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Reviews & Ratings for
Once Upon a Time in the Revolution More at IMDbPro »Giù la testa (original title)

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100 out of 117 people found the following review useful:

Probably the best unknown movie ever made.

10/10
Author: SquirePM from Birmingham, Alabama
20 July 1999

Here is a tragedy -- a great film doomed by a terrible title.

I saw this movie as "Duck, You Sucker" in the theater in 1972 or '73. I still have images and haunting music burned in my brain from it. It has, for one thing, one of the biggest real explosions ever filmed, an absolutely awesome blast using real high explosives that makes today's fiery spectacles pale. I think the whole production company was stunned by it, certainly Sergio Leone was, because he gives it the full treatment: multiple cameras and angles, wide shots, lots of screen time giving us lots of looks. And it's worth it. If you're not a war veteran, you've never seen anything like this.

But this film is much more than its fx. It's a deep, moving story told on the grand scale, with Oscar-class cinematography. It is both a major outdoor adventure and a small, intimate story. It has some of the quirkiest scenes, blackest humor and darkest betrayals, too.

Don't look for it on TV, unless Turner Classic Movies shows it "uncut." It was horribly mutilated in editing for television, and therefore unpopular and rarely shown. Get the original theatrical version, and watch it undisturbed. A party atmosphere would ruin it for you.

It's on my top-20 all time list!

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78 out of 90 people found the following review useful:

Leone's most underrated film,a rich masterpiece which gets better and better with each viewing

Author: DrLenera
23 April 2005

It's generally thought that this film is Leone's weakest major film,and it is far less well known than the Dollars trilogy and the two Once Upon a Times. In actual fact,this is a masterpiece that deserves to be far better known and regarded than it actually is. It sees Leone attempting new things such as character development and political comment,while refining elements from his earlier films. It's really the bridge between Once Upon A Time In The West and Once Upon A Time In America,and it contains a great many elements of both films {which let's face it,despite both being Leone films are quite different}.

It starts in humorous vein,right from the opening sequence of the dirty,very poor Rod Steiger character Juan being taunted by some rich folk aboard a lavish carriage,the camera showing lots of close ups of mouths and eyes in what almost seems a parody of Leone's style. Juan is much like Tuco in The Good the Bad And The Ugly,loud,simple and very funny {he's even often accompanied by comical music }.Juan's first encounters with the other main protagonist,IRA man Sean {James Coburn} are treated like comical duels,and as they go to rob a bank it seems the picaresque tone will continue.

However,about a third of the way through the film becomes more and more serious. As Juan,thanks to Sean,becomes more and more involved in the Mexican Revolution,the tone becomes darker as more and more scenes take place at night and there is serious tragedy. The change in tone may jar to some people,but one can see the mature,contemplative Leone of Once Upon A Time In America reveal himself before our eyes.

Of course there are still some great action scenes,such as the taking of a bank which is superbly cut to Ennio Morricone's music {listen for the cheeky quotes from Mozart!},or Sean and Juan machine-gunning what seems like a whole army. There is as usual a great deal of violence,but it's less personal and graphic and instead is shown to have more consequence. The film's plot does move rather slowly,with Leone taking his time as usual,but this mean we can more enjoy the mannered Steiger and the laid back Coburn as one of the greatest partnerships in cinema history.

Of particular interest are the several flashbacks dotted throughout the movie,shot in dreamlike slow motion and usually set to what is quite simply one of the most beautiful film themes EVER {Morricone excels himself with the score for this film}. Representing Sean's past,they ask as many questions as they answer,Leone trusting his audience to work things out. The final one is missing from many versions of this film,a tragedy because as well as being sublimely beautiful {and ambiguous,is it Sean's memory?,a marijuana-enhanced hallucination?,a vision of Heaven?} it adds yet another element to the story.

A Fistful Of Dynamite {well,the French Once Upon A Time..The Revolution is the films' best title}is a masterpiece,it's extremely entertaining whilst also being full of complexity. Things become clearer and more interesting on second and third viewings. Don't expect the operatic ritualism of Once Upon in The West or the comic crowd pleasing of the Dollars films,but if you watch this you will be watching a cinematic master at the height of his powers.

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76 out of 90 people found the following review useful:

Sergio Leone's Sad, Funny, Beautiful Epic Western

9/10
Author: Bob-45 from Savannah, GA
8 October 2004

Coming off the triumphs of his "Man With No Name" series and his frustrations with the cutting of "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly" and "Once Upon a Time in the West," Sergio Leone directed the big budget, epic western, originally titled, "Once Upon a Time in the Revolution". Since "...West" had been released by Paramount and United Artists was releasing "...Revolution," some executive decide the rename the movie "Duck! You Sucker!" after the phrase Sean (James Coburn) uses repeatedly before blowing someone or something up with dynamite. Likely the same executive choose an advertising campaign reminiscent of "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly," creating caricatures of Sean and Juan (Rod Steiger) adding the caption "...the master of adventure, Sergio Leone". Well, I doubt many theater audiences knew who Sergio Leone was, since he was yet to be recognized as a directoral genius the equal of John Ford or Howard Hawks. Worse, the advertising implied "Duck! You Sucker! was a laugh romp, a parody of Leone's early masterpieces. This impression was made even worse when the film failed to perform. In any event, "A Fistfull of Dyanmite" was a dismal failure at the box office and Leone never made another big budget western drama.It's too bad, because "A Fistfull of Dynamite" is Leone's trueist work, his most accurate vision of life, politics and revolution. Neither Rod Steiger nor James Coburn were strongly associated with westerns, even though both played strong roles in earlier films (Steiger in "Run of the Arrow" and "Jubal," Coburn in "The Magnificent Seven" and "Ride Lonesome". Worse, Steiger's Juan looked like something of a buffoon and the movies villains were bland and underdeveloped. However, I believe this was Leone's intention: corrupt politicians and Prussian officers are pretty well interchangeable. Kill one and another pops up. This isn't a very satisfying truth, but it is truth, nonetheless. Juan is a peasant, a bandit with a large family of bandits. Sean is a Irish Republican Army terrorist, an explosives expert. In Leone's world, or at least in all his films, there are only two types of people: predators and victims. His major characters are all predators. The only thing that distinguishes his protagonists from his antagonists is that his antagonists start with a large body count and his protagonists usually spare the innocent. That works with a taut enough storyline, but "...Dynamite" covers large areas of real estate and the goal is never clear. Juan didn't plan to become a hero of the revolution, and that is small payment for his losses. When one looks at history, the rewards of revolution and warfare are never worth the sacrifices, for just as we kill one bastard, another takes his place.

I think "A Fistfull of Dynamite" largely reflects Leone's fate as well. Leone proved he was the greatest western director in less than four years with only four major films. Yet, he was hardly appreciated during his short life and only a few films after his magnificent achievement. "A Fistfull of Dynamite" is also Leone's saddest movie. A beautiful, big budget metaphor for a man's talent wasted by underappreciate film executive and smug, self-serving critics.

Coburn should have won an "Oscar" for "Dynamite." With the exception of some tabletop model trains, the effects are convincing and exciting. The color cinematography is phenomenal, clearly the equal of "Once Upon a Time in the West. The sound and music (by Ennio Morricone) is phenomenal, as usual. While not as satisfying as Leone's best films, "A Fistfull of Dynamite" is an exemplary film. I give it a "9".

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43 out of 53 people found the following review useful:

Leone's most profound work

10/10
Author: ereinion from Lemuria
25 September 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Even compared to his most stunning classics like "The Good,The Bad and The Ugly","Once Upon a Time in the West" and "For a Few Dollars more",this film comes off like Leone's most mature and profound work. The theme is revolution.Parallels are drawn between Ireland and Mexico,two countries in violent uprising at the time.These parallels show that revolution is revolution,pretty much the same everywhere you go.It takes its casualties and destroys the lives of its survivors.

James Coburn does his best performance ever in what I see as Leone's attempt to toy with the image of his stereotypical hero like Man With No Name.Coburn's Sean Mallory is Man With No Name caught in the grip of reality,as much as Steiger's Juan Miranda is Tuco shown in the same light.

All actors do a great job and Domingo Antoine is chillingly effective as the monstrous half-German colonel Ruiz,riding a tank which makes him synonymous with the Nazi Germany and SS,adding more menace to the overall demonic image.Romolo Valli is also great as the leftist doctor who is the brain behind the revolutionary force in a small town where Juan and Sean plan to strike,both from different reasons. His betrayal of his comrades is the greatest shock in the film.

The flashbacks are among the most meaningful I have seen in a film and complement the story very well.As Mallory reaches into his difficult past,we first start to gain sympathy for him.The action scenes are overwhelming and exhaustive.The climax adds to the flow of strong emotions throughout the film as it is very dramatic.Steiger's justified and merciless revenge on the evil colonel gives compensation for Mallory's death and is maybe the most violent killing scene ever in western cinema,even beating "Bonnie and Clyde".Still,in the end,one cannot help but feel despair and pity as Juan is left on his own to ponder about it all and reflect on his own fate.Here Steiger really shows his greatness and is along with Coburn unjustly snubbed for a major award.

All said,this film still has enough comedy,fun and light moments to bring you joy.I strongly recommend this picture to lovers of true western and fans of Coburn and Steiger.From here,Leone strayed into obscurity with his gangster epic "Once Upon a Time in America",making this his final swan song.10/10.

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47 out of 62 people found the following review useful:

Another Sergio Leone masterpiece... Duck You Sucker!!!

10/10
Author: hokeybutt from Milwaukee, Wisconsin
29 July 2004

A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE aka DUCK YOU SUCKER (5 outta 5 stars)

I think this is Sergio Leone's third greatest movie... right after Once Upon a Time in the West and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. Most Leone fans rank this film a lot lower... but I think that's because they are only familiar with the shortened two hour version. Also, for the record, I absolutely loathe the re-titling... A Fistful of Dynamite... how lame! At least the original Leone title, Duck You Sucker was... distinctive. Even the French title (translation: Once Upon a Time... The Revolution) is kinda classy. But AFOD??? Gimme a break! This movie has absolutely nothing to do with A Fistful of Dollars so why even try to make the comparison?

Anyway, I loved this movie when I first saw it in the theatre in 1972 (age 12). I am pretty sure that what we saw at the time was the lengthy, uncut version... and I don't remember being bored at all. (The most common complaint about this movie is that it is slow and boring... heck, that's the most common complaint about EVERY Leone movie.) Rod Steiger and James Coburn play Sean and Juan, respectively a poor Mexican bandit and a fugitive Irish terrorist... who meet up in Mexico and become involved (against their wills) with revolutionary warfare in that struggling country. The movie is exciting, funny, dramatic, suspenseful and, well, just plain brilliant. This is Ennio Morricone's greatest film score and the way it meshes with Leone's visuals is simply amazing... particularly in my favourite scene... the bank heist. Juan and his young sons break into the Bank of Mexico, shoot it out with the guards and go from door to door, searching for gold and finding only political prisoners, until finally... oh, I can't give it away! See it for yourself. This is a movie filled with classic scenes: Coburn's arrival on the "motorsickle" and his confrontation with Steiger's gang... Steiger and Coburn with their machine guns... Steiger's final act of vengeance (which is severely chopped to bits in the short version... robbing it of its vicious power). Its been said that Steiger's comical accent is stereotypical and insulting... but I say NO! He is playing one of the richest and most complex characters of his career... with some of his greatest speeches ("And what happens to the poor people? They are DEAD!"). Not to slight James Coburn, who also does a fantastic job, but Steiger is the star of this one.

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33 out of 42 people found the following review useful:

One of the best westerns/war films made in the 70's: brutal, violent, funny, poetically tragic, etc...

10/10
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
6 August 2005

With Fistful of Dyanmite (a.k.a. 'Duck, You Sucker', a.k.a. 'Once Upon a Time in the Revolution', the second part of a 'trilogy'), legendary Sergio Leone puts together something experimental, even more so than the other films in his catalog. Here he now deals with war, but he still has the crime elements of his 'dollars' films; it somehow makes a very clear cut balance between bits of comedy within the tragedy worked in the story; it isn't very brutal, but it is graphic in the genre sense of the time. It's also one of his best films, if you happen to see it within its full running time (like most of Leone's films, this suffered drastic cuts in American versions, reducing critical character points and other Leone surprises).

A Leone film, however, can only be as strong as the leads pushing it up, as in the dozens and dozens of westerns and other films that inspired Leone. Here he uses two character actors (for the most part of their careers), but indeed very good and astute ones at playing their parts. Rod Steiger, who has been in classic films like On the Waterfront and The Pawnbroker, here is slightly like a maturer version of Tuco from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: he's still a bandit, with pillaging and beating and raping his way across the countryside, but he's also got a family to look after, who within his anti-hero heart are the most important things to him. Steiger's Juan is usually either surprised, quietly delighted, or agitated off to certain degrees. He plays this for all it's worth, but he also finds the best notes in the moments when he brings out laughs, and in the more sorrowful moments later on in the film.

There's also James Coburn, veteran of many, many films, given one of the great themes of any character in a Leone film by composer Ennio Morricone (there's some sort of instrument or distortion of one in his theme that calls for complete, unusual attention on the viewer). Coburn's Sean (err, John, depending) is a character with some ghosts, perhaps, in his past, and who unlike Juan is more interested in 'other' interests. Although Juan tries not to notice it until the sequence at Mesa Verde (which I won't reveal), Sean has been through a revolution in Ireland, and understand more or less what happens with it. He brings in Juan, after a rather strange yet hilarious encounter, into his web of revolutionary fighters, which doesn't go over to well with him at first. As their story unravels, Coburn still plays it like a pro, being the straight character to Steiger's very theatrical-like performance. He doesn't quite have the mystery an Eastwood or Bronson had in the other Leone films, but he does carry a certain quality about him that puts him in a needed place in the Leone cannon.

Speaking of which, one must not over-look how complex a film like this is in some ways. Leone was not originally the director (it went through the hands of Peter Bogdanovich and Sam Peckinpah before coming to him, coincidentally the opening scene with Juan is a cool homage to the Wild Bunch opening). Yet somehow he puts his stamp, and wonderful mark, on Fistful of Dynamite. This time more history is worked into the film- unlike the civil war acting like a harsh backdrop to the more 'fun' elements of the adventure in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the war in this film affects the main character, and adds a serious tone to an otherwise standard genre picture.

The Steiger character, along with the audience, gets a look at a massive amount of death, or rather the images of the dead: a tower filled with soldiers blown at night, the powerful pans and camera moves across the bodies, real combat, and the suggestions of what goes into the revolution. But its not just the violence of battles that get into the film, its also the personal attitudes during the revolution- the bourgeois vs the peasants (one of Leone's masterstrokes at close-ups in montage is displayed when Juan is on the train with the near monstrous American wealthy early in the film). Leone manages to work in various and cinematic explosions, in-depth or testing close-ups, and sweeping long shots of soldiers, landscapes, and struggle.

Coming back to Ennio Morricone's score- this time, Morricone experiments with some styles of his talents. As when Leone uses a funny, almost cartoon-like, image above Sean from Juans' eyes of a 'Banco' sign (akin the a 'dollar' sign above cartoon characters), Morricone adds a church organ and choir to go along with it. There are also the uses of themes throughout the film, as in Leone's other films, that act like striking, beautiful calling cards. The opening theme is pounding; Sean's flashbacks are given the sumptuous qualities that go with the best (and worst) nostalgia; the scenes with action and suspense, though almost a little standard, still work far better than many standard score of today.

Fistful of Dynamite is entertainment on an epic scale, with a broader and somewhat deeper sub-text, and it comes out with flying colors. Some may not take to it; it could be argued that Steiger, much like Eli Wallach, isn't very convincing as a Mexican bandit, or that the shifting in tones is a little much, even conventional in a weird sense. But it's hard to argue the sense of control that Leone has over his environment in the film, the assuredness of style, and that at the least the parts are greater than the whole. For me, it's a film I've seen twice in one week (once to soak in and get more of the enjoyment, the second time to get even more out of it, and to notice the visual details), and I hope it gets better the next time around.

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28 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

A typically strong Leone film with added interesting political content

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
6 June 2005

John Malloy is an IRA explosives expert, on the run in Mexico. Juan Miranda is a Mexican bandit with no interest in the political upheaval in his country and only a dream of hitting the large bank his father once failed to rob. When the two meet, Juan sees John's explosives as the way into the ban, but John has no interest and it is only when Juan frames him for the murder of some senior soldiers that John relents. Arriving in the town, the bank looks like a simple hit if they can find some way of distracting the masses of soldiers that now control the small town – luckily the revolution is in full swing and rebels are in great demand; but it is not long before Juan's idea of a simple bank robbery sees him up to his neck in a struggle that he has no interest in.

Many reviewers have said how strong the Leone formula is and I won't be able to add much to their words but for me this is a fine film mainly because it takes apart yet another of the cinema myths of the noble revolutionary fighters and has a fascinating thread of political commentary running all the way through it. It doesn't open this way though, rather it starts with Leone's usual brand of wit and confrontation between John and Juan and it all feels like it will be similar (and just as good) to some of Leone's other westerns. However, about an hour in, it becomes more interesting thanks to the rather shocking portrayal of the revolution (on both sides) and the ripping into the ideas behind it. It only adds to the basic plot and, when it becomes the main focus, the film is stronger for it, although Leone's Marxist views may be a little hard to swallow for some viewers in the west. That said, it does still work as a typical Leone western and fans of his will still love this film.

The cast is good but you gotta wonder how those accents would have been mauled if the film had not been as roundly good – certainly Coburn's attempts at an Irish brogue are not the most convincing I've heard. Other than that though he is good in the lead role, coping well with making an IRA character "likeable" without damaging the cynicism and regret that exists within him. His flashback scenes are convincing even if it is not that important to the main thrust of the film. Steiger is less serious at first but develops his character well, despite having to cope with a "road to Damascus" moment as part of it. He is consistently amusing as a character and he does tend to dominate his scenes to good effect. Support is fine but really these two men are the film and they do it very well, coping with the laughs, tension and political commentary equally well.

Overall, a typically strong film from Leone that has all his usual formula touches as well as plenty of commentary of value. The direction and use of music are as good as always and the cast cope well with the demands of the script. Reviewers who have taken this as an attack on John Ford's idea of the revolutionary Irishman are perhaps a little off since the film only confirms Ford's usual pointing out of "printing the myth" but it still has plenty of value and interesting political commentary.

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30 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

Just saw the restored print

10/10
Author: Chung Mo from NYC
28 November 2003

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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31 out of 40 people found the following review useful:

Kind of like The Odd Couple, with explosions

8/10
Author: The_Void from Beverley Hills, England
7 July 2006

A Fistful of Dynamite is often seen as the black sheep of Sergio Leone's commercial releases; and there's a good reason for that, as despite the fact that it's still a spaghetti western; it's a completely different kettle of fish to both the Dollars Trilogy and Once Upon a Time in the West. A Fistful of Dollars features common western themes such as bandits, guns and bank robberies - but, as he did with The Good, The Bad and The Ugly; Sergio Leone has implanted war themes into the plot, and we've also got the bizarre idea of one of the major characters being an IRA bomber! All this stuff doesn't quite come together cleanly, and as the tone of the movie changes often; it seems obvious that Leone has bitten off a bit more than he can chew...but luckily enough, A Fistful of Dynamite remains a fun movie for most of its duration. The plot follows a bandit named Juan, who bumps into a dynamite-laded bomber one day in the desert. Spotting an opportunity for robbery, he manages to recruit the IRA man to his cause; but he doesn't count on being dragged into the revolution that's going on at the same time.

The first half of the movie features some very astute elements of tongue-in-cheek humour, and it seems obvious that the director isn't intending the plot to be completely serious. However, at around the halfway point; the movie turns in completely the opposite direction, and the fun and silly first half gives way to a more deep and serious finale. For me, this is the movie's main problem; I like a movie that's unpredictable, but this change in plot feels disjointed and doesn't go down well. The second half of the film isn't as enjoyable to watch either, which harms the fun. However, Sergio Leone's direction is as impressive as ever, with some lovely wide angle shots capturing the beautiful landscapes; while, of course, Leone enjoys giving full focus to his actors for some extreme close-ups. Like the movie, the cast is a mixed bag. James Coburn looks the part, but his silly put-on accent makes him feel like he's having a laugh at times; and similarly, Rod Steiger dons an arguably even sillier accent and doesn't quite get away with it. Overall, A Fistful of Dynamite is not a film to please all viewers. I found it to be enjoyable despite many niggles, but I can understand why a lot of people disagree.

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24 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

100 proof dynamite action film by genre master Leone

9/10
Author: funkyfry from Oakland CA
9 October 2002

Excellent action film with Steiger over-the-top but Coburn right on the money as bandit/revolutionaries in Mexico. More gunfire and explosions and less balmy confrontations than in other Leone pics. I'm stuck on a second viewing by how much of a "70s" film this is, and how much real cinematic value and interesting ideas Leone has put into the film despite its basic action-film plotline. Rumors say Malcolm MacDowell was the original lead -- very intriguing possibility. The look on Steiger's face after he finds out he's risked his life to rescue a bunch of dirty prisoners is priceless.

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