Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 19th, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1968
Director: Sergio Corbucci
Writers: Giorgio Arlorio, Adriano Bolzoni, Sergio Corbucci, Franco Solinas, Sergio
Spina, Luciano Vincenzoni
Cast: Franco Nero, Jack Palance, Tony Musante, Giovanna Ralli
BluRay released: November 7th, 2017
Approximate running times: 107 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
BluRay Release: Kino Lorber
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.95
The year is 1915 and the story of The Mercenary takes place in the middle of the Mexican revolution. Paco (Tony Musante), is disguised as a clown as he performs for an audience. The Mercenary opens and closes in a similar fashion like Sergio Corbucci’s Companeros, Where the first scene of the movie is the last scene that dissolves into a flashback that comes full circle at the end of the film.
Paco is a dimwitted peasant, who with the help of his comrades they try to over throw the Mexican Government. Kowalski (Franco Nero), is a Polish gunfighter that Paco hires to help him in his quest. Along the way Paco clashes with Ricciolo (Jack Palance), who is hell bent on exacting his revenge against Paco. Things start to go awry for Paco and Kowalski, when they clash over strategies and Columba (Giovanna Ralli), a beautiful woman who has plans of her own.
When Spaghetti westerns are discussed and the name Sergio comes up we immediately think Sergio Leone, not the other Sergio (Sergio Corbucci). And Sergio Corbucci in total would direct seven Spaghetti westerns, that are widely considered classics of this genre. Most notably, Django, The Great Silence, Compañeros and The Mercenary. All of his Spaghetti westerns had a style and originality to them that set them apart from the countless clones that would ultimately contribute to the genres demise.
Sergio Corbucci crafts an epic film that is inventive in its compositions. And he helped co-write the script that is laced with tongue and cheek dialog. There are also several religious references in this film like a scene where Franco Nero’s character is captured and strapped to a cross. And Paco starts out with twelve men (Disciples) when he meets Kowalski (The Savoir).
As mentioned before humor plays a role in the story at hand. And though The Mercenary predates films like Trinity and My Name is Nobody. The humor is more organic than the satirical Spaghetti westerns that would rise to prominence in the early 1970’s.
Performance wise, Franco Nero (Man, Pride and Vengeance, Hitch Hike) and Tony Musante (The Bird With the Crystal Plumage) make a formidable duo. And though Tony Musante portrays a character type that is very similar tot the type of characters that Tomas Milian often portrayed in Spaghetti westerns. Tony Musante delivers a more restrained version of this type of character. And Jack Palance (The Big Knife, Marquis de Sade’s Justine) delivers another scene stealing performance.
The ever reliable Ennio Morricone is the composer for The Mercenary. And he once again creates a score that not only makes the films better, but it perfectly fits the films mood. Quentin Tarantino used L’Arena from The Mercenary’s score in Kill Bill Volume 2.
The Mercenary comes on a 50 GB dual layer (26.1 GB) BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. This film has had a very limited home video history on DVD and this release from Kino Lorber marks this film’s HD debut. The source used for this transfer is in very good shape. With any print related imprecations being very minimal. Before this release the best home video release from this film was a German DVD from Koch Media and an underwhelming non-anamorphic Japanese DVD release. Needless to say, this new transfer will be a much welcome upgrade for anyone who has seen this film via those two aforementioned releases. Colors and flesh tones look accurate, details look crisp and black levels remain strong throughout.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English. The audio sounds, clean, clear and robust when it needs too, especially Ennio Morricone’s score.
Extras for this release include, a stills image gallery titled Mercenario in Pictures (6 minutes 12 seconds) and a publicity image gallery titled Promoting Mercenario (10 minutes 20 seconds). Both of these image galleries feature music from the film playing in the background.
Rounding out the extras is an audio commentary with filmmaker Alex Cox who discusses, Sergio Corbucci, background information about screenwriters Franco Solinas and Luciano Vincenzoni, the cast, the role humor plays in this film, locations, how this is one of few Spaghetti westerns that Franco Nero actually dubbed his own voice in English, cinematographer Alejandro Ulloa / the visuals, Ennio Morricone / the score and his thoughts about the film. His knowledge and enthusiasm for the Spaghetti western genre make this a very enjoyable track.
Overall The Mercenary gets a solid release from Kino Lorber.