Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March Madness March of the Day: "March of the Beggars" from Duck, You Sucker by Ennio Morricone

'To Taco Bell, everyone! I wanna try that pinche taco shell made out of a Dorito! What other kinds of stupid shit will these gringos come up with next?'
In Sergio Leone's off-center 1971 western Duck, You Sucker (a.k.a. A Fistful of Dynamite, which was what American distributor United Artists called the film in their badly butchered version, and Giù La Testa, which is Italian for "Keep your head down"), Mexican peasant bandit Juan Miranda (Rod Steiger) and his extended family of--what else?--bandits are musically represented by goofball vocal effects that simulate belches and hunger noises.

Juan's hungry, particularly for money. "In Juan's mind, money equals religion," said Italian cinema historian Sir Christopher Frayling during Duck, You Sucker's 2007 MGM DVD commentary. So throughout the film, Ennio Morricone's comedic "March of the Beggars" theme features a chorale and church organ, like when the march receives its fullest, march-iest and most rapturous statement during the sequence where Juan and his crew break into the Banco Nacional de Mesa Verde with the help of explosives supplied by their new criminal accomplice, Irish revolutionary Sean Mallory (James Coburn).

Leone modeled the Duck, You Sucker bank set piece after a scene from Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times where The Tramp picks up a red flag that fell off a truck and as he waves at the truck to turn around and retrieve the flag, a crowd of protesting workers marches behind him and the police mistakes him for their leader and arrests him. Juan accidentally becomes a hero of the Mexican Revolution--Sean didn't tell him the bank was converted into a political prison and its stash was transferred to another location weeks before--after Juan unlocks the bank's vaults to find political prisoners instead of loot and winds up liberating those prisoners.

When Juan starts to shoot the vault doors open, Morricone's orchestra slips in Mozart's "A Little Night Music." I don't understand why there's a Mozart shout-out during a bank raid sequence, but who cares? It's Morricone... being Morricone.

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