Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 22nd, 2004
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
DVD released: November 21st, 2003
Approximate running time: 111 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Japanese
DVD Release: Stringray
Region Coding: Region 2 NTSC
Retail Price: $49.95
Synopsis: 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 is a similar fashion like Corbucci’s Compañeros 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 wrong for Paco and Kowalski when they clash over strategies and beautiful Columba (Giovanna Ralli), 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). Sergio Corbucci directed several Spaghetti Westerns that are classics of this genre that rank up there with Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns like Django, The Great Silence, Compañeros and The Mercenary. Even some of his lesser Spaghetti Westerns like Minnesota Clay, Navajo Joe and The Hellbenders had a style and originality to them something a lot of Spaghetti westerns lacked as the genre spawned countless clones. Ennio Morricone would compose 7 Spaghetti Western scores for Corbucci and just like he had done with Leone’s westerns he helped elevate Corbucci’s films to another level.
Sergio Corbucci crafts an epic film that is inventive in its compositions. He helped co-write the script that is laced with funny dialog and a few religious references like when Nero’s character is captured and strapped to a cross and Paco starts out with twelve men (Disciples) when he meets Kowalski (The Savoir). The Mercenary was one of the first Spaghetti Westerns films to inject comedy without spoofing itself. Franco Nero and Tony Musante are a wonderful team as Musante doesn’t go as over the top as Tomas Milian did playing a similar character in Compañeros. Jack Palance is once again cast as a villain which is his very good at and my only complaint is that we don’t see enough of him in this film.
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 score in Kill Bill Volume 2. From the opening moments tell the finale what isn’t there not to like about The Mercenary as everything comes together making this film one of the more enjoyable Spaghetti westerns that I have seen so far.
The Mercenary is presented in its original widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35.1 but is not enhanced for anamorphic television sets. The colors are strong and black levels fare well without any break up. The source print used was very clean as print damage is virtually non-existent, still an anamorphic enhancement would have been nice.
There are two audio options included on this DVD English and Japanese Dolby Digital Mono. The audio tracks are clear and easy to hear without any noticeable distortion. This DVD comes with Japanese subtitles included.
This DVD is essentially a barebones affair as the only extras included are the films original trailer and a 3-D calendar. The lack of extras is a disappointment and the high price tag might discourage many from buying this classic Spaghetti Western. Not only is this the best version currently available on home video of The Mercenary it is the only release of the film on the market with an English audio track that offers the film in its original aspect ratio. The Mercenary is one of the best films the Spaghetti Western genre has to offer and for those who have deep pockets this is a must buy and for everyone else lets hope a region 1 DVD is on the horizon.