn is also excellent as the IRA man on the run but also haunted by past events. Sure his accent is a little odd but the two actors play off each other very well.
Leone certainly gets the most from his landscapes and the cinematography is superb. He doesnt shy away from violence either with some shocking scenes of mass executions by the army.
The score by Ennio Morricone is one of his best and i can guarantee you will have the “Sean, Sean” theme stuck in your head for days.
Eureka in the UK have released the film on Blu ray as a 2 disc Special Edition and a host of extras. There are two versions of the film (more if you include the two versions of one cut with different title cards), the Italian cut and the full international version. The Italian cut is a fraction longer, but I think that might just be down to extra restoration credits at the start. Both are remastered but still have some problems. The Italian cut looks slightly better but has a very yellow tint which is less apparent on the other version.
Audio has original mono in English or Italian which sound fine and clear. Some good extras including –
Audio Commentary by filmmaker Alex Cox. Interesting and at time critical commentary but a great listen.
– Audio Commentary by film historian Sir. Christopher Frayling. I could listen to Sir Christopher Frayling talk about Leone all day. A superb commentary with lots of great information.
– A brand new and exclusive interview with film critic and writer Kim Newman.
– A brand new and exclusive interview with Austin Fisher, author of Radical Frontiers in the Spaghetti Western: Politics, Violence and Popular Italian Cinema
– The Myth of Revolution [22 mins] Sir Christopher Frayling on Duck, You Sucker!
– Sergio Donati Remembers Duck, You Sucker! [7 mins]
– Sorting Out The Versions: An Analysis of Duck, You Sucker! [12 mins]
– Once Upon A Time… in Italy [6 mins] featurette
– Restoration, Italian Style [6 mins]
– Location Comparisons [9 mins]
– Radio Spots
Another top notch release from Eureka with a 2K restoration while not perfect certainly looks very good. Shame it had the 6 seconds of cuts for horse falls but i did not notice when watching the movie. A good Leone movie that does grow on you over time.
FILM – 7.5 PICTURE- 7 AUDIO- 8 EXTRA – 8.5