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
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 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.