Monday, December 12, 2011

Fistful of Dynamite (Giù la testa) by Sergio Leone

This must be one of the most underrated Leone's films. At one point, Leone wasn't even to direct this film. After Once Upon a Time in The West was released, Leone said that he wouldn't direct another western. The original plan was for Peter Bogdanovich to direct it, but he gave up, aparently, because of the lack of control of the project. Might have been just an ego clash between him and Leone. The next on the list was Sam Peckinpah, but he was turned down for financial reasons by United Artists. Then, it was to be directed by Leone's regular assistant director, Giancarlo Santi. After 10 days of production, James Coburn and Rod Steiger refused to play their roles unless Leone directs the rest of it. Their motiv might have been the fact that the movie went from being big, to being directed by an assistant director. Anyway, Leone agreed and the production was continued. The first choice for the main role was Jason Robards, but the studio wanted a bigger name, so James Coburn was casted. Some say that Leone wanted Clint Eastwood for that role, but Eastwood had projects of his own going on. The same happened with the Juan Miranda's character. It was written for the Eastwood's co-star from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Eli Wallach, but he was casted for another movie. Leone insisted, and after a while Wallach dropped out of his project to work on the newest Leone's film, only to get turned down by the studio. There are even rumors that Wallach sued Leone after that. In the end, Rod Steiger was casted as a "bigger name". This film was shot in Andalusia, Spain, as well as previous Leone's films.
The story of the film is set in Mexico, 1913. in the time of the revolution. Leone's approach was to show his views of the revolution in global. It is considered by some to be an anti-revolutionary film. Though, many of those people can't say they disagree with what the film shows. Leone was, obviously, inspired (frustrated, if you may)  by the suffering of his own people in Italy. The cave scene (I'll say no more) is related to simular event in Italy. Rod Steiger's character is a Mexican outlaw, "working" the roads with his family. Through this character, Leone wanted to show the importance of the family values. James Coburn's John H Mallory was an Irish revolutionary, expert with the explosives. The life doesn't get any easier for the two of them, after they meet. They get stuck inside of a revolution that neither of them wants to be in. As much as they defer, they are very much alike. Juan is in pursuit of the great wealth, while John (Sean) had his belief in the revolution. I'm trying not to spoil anything, it's best to see how that happens on the screen.
This might not be the best Leone's film, but surely the most underrated one. Many people complain about the flashbacks, and unnatural Steiger's performance. I've also figured that many people don't even understand those flashbacks. Steiger's performance wasn't perfect, but Leone wanted his act to be just like that. At first, Steiger was too serious, but Leone didn't want 2 serious characters in the spotlight, so he suggested to make Juan funnier. A lot of the humor in the film comes from improvisation on the set, being that the original script didn't have much humor in it. In the end, it's a movie well worth watching. If you're Leone's fan, you'll love it. If not, maybe this is the very film that will make you admire Leone's work.



  1. sounds like a great film, thanks for the review!

  2. must see this movie.

  3. Nope... Chuck Testa!