Also known as: El Chuncho Quién Sabe? (Italy)
Release Date: December 7th, 1966 (Italy)
Directed by: Damiano Damiani
Written by: Salvatore Laurani, Franco Solinas
Music by: Luis Bacalov, Ennio Morricone
Cast: Gian Maria Volontè, Klaus Kinski, Martine Beswick, Lou Castel, Jaime Fernández
M.C.M., Indipendenti Regionali, AVCO Embassy Pictures,Warner-Pathé, 118 Minutes (Italy), 115 Minutes (USA)
I’ve been watching through a lot of spaghetti westerns that I haven’t seen before, mostly stuff that was critically acclaimed or touted a lot by film historians of the genre. I’ve especially been trying to see more Zapata westerns (films that focus on events surrounding the Mexican Revolution). I had heard people talk about A Bullet For the General but never saw it until recently.
Directed by Damiano Damiani, who would later go on to work with spaghetti western maestro Sergio Leone, this film is one of the very best in the genre. It has epic landscapes, geographical desolation, intense action, political and social commentary, a good amount of violence, a lot of humor, an intense musical score and colorful characters – all likable in their own way.
The film is heavily accented by the great acting talents of Gian Maria Volontè and Klaus Kinski.
Volontè, who played the villain in A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More, plays a character who is just as ruthless but is totally different in tone. It is exciting to see if you are a fan of his work with Leone, because Volontè isn’t cold and impersonal in this film, he is the polar opposite – warm, exciting, over the top and hilarious.
Kinski plays the brother of Volontè’s character and he has a very religious nature even though he is a cold-blooded bandit full of political idealism. This is one of my favorite roles that I’ve seen Kinski play (next to Count Orlock in the beautiful Nosferatu remake of 1979).
Lou Castel rounds out the cast as the American who gets mixed up with the two bandit brothers and their involvement in the Mexican Revolution. He is mostly a despicable character but the performance by Castel is top notch. And he is a character that is full of surprises: adding some good twists to the plot.
A Bullet For the General is one of the top five spaghetti westerns I have seen that wasn’t directed by Sergio Leone. It has a big budget feel for a time when there were dozens upon dozens of lesser spaghetti westerns that reeked of cheapness.
If you are a fan of the genre and you haven’t seen A Bullet For the General, you are missing out. And if you want to experience a Zapata western, this is a good starting point.