Most people know director Sergio Leone for his classic collaborations with Clint Eastwood on the “Man With No Name” trilogy of westerns or his later epics, “Once Upon a Time in the West” and “Once Upon a Time in America”. Fewer are familiar with the film he directed between the “Once Upon a Time” films, “Duck, You Sucker!” (1971). Its relative obscurity in the U.S. could partly be attributed to the horrible marketing from its American distributor United Artists.
The film’s title and advertising may have misled viewers to think they were in for a lighthearted comedy. It does have comedic moments but also contained scenes of massacres, some of which was edited out. For the film’s initial U.S. release it was trimmed by over half an hour because of violent and politically subversive content. Leone reportedly believed “Duck, You Sucker!” to be a common American colloquialism and so was probably not aware of the title’s slapstick tone. Not long after its release the film was reissued as “A Fistful of Dynamite” to cash in on the Clint Eastwood westerns which were popular at the time. Many were probably disappointed to discover that Eastwood wasn’t in the film. To add to the confusion, the title “Once Upon a Time…the Revolution” was used for some European releases to associate it with Leone’s previous film “Once Upon a Time in the West”.
Though “Duck You Sucker!” is not quite on par with Leone’s more well-known westerns such as “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and “Once Upon a Time in the West”, it’s still a great film though unfairly underrated. It contains many elements of classic Leone films such as beautiful panoramas, tense showdowns, extreme close-ups, morally complex characters, and a memorable soundtrack by Ennio Morricone. Similar to some of his earlier works, “Duck, You Sucker!” is at heart a philosophical action film exploring morality, honor, friendship, betrayal, idealism, pragmatism, redemption and the consequences of violence.
Update: Looks like MGM pulled it from YouTube, but the film is still available here: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/7555695/rod_steiger_james_coburn_duck_you_sucker_legendado/