Also known as: Giù la testa, lit. Duck Your Head (Italy), A Fistful of Dynamite, Once Upon A Time… the Revolution
Release Date: October 29th, 1971 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Leone
Written by: Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Donati, Sergio Leone, Roberto De Leonardis, Carlo Tritto
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Rod Steiger, James Coburn, Romolo Valli
Rafran Cinematografica, Euro International Film, San Miura, United Artists, 157 Minutes
Duck, You Sucker is the last spaghetti western film to be directed by Sergio Leone. He was involved in the film My Name Is Nobody, which was a western that came out after this, but it was in a limited and uncredited capacity.
This is one of Leone’s most under-appreciated films. It doesn’t have the popularity of his Dollars Trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly) or the more critically acclaimed Once Upon A Time In the West but it does exist on a filmmaking level similar to those masterpieces.
Duck, You Sucker stars Rod Steiger and James Coburn and it is my favorite role for both actors. Steiger plays the leader of a Mexican bandit family and Coburn plays an ex-IRA explosives expert. The two happen to meet and team-up: building a strong bond.
The greedy bandit wants riches while the Irishman wants something much different. In a comedic turn of events, the bandit becomes a Mexican folk hero due to his unintentional part in the Mexican Revolution.
In scope, this may be Leone’s biggest film. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly had some massive scenes featuring Civil War battles and an enormous graveyard but Duck, You Sucker feels so much larger. Most notably, there is the sequence where our revolutionaries find themselves battling a tank in the desert. The scene obviously inspired the Nazi tank battle from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
I wouldn’t call this Leone’s best film but it is hard not to have it in the conversation, as it takes what he has done previously in the western genre and expands on it artistically and in scope. The visual style and presentation is consistent with his other western films and you can imagine that all of these movies exist in the same world that he carefully crafted for several years, at the height of his career.
It is the lesser known cousin of his other spaghetti westerns but it doesn’t deserve to be. It is solid through and through and a great companion piece to Leone’s other work in the genre.