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cigar joe
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« on: November 21, 2003, 03:44:25 PM »

From Todays New York Times:

Leone Classic, Liberated at Last From Television
By ELVIS MITCHELL

Published: November 21, 2003


The rapturous and more than slightly insane 1972 Sergio Leone western "Duck, You Sucker," which opens today at Film Forum, is one of the rare movies that demand a theatrical run for an unusual reason. The picture is almost impossible to concentrate on when it turns up on television, possibly because, with the exception of the laser-disc version, the movie is always crammed into the small frame, rather than being unleashed in the director's own luxuriant brand of wide screen.

 
 
The panned-and-scanned television edition is not only too small; it's too small-minded, spending too much time on Rod Steiger's face and his arrant greed as Juan Miranda, the peasant bandit in revolutionary Mexico. Juan's ambitions to hit a bank he's lusted over forever are subverted by a fugitive I.R.A. rebel and explosives expert, Sean Mallory, played by James Coburn. The scale of the framing is key to the filmmaking and adds to the precise grandiosity of the cutting, especially when Juan finally cracks the bank with the help of his army of sons and Sean. Hilariously, the enterprise becomes something else entirely. (With his round face, beard and the self-congratulatory gleam in his eyes, Steiger resembles some photographs of the director.)

Steiger's occasional lurid and melodramatic harshness is countered by Coburn's arid wittiness: there was still a flicker of meaning left in his quick grin and haunted squint. "Sucker" also features one of the most glorious and unforgettable scores by Leone's composer, Ennio Morricone. And the power of "Invention for John," which plays over the opening credits and is essentially the film's theme, is as epic and truly wondrous as anything Morricone ever did. Alone, the soundtrack will bring tears to your eyes, and it adds a great deal to Coburn's calculated silences.

Sadly, "Invention for John" is hidden near the end of the soundtrack album ó it's sequenced as if its power is totally misunderstood. (Even more regrettably, this score hasn't been in print in the United States since it was released on vinyl in 1972.)

Because the score, and the moviemaking, are so overwhelming ó though a bit undercooked ó shoving "Sucker" into the mangy confines of television is as unsettling as the nitroglycerin that Sean toys with.

The film was originally released in America as "A Fistful of Dynamite," which, in addition to sounding unimaginative, cheapens Leone's reverberations of tragedy and loss in this film. (Leone contended that "Duck, You Sucker" was a common American colloquialism.) In Christopher Frayling's compelling 2000 Leone biography, "Something to Do With Death," one of the proposed titles for "Sucker" is revealed: "Once Upon a Time, the Revolution." This title was dropped when someone believed that Leone's opus might be confused with a film directed by a former Leone collaborator, Bernardo Bertolucci, "Before the Revolution." That film was about political angst in postwar Italy. It's almost as absurd and touching as this film that anyone assumed such confusion could take place.

The director Sam Peckinpah's influence is also evident here: traces of "The Wild Bunch" can be glimpsed in "Sucker." This picture even intuits plot elements of "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid," a Peckinpah western with Coburn that came a year later.

About 10 minutes have been added to "Sucker," dramatic putty that fills in a number of holes left by cuts in the version previously seen in the United States. The resultant mix of dreaminess, violence and politics is a bit unwieldy, but it sticks to your ribs. You'll savor pieces of "Duck, You Sucker" in your head much later: the mark of a work by a true voluptuary, the overspill in whose craft comes as much from enthusiasm as arrogance.

"Duck, You Sucker" opens today at Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, South Village. Tickets: $10; $5 for members. Box office: (212) 727-8110.




« Last Edit: November 21, 2003, 03:45:17 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2003, 04:44:22 PM »

Bravo. Its good to see a decent wright up Cigar Joe.

Im still smarting from the review in the Pocket Guide To Spaghetti Westerns, he slaggs it off for 2 and half pages.... Angry  
then gives it a not bad 3/5  (good average for this book)

its suspended disbelief, then comes to his senses on the rating out of 5.  Roll Eyes


« Last Edit: November 21, 2003, 04:45:48 PM by The Smoker » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2003, 04:47:46 PM »

thx cj ! great to see elvis' writting. toying w/ nytro.ect.
all roads lead to leone , elvis hasn't left the building.  Grin

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« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2008, 04:37:48 PM »

Just to be clever I decided to reply to one of these older, older posts. Itís amazing to see familiar names Ė Cigar Joe, Noodles and Groggy Ė even in the archives.

This article reproaching the ďpanned-and-scanned television editionĒ of DYS reminds me of one I read about the remake of 3:10 to Yuma. That must be a huge faux pas in Western cinema. Or perhaps just SL films, with whom the panorama is practically a signature.

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« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2008, 03:31:33 AM »

A Western without landscapes is like a day without sunshine.

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« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2008, 09:14:17 AM »

I can see certain SL scenes being completely butchered by a pan-and scan: Jillís carriage ride into Sweetwater, Tucoís daunting search for Arch Stanton, Joeís final stand off with Ramon.... but itís mostly for loss of mood rather than aesthetics. Iím one of those people who hits zoom on the DVD player anyway.  Embarrassed I donít have a wide-screen tv (waiting for the digital conversion), so Iím getting short changed regardless.

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« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2008, 03:27:56 PM »

Leone 4:3 and Leone 1:33:1 are completely different experiences altogther. I remember as a kid watching bits of Leone's films on cable television and being completely underwhelmed. I thought the movies were solid, but the visuals were so "off". Instead of watching one of the finest directors who ever lived, I was restricted to watching blurry faces and landscapes.

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