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'A Bullet For The General' is my favourite non-Sergio Leone spaghetti western. It actually has some connection with Leone as it was directed by Damiano Damiani, who Leone later co-directed 'A Genius, Two Friends and an Idiot' with, and stars Gian Maria Volonte who fans will recognize from 'A Fistful Of Dollars' and 'For A Few Dollars More'. On top of that the legendary Klaus Kinski, who was also in 'For A Few Dollars more' (as well as many other spaghetti westerns) plays Volonte's brother. One thing I should point out is that despite Kinski getting second billing, and having his photo alone splashed all over the cover of the video I watched, he's not in the movie all that much, so be warned. Volonte's REAL co-star is Lou Castel, best known to me from his work in 'Orgasmo' and 'Killer Nun'. Castel plays "Gringo" a mysterious American who ingratiates himself into a gang of bandits led by El Chuncho (Volonte) after a train robbery. El Chuncho takes an immediate liking to Gringo and they joins forces, selling weapons to Mexican revolutionaries. Volonte and Castel make a terrific duo, as good as Eastwood and Wallach in 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly'. Klaus Kinski as I say has little screen time, but is always a pleasure to watch, and plays an unusual role for him, the saintly El Santo. Added to that is the presence of the stunning Martine Beswicke ('One Million Years BC', 'Dr Jekyll And Sister Hyde'), one of the most beautiful actresses of all time. Boy, do I never get tired of looking at her! 'A Bullet For The General' works as exciting entertainment, but the relationship between the two main characters is interesting, and the atmospheric background of the Mexican Revolution (this is two years before 'The Wild Bunch' remember) makes this recommended viewing. Finally, the ending is a killer, and El Chuncho's parting lines are unforgettable. If you've seen Leone's best westerns and 'The Wild Bunch' put 'A Bullet For The General' right at the top of your "to see" list. You won't regret it.
I first read about this film in a great book about Spaghetti Westerns
wherein every Italian western was presented in complete detail. It was a
scholarly approach to the genre and has made me a fan for years. Known in
the U.S. as A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL, it has a darker mood than Sergio
Leone's DOLLAR trilogy and his masterpiece, DUCK, YOU SUCKER! (a.k.a.
FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE), more angst ridden than Sergio Corbucci's A
PROFESSIONAL GUN (a.k.a. THE MERCENARY) and more bleak than Corbucci's
masterpiece, DJANGO (which spawned countless sequels that had nothing to
with the original and the only one worth mentioning is: DJANGO KILL!)
is difficult since the western was awash in a sea of mud that was the
where the characters ruthlessly slaughtered each other.
I love the Italian approach to westerns because they create an atmosphere where John Wayne is not welcome. If the Duke were to enter their world, he would be shot in the back by some crazed revolutionary/bandit who wouldn't wait for a showdown in the street. Plus the Duke probably wouldn't be fast enough on the draw. A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL has plenty of mood, crazed revolutionaries/bandits, double-crossings, contempt for "gringos" (which makes me wonder about how the Italians think of us--are these films suppose to be "political statements" too?), gun fights and endless desolate landscapes that would make Sam Peckinpah drool with delight. There is no happiness to be found in this film and every fan of Spaghetti westerns would revel in it's excess.
A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL is great on this level and should have multiple viewings (check out Klaus Kinski as the bible thumping revolutionary who spouts credo with gunfire and Lou Castel as the cold-hearted gringo who doesn't drink, smoke, look at women but LOVES money). The only Spaghetti Western regulars missing from this one are: Franco Nero and Lee Van Cleef. Director Damiano Daminani has made a Spaghetti western cult classic in his own right. I want to see his other westerns. See it and you won't be sorry.
The movie centers on a Yankee (Lou Castel) who joins forces with an
outlaw band (whose leader is Chuncho well played by Gian Mª Volonte and
his hoodlum performed by Klaus Kinski) during the Mexican revolutionary
war by time of the President of Mexico Velustiano Carranza , following
the overthrow of the dictatorial Victoriano Huerta regime in the summer
of 1914 . The gang allows him to join them to sell weapons to Mexican
revolutionaries ignoring he is double-crossing , as he is a traitor
working for dark forces .
It's a magnificent western film with dazzling shootouts between the protagonists and the contenders . The spotlights of the movie result to be the confrontation in the train and the final duel . There is a special remembrance to Sergio Leone's western , because appearing : Volonte , Kinski and Aldo Sambrell who are usually in the master's Spaghetti films . This picture belongs to numerous group in which is set during Mexican revolution , called ¨Zapata Western¨ , such as the Italian films : ¨Compañeros¨ , ¨The mercenary¨ , ¨Tetepa¨ and the American movies : ¨The wild bunch¨ and ¨The professionals¨ . The picture blends violence , blood , action western and it's fast movement and that's why it is entertaining ; besides , there is a thoughtful dialog with a clever writing in leftist trending by Franco Solinas , screenwriter of a notorious film : ¨The battle of Algiers¨ . Colorful cinematography by Antonio Secchi , shot on location in Almeria (Spain) , as usual , and Cortijo De Frailes, Cabo De Gata , San Jose , and Guadix , Granada . Enjoyable musical score by Luis Enrique Bacalov , author of ¨The Postino and Pablo Neruda¨ which won an Oscar for the soundtrack and he composed lots of Spaghetti Western scores .
The motion picture was rightly directed by Damiano Damiani . Damiani's nice direction is well crafted , here he's mostly cynical and inclined towards violence and too much action especially on its ending part . Damiano is an expert on all kinds of genres as Drama such as ¨Arthur's island¨ , ¨The Most Beautiful Wife" , ¨The witch¨ , ¨Empty canvas¨ based on the Alberto Moravia novel ; Terror as ¨Amytiville 2 : the possession¨ and Historical as ¨The Inquiry¨ . Damiani was specialized on crime-thriller-Subgenre or Italian cop thriller as ¨Confessions of a Police captain¨ , ¨How to kill a judge¨ and ¨The case is closed , forget it¨, and Spaghetti Western as ¨Trinity is back again¨ with Terence Hill and this prestigious ¨A bullet for the General¨ . Rating : Good . Well worth seeing .
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Pretty amusing spag western actually... Gian Maria Volontè is at his
absolute best, and Klaus Kinski also does some great character work as
a revolutionary religious man who does the Lord's killing for Him. Lou
Castel's performance as "Nino" was relatively underwhelming it's one
of those cases where the director apparently thought less is more. I
just find the character somewhat one-dimensional and Castel didn't do
anything to make it hold up. Martine Beswick gave some good
performances in other films I've seen (particularly "Dr. Jeckyll and
Sister Hyde") but was nothing special here, just eye- candy with a lot
The story is an interesting one, although even without the revealing American title its path might have been fairly predictable. I did think it was interesting that the film gradually shifted our sympathies from the Yankee Nino who obviously has ulterior motives that we more and more suspect are not motivated by morality to the initially stereotyped "bandito" El Chucho, played by Volonte. Basically this shift in our sympathies, if it works, represents the film's main political statement. The film plays with our expectations that the white man with a hidden agenda will turn out to be the good guy. I think after he accomplishes his task we're supposed to begin hating him, but I for one found the portrayal of the General to be overly static, as if the director wanted to present him as a kind of god-like figure. So in the end I wouldn't have had a problem with El Chucho going to America with El Nino, which means in some respects the film just did not work for me. I thought Kinski's priest character was twisted and I couldn't get upset about what happened to him either. So while my sympathies definitely shifted towards El Chucho, I didn't buy into the revolution he was supposed to be rejoining and I wish he had simply decided to go off on his own path, with or without El Chucho, instead of returning to that tarnished idealism.
The directing is solid but unexceptional, reaching its peak during the action sequences early in the film. I've heard the film compared to Leone's films or the best of Corbucci's Westerns. Although it bears some comparison to Leone's "Duck, You Sucker" and Corbucci's "The Mercenary", I personally didn't feel the action was quite as intense, nor the characters as interesting as in those films. For one thing, this film really only has one convincing or intriguing character, El Chucho. Kinski's priest "El Santo" is fun to watch but utterly without dimension, and Castel's Nino was neither fun to watch nor interesting. In contrast "The Mercenary" and "Duck, You Sucker" each have at least 2 compelling characters, and the relationship between the American and the Mexican isn't nearly as interesting as what Leone did with the Irishman and the Mexican in his film about the Mexican Revolution.
Still, if you forget about perhaps superior Westerns or superior Spag-westerns that you've seen, and just take the movie on its own merits, it's at least a reasonably entertaining picture and has some interesting surprises if you don't sit and think about it too much while you're watching it.
I have to admit I'm not the biggest fan of the political spaghettis
revolving around the Mexican revolution that came out during the late
60's. It was a trend that coincided with the general left-ist sentiment
that prevailed in Italy at that time and gave directors like Sollima
and Damiani in this case a perfect opportunity to speak their views.
However I'm a sucker for a good spaghetti western.
A Bullet for the General starts out fantastic with a train hold up by the Mexican bandit El Chucho (Gian Maria Volonte). The whole setting and the moral dilemma the captain of the train faces is just right on the money. For the next hour though the movie takes a sudden downturn in quality. There's plenty of shooting action, but it's uninteresting for the most part. We watch El Chucho's gang as they attack different posts to steal arms for a revolutionary general called Elias. There's a running sociopolitical commentary throughout the movie, but what really takes it down a notch is the heavy handed dialogue. The English dubbing is absolutely awful and the translations probably don't do justice to the original material. Some of them are so cringe-worthy that the ideas they're supposed to convey become caricatures.
The good thing is that the second hour is better as it focuses more on character drama and conflict. The last 20 minutes in particular elevate the movie from just OK and are worth the price of admission. The cinematography by Damiani is excellent, the desolate terrain becoming another character in the movie. The performances are solid for the most part, with Volonte stealing every scene he's in as the greasy Mexican bandito with a heart of gold. His change of heart during the end is a joy to behold.
Overall if it weren't for the atrocious dubbing and occasionally silly dialogue, this would be a classic. As far as political spaghettis go, Sollima's Faccia a Faccia is still the undisputed king. In the Mexican revolution-era adventure department, it doesn't top Corbucci's Companeros. However it's still very good as it is, combining bits and pieces from both worlds into an entertaining story. Recommended viewing for fans of the genre.
Damiano Damiani's masterpiece "El Chuncho Quién Sabe?" aka. "A Bullet
For The General" of 1967 is a very political Spaghetti Western set in
the Mexican Revolution. A quite brutal tale about ideals, greed,
friendship and selfishness, is not only a very entertaining Spaghetti
Western, but also a unique study of an idealistic man's struggle
between his greed and desire for wealth on the one hand, and his
beliefs and ideals on the other hand.
El Chuncho (Gian Maria Volontè) is a bandit and revolutionary with a strong fondness for women, alcohol and cigars. Along with his slightly insane, but religious and very idealistic brother El Santo (Klaus Kinski), he leads a gang of bandits with beliefs, who help the poor and rob the government's army to sell the weapons to the revolutionary army. When the gang is joined by Bill Tate, an American who, due to his youth, is just referred to as "El Nino" by El Chuncho and his fellow Mexican bandidos, the gang leader starts to befriend with the gringo. El Nino, however is basically almost the opposite of El Chuncho, he doesn't drink, he doesn't smoke and he doesn't waste his time with women, and neither does he believe in any causes or ideals, the only thing he is interested in is quick and good money. His friendship to the baby-faced but selfish and cold-blooded Nino, becomes a breaking test for Chuncho, who is torn between his greed and his ideals.
Although Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci are two of my favorite directors of all-time, and their movies "Giù La Testa" ("Duck You Sucker", Leone) and "Il Mercenario" ("The Mercenary", Corbucci), are two awesome movies, and furthermore there are quite a few more excellent Mexican Revolution Spaghetti Westerns , I would name "A Bullet for the General" as my favorite of the Mexican-Revolution-themed Spaghetti Westerns. The acting in this movie is superb. Gian Maria Volontè played in four Spaghetti Westerns and each one of them is a masterpiece. After his excellent performances in "A Fistful Of Dollars", "For A Few Dollars More" and Sergio Sollima's "Faccia A Faccia"/"Face To Face", Volontè is superb as El Chuncho, the most lovable Spaghetti Western character he played. Klaus Kinski is great as always, the character of the rather crazy but idealistic El Santo is quite unusual, since Kinski's roles in Italian Westerns were, with a few exceptions, normally those of extremely cold blooded and selfish killers, who didn't think of anybody but themselves. Lou Castel perfectly fits into the role of baby-faced El Nino, and he manages to point out his character's cleverness and selfishness in a very good way. The directing by Damiano Damiani is brilliant and so is the cinematography. I would have rated this 10/10 if it wasn't for he one minor flaw: The score by Ennio Morricone and Louis Bavalov is good, but it is no quite as great as it could have been as it can't compete with the brilliance of other Morricone scores. Nevertheless, an excellent film!
A brutal, witty and very political Spaghetti Western, "A Bullet For The General" is an excellent film that genre-fans, and film buffs in general should not miss!
One of the most underrated spaghetti westerns of all time, easily in my top ten. Volanti and Klinski dominate this tale of greed, poverty, racism, rich vs poor, great action sequences and a genuine heart to match, volanti was only behind Eastwood, Van Cleef and Nero as the greatest spaghetti western star of all time! any die hard fan of the genre must have this movie in their collection! pure brilliance!. A great starting point for new fans as it blends all the elements of the genre, violence, redemption and revenge as well as one of the greatest performances from an Italian western actor he was taken from us too soon , long live Gian Marie Volanti!.
Damiano Damiani's 1966 film 'A Bullet for the General' is one of the
first examples of the Zapata Western, a sub-genre of the Spaghetti
Western that mostly dealt with political themes during the Mexican
Revolution of the early 20th century. Gian Maria Volontè plays El
Chucho, the leader of a Mexican bandit gang who earn their pay selling
arms to revolutionaries - he meets with a suave gringo named Bill Tate
(played by Lou Castel) who claims to be on the run from the law and
soon finds himself inducted into the group and deep in the heart of the
Despite the simple sounding premise 'A Bullet for the General' displays a great depth of character as the protagonists relationships shift with the plot before inevitably exchanging roles. The first hour or so seems like a standard western affair with lots of the usual train hi-jacks and bandit raids, but as the characters develop and their relationships become more strained we see some marvellous performances from the suspicious El Chucho, his brother El Santo (a fanatical Christian revolutionary played by Klaus Kinski) and the cool and un-flustered Bill 'Niño' Tate.
The doubt displayed by El Chucho towards Tate really sets up the finale, and as the film nears the heart of the revolution Tate's motives become clear - but that doesn't stop Damiani pulling a nice twist at the end, endearing Volontè's character and providing a juxtaposition to the characters he made famous in some of Sergio Leone's classic Spaghetti Westerns. In a film dealing largely with role-reversal this is particularly apt.
I didn't quite know what to expect from 'A Bullet for the General', I hadn't previously heard of the director and apparently this was his first foray into the Western genre - but I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. Providing a good mix of action and politics with commendable performances from Volontè, Kinski and Castel 'A Bullet for the General' is an intriguing and unique example of the Spaghetti Western and well worth your time whether you're a fan of the genre or not.
In revolutionary Mexico American John Tate hooks up with a band of
outlaws lead by Chuncho. They are "collecting" guns for the revolution.
Tate, called Nino by his new friends, tags along as they get guns, free
the poor and attempt to get paid for their efforts.
Thats wildly simplified and doesn't do the complexity of this film justice. What is going on in the film is often not apparent until you get to the very end of the movie. No one is who they seem to be and everyone has some sort of other motive for what they are doing. Its a complex film that you have to stay with since you can never be certain what is going on.
For a long stretch of the film I wasn't certain what I thought of it. As I said, this is a story that is ever changing and evolving as it goes, and which you can't say whether you like or not until you get to the very end. It seems like an enjoyable mean but slightly confused western for most of its running time. Our nominal hero, Nino, rapidly evolves into something else. He is always up to something and rarely is it any good. He's hard to root for, or even to like. You instead you have to root for Chuncho, which is a bit odd at first since he's a "bandit" and the "bad guy". By the end you're rooting for Chuncho, while you're still not sure about Nino. In the end though it all comes together, and it reveals itself to be a quite special movie.
This is a movie to see if you like westerns, or even good movies for that matter. Its a film that engages you and moves you and your emotions. Its nice that an entertaining film such as this can also have other things on its mind yet not get lost on those other things or lose the enjoyment factor (there's a good deal of political satire woven into the story).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In Damiano Damiani's first stab at the spaghetti western
Gian Maria Volonte (veteran of Sergio Leone films) plays Chuncho, leader of a Mexican Bandit gang who sell arms to the revolutionaries. Lou Castel is a calm, smooth American, who tags along with the bandits, eventually exerting an influence on them. There is also a strong performance by another spaghetti western regular, Klaus Kinski, as a slightly crazed Christian revolutionary. As time goes by the relationships between them change and become more complex, revealing the characters' true colours. Along the way there is plenty of Mexican Bandit action - train holdups, raids on forts, peasant liberation - to keep up the pace of the film.
To be fair, the first hour or so was pretty average - there were a few good moments (such as an attack on a landowner's mansion), but nothing really exceptional. However, as the plot begins to come to a head things really start to pick up, with issues of betrayal, trust and ideology coming to the fore. The final scene really makes an impact, as Chuncho is forced to choose between a wealthy and comfortable future in the states and his loyalty to the revolutionary cause. Needless to say he makes the right choice, and he makes it in style, resulting an ending which manages to be at the same time funny, exciting and emotional.
One of the cleverest things about this film is that in many ways it is a role reversal of the typical spaghetti western. We see the cool, collected Yankee stranger as the villain and the scruffy Mexican bandit as the hero, as far as those concepts exist in the genre. The casting of Volonte here is particularly apt, since in Leone's films he WAS that Mexican bandit villain.
Overall, £Quien Sabe? is well above average, combining action, politics and a good storyline into one excellent movie.
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