The Old West… What can I say about it? It has fostered legends, both good and bad, such legendary law men as Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and the likes. On the opposite end, it can be said that the old west also fostered the legends of such crooks and criminals as Billy The Kid and Jesse James…
In some ways though it can also be said that the old west was a simpler time, with farmers farming their land to feed their families, where the ability to become a self made millionaire or to piss away your life in drinking and debauchery was easier!
The Motion Picture Industry has been known for decades to have romanticized such people and situations that were very popular in the old west, some of these examples of classic films are Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969) with Robert Redford (All The President's Men) and Paul Newman (The Towering Inferno) and The Magnificent Seven (1960) with Steve McQeen (Junior Bonner) and Yul Brynner (West World), for TV their are also several great examples, such as Bonanza with Lorne Greene (Klondike Fever) and Michael Landon (Sam's Son), another one being another Landon classic and being the small screen adaption of the famous Laura Ingalls Wilder novel series Little House On The Prairie with Melissa Gilbert (Sacrifice Of The Heart) and Karen Grassle (Wyatt Earp)
Now as I mentioned in previous recommendations, I am still relatively new to the Western genre, but everything I have seen so far I have found that I really like! From everyone trying to find out who Aguilar is in A Town Called Hell (1971) to the modern cowboy trying to regain his confidence at the rodeo in Junior Bonner (1972), and this latest one The Mercenary is no different!
Written by: Giorgio Arlorio (Le Complici), Adriano Bolzoni (L'ombre Du Pharaeon), Franco Solinas (Hanna K.), Sergio Spina (Longing For Peace: A Portrait Of Don Tonino Bello), Luciano Vincenzoni (Il Falso Bugiardo) and also written and directed by Sergio Corbucci (Duel Of The Titans). Starring: Franco Nero (The Rite) Tony Musante (We Own The Night), Jack Palance (Tango And Cash) and Giovanna Ralli (Immature)
The movie starts off at a faux Bull fight near the U.S. Mexican Border in the early part of the 20th century, at that faux bull fight is Sergei 'The Polish' Kowalski (Nero) he is watching as the faux bull fight takes place, and is remembering the events that have brought him to this point through a short Voice Over narration…
Now of course the real story actually takes place roughly earlier that year, when a group of Mexican laborers that are working at a labor camp mining silver for their wealthy masters! During their meal break, the workers are sitting down eating their boiled beans in disgust, when one of the workers gets up the nerve to ask why their usual Friday specialty with their meal hadn't been given to them this Friday. During this time, one of the workers pulls out a dead lizard from his bean bowl.
At this point, the job foreman begins to laugh at the timing about one person asking him about their treat and how another worker pulls a a dead lizard out of his beans. This angers the workers who decide to take this up in the most violent way as possible, by storming their masters home, and stealing his rich bounty (there is a great scene in which Paco Roman (Musante), who would later become a revolutionary leader, makes one of these rich guys literally eat the dead lizard!)
After this occurs, Paco is of course captured and is put to death by having horses trample on his head (Or so he thinks) because just as the Horses are coming his way, Paco's revolutionary f0rces pull him underground and to the other side of the wall, and to freedom! They take off making certain that they don't end up getting captured again.
With that said, now we cut over to Curly (Palance), now Curly is not your normal out law, he is a little more regal with his bearing, he looks really out of place playing cards with a bunch of cut throat thieves who would gladly kill him for his money. The reason that I say this, is because if you didn't see the type of company that Curly keeps, then you could have easily have mistaken Curly for being a rich person, or maybe even an aristocrat from some European monarchy.
With that said, during this time Curly, Curly ends up winning his last card game, and making certain that he gets his winnings by pointing a small six shooter gun at the people sitting at the table. After this is done, Curly gets up and leaves the table. During this time Sergei 'The Polish' Kowalski comes in and walks over to the local craps table…
Sergei Kowalski is a Polish mercenary, who really will work for just about anyone, and at least in the beginning does not seem to have any moral scruples or interest in just about anything but the money!
With that said, Kowalski walks over to the table, and then throws the dice a few times (these dice having been fixed dice) always throws sevens, so to handle this, Kowalski gets the dealer to drink a glass of milk with the dice in it (The dealer ends up spilling most of it on the front of his shirt because Kowalski is pushing the glass up quick enough to spill most of it.)
After this humiliation is done, and after he lets everyone know that they will ultimately be getting their money back , Kowalski is approached by a couple of people to hire him for a job transporting and protecting a Silver shipment that they want to have sent to the U.S.
After this is done Kowalski takes off and buys some weapons for his trip and heads over to the rendezvous point where he is supposed to pick up the Silver…
The sad fact is though, is that it turns out that the Silver is gone, and not long after Kowalski gets their, he is held at gun point by Paco and his revolutionaries… During this time though, a company of Mexican regular Military forces show up to destroy the rebels!
While this is going on, Paco discovers that Kowalski's Horse had ended up knocking a large machine gun off the saddle and decides to run to grab it and set it up (A Machine gun still being relatively new at that time.) When he can't figure out how to get the thing working, he ends up having to pay Kowalski four hundred dollars to not only show him how to set up the weapon, but also how to use it…
Now ultimately being the opportunist that he is, Kowalski, after he gets his money for the machine gun, decides to help the revolutionaries through this battle. After the battle is done, Paco, convinced that the revolution does need Kowalski, hires Kowalski for an exorbitant fee, so that they can win the revolution!
Now it is up to Kowalski to win freedom for the Mexican people (to which over time he begins to like.) Now while doing this Kowalski has to dodge the greedy and vengeful Curly (who is out for Kowalski and the revolutions blood after loosing his body guards thanks to Kowalski, and being humiliated by the revolution, The Mexican Army, and an increasingly greedy revolutionary army, and its power hungry leader Paco!
Now what I like about this movie and what I truly believe makes this a killer Awesome B Movie is:
1. Jack Palance, I mean this guy just to me screams Western…
2. I also wanted to say that I was also impressed with the rest of the cast from Italian actor Franco Nero's portrayal of Polish mercenary Sergei Kowalski to American actor Tony Musante's portrayal of the Mexican revolutionary leader Paco Roman, and everyone in between!
3. I also found this movie interesting for its portrayal of old western values (such as the way of the gun) and how it conforms to a modernizing world, with Airplanes, Cars, etc….
4. Lastly I wanted to say that I really liked Sergio Corbucci's work in this as well, I mean I haven't seen much of his work, but between this and The Duel Of The Titans this guy is really proving himself to be a power house Director!
Anyway if your looking for an interesting fun good Western to watch, then I recommend checking this one out, I really doubt you'll regret it!