Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 9th, 2018
BluRay released: March 6th, 2018
Approximate running time: 157 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, DTS-HD Stereo English
BluRay Release: Kino Lorber
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.95
A Fistful of Dynamite opens with the iconic image of Juan Miranda 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, 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 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 nowhere 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 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 has been released under several alternate titles since its initial theatrical release. The film’s Italian language title is Giù la testa and the English translation of this title is Keep Your Head Down. Other titles that this film has been released under include, Duck You Sucker and Once Upon a Time… the Revolution.
Besides being released under several different titles, this film has also been released in versions which censored Sergio Leone’s original vision. The original U.S. theatrical release removed thirty-seven minutes and it’s running time was two hours.
A Fistful of Dynamite is the odd man out in Sergio Leone’s legacy of films. With his Man with no Name trilogy with a then unknown Clint Eastwood, being the film’s that would launch them both into international fame, followed by his masterpiece Once Upon a Time in the West.
Giù la testa or as we now know it, A Fistful of Dynamite began as a film that Sergio Leone originally intended to produce. And as the film evolved, he would be forced to take on a larger creative role once he became the film’s director.
Content wise, this film greatly differs from his previous four films which preceded this film. The film’s narrative has two distinctive halves. With the first half of the film featuring a lighter than the second half of the film which takes on a darker, political tone.
The cast are all exceptional in their respective roles. With the inspired casting of Rod Steiger (In the Heat of the Night, The Last Days of Mussolini) in the role Juan Miranda being this film’s standout performance. Other notable performances include, Romolo Valli (What?, Conversation Piece) in the role of Dr. Villega, a revolutionary who betrayal plays an integral role in the film’s finale and James Coburn (Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid) in the role of John H. Mallory, an explosives expert who was forced to flee Ireland, after a friend betrays him.
Sergio Leone’s direction is masterful and once again, Ennio Morricone provides an evocative score that perfectly captures the mood. Redemption, play a large role in the story at hand and some of this most powerful moments are related to moments of self-reflection that involves regret. Another strength of this film is Sergio Leone’s use of flashback sequences, most notably the flashback in the film’s finale.
A Fistful of Dynamite comes on a 50 GB dual layer (43.8 GB) BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. There is no information given about the source for this releases transfer. And when compared to the MGM’s Blu-ray release from 2014, this transfer appears to have been sourced from that transfer. It should be noted that this transfer ends with the title card A Fistful of Dynamite, while MGM’s Blu-ray release uses the title card Duck You Sucker.
This release comes with two audio options, DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English and a DTS-HD stereo mix in English. DTS-HD 5.1 mix is identical to the DTS-HD 5.1 mix that MGM used for their Blu-ray release and the DTS-HD stereo mix appears to be a down mix of the DTS-HD 5.1 mix. Included with this release are removable English subtitles.
Extras for this release include, a reversible cover art, an animated B&W image gallery, an animated Color image gallery, ‘Trailers from Hell’ with Brian Trenchard-Smith (4 minutes 3 seconds), a trailer for the film (3 minutes 35 seconds), 6 radio spots (4 minutes 3 seconds), six featurettes – Location Comparisons (9 minutes 31 seconds), Restoration Italian Style (6 minutes 7 seconds), Sorting Out the Versions (11 minutes 36 seconds), Once Upon a Time in Italy (AKA The Autry Exhibition) (6 minutes 1 second), Sergio Donati Remembers “Duck You Sucker” (7 minutes 20 seconds) and The Myth of Revolution (22 minutes 10 seconds) and two audio commentaries – the first audio commentary with film historian Sir Christopher Frayling and the second audio commentary with filmmaker Alex Cox
Topics discussed in the extra titled Sergio Donati Remembers “Duck You Sucker” include, the origins of Duck You Sucker, how Sergio Leone was originally only going to produce the film ad why the film’s original director Peter Bogdanovich was replaced, his creative process as a screenwriter and collaborating with Sergio Leone.
Topics discussed by Sir Christopher Frayling in the extra titled The Myth of Revolution include, Sergio Leone, his thoughts about Duck You Sucker, how the tone and themes explored in the film were a byproduct of the political climate at the time in Europe, Sergio Leone’s evolution as a filmmaker, casting choices, the cast and his thoughts about their performances, why this film was released under several titles, key moments, the visuals and Sergio Leone’s use of flashback’s.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary with Sir Christopher Frayling include, Mao Tse-Tung’s text that opens the film, scenes that were cut from the film’s original U.S. theatrical release, how Rod Steiger’s role was written for Eli Wallach, background information about Sergio Leone and the cast, Ennio Morricone and the score and production related information.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary with Alex Cox include, Serio Leone, background information about Duck You Sucker (A Fistful of Dynamite), Spaghetti westerns, Tortilla westerns, the cast, Ennio Morricone and his thoughts about Duck You Sucker (A Fistful of Dynamite).
Other extras include trailer for Fistful of Dollars (2 minutes 26 seconds), For a Few Dollars More (2 minutes 29 seconds), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (3 minutes 21 seconds) and Once Upon a Time in the West (2 minutes 52 seconds).
The films of Sergio Leone have had a troubled history, when it comes to their home video releases. This Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber, marks the fourth home video incarnation of this film that have owned to date. With the other three being MGM’s 2003 UK DVD release, MGM’s 2005 UK DVD release and MGM’s 2014 Blu-ray release.
For anyone expecting that this release would improve upon MGM’s 2014 Blu-ray, outside of a few new extras, this Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber is essentially a port of that aforementioned release.