THE MERCENARY (1968)
DIRECTOR: Sergio Corbucci
CAST: Franco Nero, Tony Musante, Giovanna Ralli, Jack Palance, Franco Giacombini, Eduardo Fajardo, Bruno Corazzarri, Lorenzo Robledo, Raf Baldassarre, Joe Kamel, Franco Ressel, Guillermo Mendez, Ugo Adinolfi and Angel Alvarez.
REVIEW: Sergio Corbucci, one of the best spaghetti directors, brings us a great pasta western / Revolution adventure.
Paco (Tony Musante) is a dimwitted peasant who leads his comrades into rebellion against the oppressive Mexican military government. He hires a Polish gunfighter (Franco Nero) to help him. The two clash over tactics and a beautiful, feisty woman (Giovanna Ralli) along the way. Jack Palance is a gunfighter who is out for revenge off and on throughout the film.
This is simply one the funnest spaghettis out there. It's nothing big and bold; just an entertaining two-hour buddy flick. Franco Nero (The Battle of Neretva) and Musante have great chemistry as two completely different men thrown into a situation together, in which each makes the best of things for himself. Rod Steiger and James Coburn can easily be seen as variations on the two later in A Fistful of Dynamite. Palance is an ultra-weird gunslinger, who's trying to steal some gold. He doesn't know the rebels are holding it, though, and there's a very embarrasing moment after they capture him. The climactic gunfight in a bullring had me cheering. Eduardo Fajardo makes an obligatory, but wonderfully evil villain. Watch for Raf Baldassarre as a Mexican who gets a match lit on his teeth, and an almost unrecognizable Lorenzo Robledo as a firing squad officer during the climactic escape sequence.
There's not much of a plot here, just a string of evens which push the characters further and further. Corbucci relies on some really good performances and a great script to keep viewers on the edge of their seat. There's a lot of funny dialog, including a great scene involving a pair of dice. There's some religious references: twelve rebels and Nero, their "Jesus"; Nero strapped to a cross when captured; rebels masquerade as monks during a religious assembly to surprise the enemy, etc.
Ennio Morricone's music comes out full force in this film, with a great rousing opening theme, and some truly epical-sounding brass in the climactic gunfights near the end. There's also a number of slam-bang action scenes set amid desolate villages and such, with lots of Mexican soldiers getting machine-gunned and plenty of big explosions. It's also so rapidly edited that I can't help but be drawn into the action. These are all filmed with a decent amount of extras and in a number of authentic-looking Almeria locations.
The print from TCM runs about 105 minutes and I believe it's been cut for violence; though that is the standard English-dubbed version and was cut this way for original release in 1968. The film has been beautifully restored, with fresh, accurate and intense colors and a nicely remastered soundtrack. It's also great to see in in widescreen, the only way to capture the scope and immensity of some scenes. The DVD, titled PROFESSIONAL GUN, is said to be of terrible quality.
This is definitely a must. It's no piece of art like The Good, the Bad and the Uglybut is surely an entertaining little piece you'll wish you hadn't missed.
SGT. SLAUGHTER'S RATING: 4 Bullets