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Once upon a Time in Widescreen: The Films of Sergio Leone

Saturday, October 27, 2007
8:15 p.m. Duck, You Sucker
Sergio Leone (Italy, 1971)

Restored Print!

(Giù la testa, a.k.a. A Fistful of Dynamite). Many of Leone's neo-Westerns take place in an unspecified borderland where unruly winds blow in from the sweltering south. For Duck, You Sucker, he moves his troops to the source of those winds, torrid Mexico, just in time for the undoing of Porfirio Diaz's dictatorship. Sputtering in Spanglish, Rod Steiger plays Juan, a peasant bandito who is bent on burglarizing el banco. Then he meets Sean Mallory (James Coburn), mispronouncing his name as John, and their "destiny" is set: Juan and John, an unstoppable alliteration. Sean/John is a disillusioned revolutionary, late of the IRA, with explosive skills that include nitroglycerin. "You make the holes with the holy water," Juan suggests. But then the popular revolt to depose Diaz intercedes: Juan becomes a reluctant rebel and John, the Man with the Short Fuse. Duck, You Sucker is Leone's strangest concoction—a mix of high camp, booming ordnance, and radical zeal with a loopy Morricone soundtrack that calls out its hero's name, "Sean, Sean, Sean," as a chorus.

—Steve Seid

• Written by Leone, Sergio Donati, Luciano Vincenzoni, from a story by Leone, Donati. Photographed by Giuseppe Ruzzolini. Music by Ennio Morricone. With James Coburn, Rod Steiger, Romolo Valli, Jean-Michel Antoine. (158 mins, Color, 'Scope, 35mm, From MGM)