After the mine owner who hired him is killed by his enemy, Curly (Jack Palance), mercenary Kowalski – played by Franco Nero – is enlisted by Paco (Tony Mussante) and his band of rebels to aid them in their revolution against the Mexican Government. No. 40 in 88 Films’ Italian Collection.
Nero fits rather comfortably into his role as the well-dressed Kowalski. The amusing fact that he will light a match using anything he sees tells us that he is right there on the same level as his rebel companions. He sure as shit enjoys shooting the fuck out of Colonel Garcia’s soldiers! Tony Mussante plays revolutionary leader Paco with sympathy and heart, providing some of the movie’s best moments of comic relief. Watching the development of his complicated friendship with Kowalski is one of the many rewarding elements of The Mercenary.
Jack Palance’s character, Curly, has the look of a James Bond henchmen…who walked into the wrong beauty salon… The guy also lacks any substantial backup. He has about as much luck in this movie as the bad guy in any Mel Brooks spoof. This is made even funnier by the fact that he plays him with as much pride and dignity as any man who’d rather walk off bare-ass naked just to spite his captors.
In the end Curly’s flower can now be seen as an omen to a certain future film role for Palance: Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) in which he would play Carl Grissom, the first onscreen victim of Jack Nicholson’s Joker, a villain known for wearing a deadly flower as part of his costume. “Ah, what a day!”
With pig-shit baths, impossible getaways and a villain with a hair-style only ever seen sported by elderly women, the film’s strong sense of humour really got me laughing. The music is a blast too as I found it hard to keep still during the opening credits. And of course, there is the iconic ‘L’Arena’. We all know where we’ve heard it before, but I can’t help but wish that I’d heard it here first.
I’m sure there are better, bigger and bolder of its kind. Regardless, Sergio Corbucci’s The Mercenary has to be the most exciting Spaghetti Western I’ve ever seen. When it’s not bringing the action, it brings the humour. Normally I’d be disappointed by so much violence and so little blood, but in this case I couldn’t give two shits!
Eric Zaldivar’s Mercenary Musings is punched up his whimsical delivery, befitting of the nature of Sergio Corbucci’s 1968 movie. It may tell you just about every piece of trivia you will find on an IMDb page – just for the sake of getting all that shit out of the way. It may also occasionally verge on becoming a cheesy YouTuber video, complete with the obligatory pixelated, close-up, slow-motion reaction shot. But the main reason to watch Zaldivar’s extra is not for the film itself, but for his impressively vast knowledge of Spaghetti Western movies. And if you’re not a connoisseur, you’re going to have to hit that Pause button and get a pen and paper.