Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 14th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1971
Director: Sergio Leone
Writers: Sergio Leone, Sergio Donati, Luciano Vincenzoni
Cast: James Coburn, Rod Steiger, Romolo Valli
DVD released: July 21st, 2003
Approximate running time: 147 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono French, Dolby Digital Mono German
Subtitles: French, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Danish, Portuguese, Greek
DVD Release: MGM (England)
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: $20.95
“The Revolution is not a social dinner, a literary event, a drawing or embroidery; it cannot be done with…elegance and courtesy. The revolution is an act of violence….” – Mao Tse-Tung
A Fistful of Dynamite opens with the iconic image of Juan Miranda (Rod Steiger) as he pisses on an ant hill. Set during the Mexican revolution of 1913, the film continues with a stagecoach of passengers who racist remarks set the tone for the film. At first we are lead to believe that Juan Miranda is a harmless bandit, until we are introduced to his family of bandits who steal, kill, and rape whoever gets in their way. When Miranda meets Sean Mallory (James Coburn) he is inspired to rob Banco Nacional De Mesa Verde with the help of Mallory, an Irish terrorist, whose expertise in dynamite sets the plan in motion. The first of a series of flashbacks in the films shows Mallory, his friend (David Warbeck), and a girl driving through the countryside. At first Miranda has trouble convincing Mallory to help him rob the Banco Nacional De Mesa Verde. Soon after Miranda blackmails Sean they become partners until Sean gives him the slip. The story transforms into a much darker story once Miranda and his family arrive at De Mesa Verde with executions in the street.
The second of Sean’s flashbacks take place in a pub, and Sean’s Friend is handing out flyers to the IRA members. Reunited Miranda and Mallory blast their way into De Mesa Verde only to discover that it isn’t a bank anymore but a prison for political prisoners. Miranda becomes a hero to the people for freeing the prisoners. With no where to go Miranda and Mallory repel the enemy as they approach. When they go back to the cave after forcing the enemy to retreat they walk into a mass grave as everyone including Miranda’s whole family had been slaughtered. Leone’s camera examines the carnage as the faces of the victims are shown for the last time. Dr. Villega (Romolo Valli) now in enemy custody is asked to identify his fellow conspirators. Mallory, in the crowd, watches the events unfold. He sees Dr. Villega sitting with Col. Gunther Ruiz. This sets off Mallory’s third flashback in which his friend has turned him in. After Mallory helps Miranda escape they decide that they should send a locomotive loaded with dynamite to crash into the approaching train. In the fourth flashback Mallory is forced to kill his friend. After the trains collide a battle ensues. In the battle Mallory is shot in the back. Mallory would have the last say as he ignites one final blast.
A Fistful of Dynamite is the odd man out in Sergio Leone’s legacy of films. His dollars trilogy with a then unknown Clint Eastwood, that would launch them both into international fame, followed by the masterful Once Upon a Time in the West, then Once Upon a Time in Mexico or as we now know it, A Fistful of Dynamite. Leone’s direction is powerful and Ennio Morricone provides yet another masterful score for Leone. Rod Steiger is good as Miranda, and in many ways an interesting choice. James Coburn is the heart and soul of A Fistful of Dynamite and he is remarkable as he gives depth to the Mallory character. The first half of the film is lighter then the second half which takes on a darker political tone. Also this version of A Fistful of Dynamite is the most complete English language version to date. It is just missing the final flashback scene.
The Anamorphic 2:35:1 widescreen transfer is exceptional. The picture is sharp throughout, and the colors are bold and consistent throughout with no sign of compression artifacts. This DVD looks remarkable.
Three audio options are present on this DVD: English Dolby Digital 2.0, German Dolby Digital 2.0, French Dolby Digital 2.0, I chose to watch the film in English since no English subs are provided, and it is my native language. Subtitles are available for the following languages French, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Danish, Portuguese, and Greek. The English audio track is clear and presented no problems.
Extras is the one department where this DVD is lacking. All you get is the films original trailer. MGM has delivered a good DVD, but there is still room for improvement with the lack of extras. When all is said and done I am just happy to have A Fistful of Dynamite on DVD.Overall if you are a fan of Sergio Leone, and epic films I highly recommend this film.