Based on the Edward Bulwer-Lytton novel. Set in the shadows of Mt. Vesuvius just before its famous eruption, the film begins with Glaucus, a Roman legionnaire, returning to his home from ... See full summary »
In Mexico at the time of the Revolution, Juan, the leader of a bandit family, meets John Mallory, an IRA explosives expert on the run from the British. Seeing John's skill with explosives, Juan decides to persuade him to join the bandits in a raid on the great bank of Mesa Verde. John in the meantime has made contact with the revolutionaries, and intends to use his dynamite in their service. Written by
It's a shame that most people will not get to see this film on the big screen. The new print makes the film look like it was shot recently. The sound has been re- mastered also and is 90% perfect. A few of the restored scenes help the film along although they add to the already long running time. It is slightly different from the LaserDIsc version that came out a few years ago especially the end scene. However, one friend (a film reviewer) told me that it's the same version that he saw when it came out in 1972 for two weeks before it was pulled, re-titled and cut.
I have to say that this film is one of Leone's best and I now rate it above "Once Upon a Time in America". It's not an easy film and there are a few "flaws" but in a strange way it is the most human film Leone made. Coburn and Steiger both come off as real people despite the occasional lapse in accents. It's amazing how much time Leone gave to searing close-ups of the two actors and how they were able to convey so much of the story in silence. The story is very subtle and very unsubtle at the same time which can make following the film hard if you are expecting the "hello stupid" storytelling we get these days. Leone did the same thing in "Once upon a Time in the West" and "America". There's a storytelling genius here that's all the more amazing if you consider that Leone was operating out of his native language.
What makes this film stand out is the outright message Leone conveys with the story. He didn't do that with any of his other films.
A few words on the restored scenes. As with other Leone films that have undergone editing by American distributors, the removed scenes are a mixed bag. Some scenes were removed for length purposes, others for content reasons and some I suspect were removed because they were perceived as not up to the quality of the rest of the film. This was certainly the case for "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly". In "Duck, You Sucker", the restored opening helps the film's message which is probably not what the American censors though it was. The stagecoach robbery rape scene, which in the American version was edited in a way to suggest that Juan is really a gentleman thief not a rapist, is problematic unless you read it as a political comment and even then it's tough to take. The churchyard sequence, which is completely absent in the American version, is one of Leone's clumsiest scenes and it's absence didn't really affect the film. Some of it is out of focus! The ending sequence was apparently reedited by Leone after the opening in Europe and exists in several different versions over there! The version we see here is very, very long but illuminates the main characters motivations better then the American version.
Hopefully this limited re-release signals the soon arrival of a DVD version.
Update, July 2007: Finally, the DVD has been released. After watching the restored, restored version I have to add that the film really holds up. This version is identical to the screened version except for one minor, yet important difference at the very end. A crucial line from the American version has been restored.
The extras deserve some mention. First of all they all have a copyright of 2005 which indicates that the release of this DVD was delayed for some reason. The interviews are very interesting but each extra is heavily inter-cut with scenes from the film, the clips are frequently unrelated to the topic and often the same clips are repeated in each extra! You get to see James Coburn running in a field in Ireland over and over. One extra tracks the different versions that exist of this film, shows stills from scenes that Leone cut before the premier in Italy (the negatives of these particular scenes have apparently been destroyed) and leads into a rumination on the Sean/John confusion. The writer of this extra then comes to the conclusion that "Sean" isn't the James Coburn character! I don't agree at all but it's a useful extra.
A DVD to own.
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