A Bullet for the General (1966)

Director: Damiano Damiani

And now a film that kind of combines the last couple of things we looked at, i.e. a spaghetti western with Klaus Kinski in it. More specifically, this is a “Zapata western”, a term I’ve only just discovered tonight, designating a sub-branch of the Eurowestern specifically set around the Mexican uprisings of the 1910s and with a certain amount of political undercurrent to proceedings. Although this probably wasn’t the first of its kind, it did kind of set the tone that the Wikipedia article describes… interesting, though, that various articles I’ve seen on the film not that, for the American release, all the talk about revolutions was carefully excised in the dubbing, but there’s still that chunk of expository voiceover just before the credits setting the scene… Anyway, the titular bullet is the one being packed by “el nino”, an American man who falls in with one of those rebel bands (headed by El Chucho—or El Chuncho, sources including the film’s Italian title and the film’s own dialogue are conflicting) battling it out south of the border when the latter ambush a train in search of weapons; he claims he was being taken back north of said border to face justice, and is adopted by them accordingly, but we, the audience, already know he’s lying, and he’s packing that golden bullet for a specific job. It’s a kind of remarkable film in which Klaus Kinski’s character initially comes across as the relatively nice guy, and he’s playing a priestly fellow with a vicious streak; Bullet doesn’t offer a lot in the way of positivity at first. But, as it progresses, it kind of starts to be about El Chu(n)cho’s revolutionary political awakening; initially he’s literally only in it for the money, stealing and stockpiling weapons for resale to another revolutionary general, until he eventually comes to the realisation that money isn’t everything after all, so it all has a… happy-ish ending, I suppose. (For what it’s worth, that impression didn’t come to mind while watching the film but only on reflection after. Subversive Marxism!) I’m not sure I get the implied homoeroticism between the bandit and the American that this review finds, but as I think I’ve said before my gaydar is problematic at best; at any rate, the relation between the two is an intriguing one that the climax only complicates further. Entertaining, though half an hour too long for its own good.

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