for dvd/soundtrack cd release.
HE SELLS DEATH TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER BUY OR DIE.
Released in 1968, IL MERCENARIO / A PROFESSIONAL GUN, was realized and brought to the screen by respected Italian filmmaker Sergio Corbucci and produced by the well known mogul/producer Alberto Grimaldi. Set in Mexico in 1915, the films storyline takes place during the Mexican revolution which was taking happening whilst the so called superior nations fought each other in Europe, it was and still is one of the most polished and well made Spaghetti Westerns that belongs to the ‘Zapata Western’ sub genre and remains one of the Italian western genres most entertaining and interesting examples, with its political undertones and its inclination towards the underdog rising up against the system scenario. It tells the story of a poor but passionate peon Paco Ramon (Tony Musante) and his ascent from a lowly downtrodden and cruelly treated individual who is forced to labour in a silver mine, to a leading figure within the revolutionary movement. It also charts the unlikely pairing and eventual strong friendship between Paco and a soldier of fortune Sergei Kowalski (Franco Nero) who has left his native Poland and the war in Europe. The Polack as they call him is in Mexico for one reason and one reason only and that is to get his hands on as much money as he can. He has originally arrived at the mine to strike a deal with the owners The Garcia Brothers to ensure that the silver from the mine arrives safely at its destination. After his meeting with the mine owners the Polack heads towards the mine, but unbeknown to him Curly a psychotic and vicious homosexual played by Jack Palance kills the Garcia brothers and decides that he will stop the Mercenary and take the silver for himself. Kowalski arrives at the mine to find that the Federal troops that were stationed there have been massacred and Paco and his fellow workers have taken over.
After an uneasy first meeting and a battle with more government troops led by Colonel Alfonso Garcia (Eduardo Fajardo) in which the Mercenary teaches Paco (after getting money from him) to use a machine gun in a somewhat unorthodox but effective way.
The Polack convinces Paco that he can help him. He manipulates the Mexican who is somewhat in awe of the mercenary and plants the seeds of ideas in his head getting him to carry out acts against the authorities convincing him and his followers that it was actually their idea in the first place. Thus earning himself money and also bringing notoriety to Paco and his men. After a handful of encounters Kowalski leaves Paco and his men and gets ambushed by the unpleasant Curly and his henchman, but Paco and his band arrive in the nick of time to help the Pollock, killing Curly’s men and stripping Palance’s character to his underwear before sending him off into the desert, Curly refusing to leave his pants on and stripping himself naked before he sets off vowing to kill Paco and have his revenge on Kowalski. It is after this that Paco hires Kowalski to teach him how to lead a revolution collecting money from the members of his band to fund the mercenary. Paco and his men travel the countryside liberating villages and towns from the grip of the tyrannical authorities and as they do their numbers grow, at one of the villages that they free, they encounter Columba a beautiful young women portrayed by Giovanni Ralli, and both Paco and Kowalski are attracted to her, thus begins a friendly but at times fierce rivalry between the two. Columba joins the band of revolutionaries and soon sees through Kowalski, she realises he is in the revolution for the money and tries to convince Paco that he can do without him, Paco and his men decide to make a stand in a town that they have liberated staying to defend the people against a large contingent of federals, Kowalski advises them not to stay, but they refuse to take this advice and Kowalski leaves. Paco and his men are defeated by the government troops and flee to a nearby village where Kowalski is waiting for them with food and drink. Paco makes another deal with the Mercenary who has this time doubled his rates of pay. Paco agrees to pay him and they carry on with their revolutionary acts freeing villages and inflicting losses upon the federal forces, after defeating an entire regiment and capturing a town, Paco decides that Kowalski has become to greedy and takes him prisoner taking all of the money he has paid him back. Whilst the Pollock is tied up and in prison Paco marries Columba but the town is attacked by Colonel Garcia‘s troops aided by Curly and his henchman. Paco soon realises he cannot handle the situation so has to release Kowalski, a fierce battle ensues and most of Paco’s men are killed as the Government troops enlist the aid of an aeroplane, which is eventually shot down by Kowalski, but things do not go to plan as Kowalski escapes and Paco is trapped, but he is soon released by Columba and they escape before Curly finds them.
After a period of some six months or so, Kowalski comes across Paco in a circus dressed as a clown, he is surprised that the Mexican has survived, and is hiding away from Curly. When the performance has finished and the watching crowd has left Curly enters the arena and his men capture Paco, the idea being that Curly kills him.
Kowalski intervenes much to the relief of Paco, killing Curly’s men and then hands both Paco and Curly a rifle and a bullet each so that it will be a fair fight. The showdown ensues and Paco kills Curly shooting him through the heart. But after Paco has done this Kowalski then turns his gun on the Mexican, taking him prisoner and heads off towards the headquarters of Colonel Garcia’s 51st regiment to collect the reward that is being offered for Paco. Columba sees what Kowalski is doing and heads for the headquarters herself pretending to betray Paco telling them where they can find the Mexican and also the Polack the federals believe her and set off to intercept Paco and Kowalski. So when the troops catch up with the pair Kowalski finds himself under arrest too because he has a bigger price on his head than Paco. The two men are sentenced to death and are told they will die by firing squad. However Columba puts her plan into action and with the assistance of a handful of men and two machine guns, She manages to free the pair and then Paco, Columba and Kowalski make their escape, eventually meeting up in the desert. Kowalski says to Paco that they should team up and they could form a company, working for both sides in a revolution any where in the world and make a lots of money and retire rich. But the Mexican is wise to the ways of the Mercenary and laughs as he and replies. “I would like to have a partnership with you Polack, but I have a dream and My Dream is in Mexico”, referring to the revolution. Kowalski looks at Paco puzzled as the Mexican continues, “Do you ever dream Polack, No I don’t think you do”. With this Kowalski and Paco part ways and head off into the sunset, but Kowalski notices that a handful of Federals led by Colonel Garcia are laying in wait for Paco, the Mercenary kills all of them when they are about to shoot Paco, he then calls to the Mexican “ Keep dreaming, but do it with your eyes open”. Paco then rides off into the desert to join Columba who is waiting for him in a nearby town. IL MERCENARIO is a classic spaghetti western, and the relationship between the principal characters Kowalski and Paco has certain noticeable similarities to that of Sean and Juan in Leone’s GUI LA TESTA (A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE) and also between Chuncho and Bill Tate in Damiani’s excellent QUIEN SABE ? (A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL). It remains a firm favourite with fans of the genre and has certainly stood the test of time, as it has not aged or become clichéd as other examples of the genre have over the years. It is a well made, inventive and entertaining motion picture.
Sergio Corbucci was born on December 6th 1927 in Italy. Most of this directors movies have the reputation for containing copious amounts of violence, but at the same time his films were intelligent and inventive examples of Italian cinema. He is probably best known for his work within the Italian or Spaghetti western genre. But he was at home within any genre, a number of his action films contain social criticism of left wing politics as Corbucci never hid the fact that he was a communist. The art direction he employed within his films was mostly apocalyptic and surrealistic which became one of the filmmakers trademarks and a mark of his black humour. Corbucci began his career in film within the Sword and sandal days of Italian cinema, and it is probably true to say that he learnt his craft from many Hollywood film directors that had travelled to Italy,s Cinecitta to work on Biblical epics during the 1950,s and 1960,s. He did however contribute a number of examples of the Sword and sandal variety to the genre. These included SON OF SPARTACUS, which although nothing remotely like the original SPARTACUS was an enjoyable adventure romp. In 1965 he directed MASSACRE AT GRAND CANYON, which was a spaghetti western of sorts, by this I mean it belongs to the genre, but really contained non of the trademarks that we now so readily associate with the Italian produced sagebrush sagas. In the same year he worked on MINNESOTA CLAY again an Italian western, but one which still contained many of the clichéd trademarks of the Hollywood produced western.
He entered 1966 full of ideas of how to shape the western all’Italiana and it was in this year that he directed RINGO AND HIS GOLDEN PISTOL which was one of the earlier real spaghetti westerns, containing a gimmicky storyline , but still had some connections with the Hollywood version of the western. It was DJANGO an ultra violent western that he also filmed in 1966 that was to be the directors first major break into the commercial film market, the movies leading actor was Franco Nero who was to be the leading figure in many of Corbucci’s later movies.
The film became an instant hit in Italy and also a cult film throughout Europe, it was and still is notorious for its scenes of violence and also the amount of killings it contained, which led to it being banned in the UK for some 20 years. In many ways it was a more brutal version of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. With Ku Klux Clan and Mexican bandito’s taking the place of the Rojo’s and the Baxter’s and Django being stuck in the middle playing both sides off against each other. In the same year Corbucci directed NAVAJO JOE, which was a vehicle for young American actor Burt Reynolds, but it was the success of DJANGO that put Corbucci firmly on the filmmaking map, after this success Corbucci went onto become a director in demand and made numerous other westerns during the period from 1966 through to 1971 that remain to this day original and iconic examples of the genre. These included, THE GREAT SILENCE which was perceived to be so violent that it too was banned from a number of countries. The movie had two endings shot one happy and one gruesome and dark. Other westerns that Corbucci directed include, HELLBENDERS, THE SPECIALIST, COMPANEROS, BANDA J AND S and WHAT AM I DOING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE REVOLUTION. Corbucci became the most successful director in Italy after Sergio Leone. When the genre of the Italian western had run its course and the ideas for the genre had been explored fully and more or less exhausted by filmmakers, Corbucci concentrated mostly upon comedies which was a genre that he also excelled in. These movies often starred the singer/actor Adriano Celentano, many thought that Corbucci.s contributions were not important examples of Italian cinema at the time of them being produced, but over the years he has become an extremely significant and highly regarded figure within the world of film making. Sergio Corbucci died on December 1st 1990.
IL MERCENARIO, contained a quick and clever script, and had an inventive and interesting storyline and plot. This was partly due to the work of screen writer Luciano Vincenzoni, who had worked with Sergio Leone on FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY. Vincenzoni was born in Italy on the 7th of march 1926, he is one of Italy’s most respected scribes for the cinema and is known in Italy as THE SCRIPT DOCTOR. He has provided the scripts/screenplay etc for over 60 movies which were produced over a period of some 46 years. It was due to his connections that Leone’s FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE was actually sold to United Artists for distribution, and amazingly during the meeting to discuss this he managed to convince UA to take THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, which at that time had not even been fully written or planned. He had begun to develop the idea from a film he had worked on in 1959 entitled LA GRANDE GUERRA, and it was Vincenzoni that came up with the title for the movie on the spot at the meeting, convincing UA that it would be a success.
Probably one of the most well known actors in Italian cinema, Franco Nero was born Francesco Sparanero was born in San Prospero, Emilia-Romagna and spent much of his early life in Bedonia and Milan. He originally had decided to study economy and trade at University but then made a decision to study the piccolo Teatro di Milano. His first role in a motion picture was in 1964 when he was given a small part in LA RACAZZA IN PRESTITO, this was followed by a few more small roles but he was propelled to fame in 1966, when director Sergio Corbucci gave him the leading role in DJANGO. This was to be the role that set Nero off on his busy acting career and one that established him as an actor of much presence and talent. In the same year Nero starred in no less than eight movies, TEXAS ADDIO and TEMPO DI MASSACRO among them. In 1967, Nero was asked to take the part of Lancelot in the Hollywood produced movie of the Lerner and Lowe musical CAMELOT, starring alongside Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave, it was here that he and Redgrave became attracted to each other and thus began their long time partnership which was to last some 40 years. The role in Camelot was followed by an appearance in a mafia laced story entitled IL GIORNO DALLA CIVETTA (1968) which also starred Claudia Cardinale. His awkwardness and apparent difficulty to master the English language seemed to limit the roles he was offered, although he did land parts in other English language productions such as FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE, THE VIRGIN AND THE GYPSY, DIE HARD 2 and ENTER THE NINJA. Nero has been somewhat typecast during his career in movies such as KEOMA-THE VIOLENT BREED AND DEAF SMITH AND JOHNNY EARS, but he has also managed to perform well in some quite demanding roles, i.e.; THE BIBLE, STREET LAW and QUERELLE. He has appeared in some 160 movies to date and also had a hand in the writing and production of JOHNATHAN AND THE BEARS in 1993, more recently he has starred in CONQUEST (1996) and HOLY CROWN (2001) for Hungarian filmmaker Gabor Koltav. His partnership with Vanessa Redgrave produced a son, who is now a screenwriter and a film director who goes under the name of Carlo Nero.
Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Anthony Peter Musante jnr, on June 30th 1936, he was the son of an accountant and a school teacher. He attended The Oberlin College and graduated to the Northwest University. Musante became a familiar face in a number of motion pictures that were produced in the USA and Europe. He was also very much in demand in Italy where he was the star of the television series TOMA which was the predecessor to the now well known BARETTA. He also made an appearance in the soap, AS THE WORLD TURNS and during the 1970,s played Broadway, in 1975 he received a Drama Desk award for his part in the play P.S YOUR CAT IS DEAD! And in the same year was nominated for an Emmy award for his part in the TV movie A QUALITY OF MERCY. He more recently made an appearance in the TV series OZ, where he portrayed the Italian gang leader inside the Emerald City, during the shows first season.
John Mansell 2008.