Duck You Sucker (1971) / Western-Adventure
aka Giu la testa
aka A Fistful of Dynamite
aka Once Upon a Time...The Revolution
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, nudity, and language
Running time: 157 min. (restored version), 120 min. (theatrical)
Cast: Rod Steiger, James Coburn, Romolo Valli, Franco Graziosi, Antoine Saint-John, Maria Monti, Rik Battaglia, Vivienne Chandler, David Warbeck
Director: Sergio Leone
Screenplay: Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Donati, Sergio Leone
Review published October 18, 2007
Quite possibly the least appreciated of director Sergio Leone's (The Good the Bad and the Ugly, For a Few Dollars More) masterworks, Duck You Sucker may lack Clint Eastwood's iconic presence, but still resonates with a smartly written script and a visionary director at the peak of his powers. It's a comedy of sorts, as well as a serious treatment on the war against oppression, with lots of commentary on how elitist power uses the uneducated lower classes to do their bidding while they continue to reap the rewards of their efforts. While many viewers will give it a go for its comic aspects and action, it's really Leone's compassion for class struggles that elevates Duck You Sucker from another decent spaghetti Western to being a unique and thought-provoking adventure.
The setting is Mexico during their bitter Revolution. Juan (Steiger, Love and Bullets) is a Mexican bandit who, along with partner-in-crime sons, steal a luxury stage coach, only to lose it in a feud with an expatriate IRA (anachronistic it may be) terrorist, John (Coburn, Charade) -- or Sean, as he mentions initially. Once Juan sees how deft John is with his explosives, a revelation occurs in his mind to use his expertise to break into the national bank and steal as much loot as they can. However, John has ulterior motives in mind in assisting Juan in his endeavors, most notably in helping the Mexican peasants gain the upper hand against their oppressors, using Juan as the ultimate unwitting hero of the Revolution.
It's an amusing comedy, witty social commentary, and an action-packed war flick all in one. Although not as engaging as the Man with No Name trilogy, or as sweeping in scope as the Once Upon a Time films, it does feature some great cinematography, another captivating (if odd) score by Ennio Morricone (The Witches, A Fistful of Dollars), and two very appealing lead characters who traverse through their odyssey, carried away by forces they are only a part of indirectly. Though their accents are iffy, Steiger and Coburn perform very well in their respective roles as reluctant heroes. Their parts were reportedly written for other actors (Eli Wallach had been meant to reprise his classic turn as the Mexican bandit), but once you settle in to their personas, you forget they're acting and can accept the two well-known stars as the characters they are meant to be.
Duck You Sucker doesn't strive for historical accuracy, but it does remain vital as an interesting allegory celebrating the virtues of the common man and vices of the powerful and rich. In many ways, it is a left-leaning film, not dissimilar to many which were popular around the era from which it was made, but it's not as much of a commentary of a particular contemporary event as a way of thinking that perpetuated itself ever since the days of haves and have-nots. Although not nearly the classic in the Western genre as Leone's other films, as an entity unto itself, especially when considering the works of a master director, its complexities make it more than worthwhile. Watch the restored, uncut version if you can.
©2007 Vince Leo