A Genius, two partners and a dupe Review

From The Spaghetti Western Database

A Genius, two partners and a dupe. Cast: Terence Hill, Miou-Miou, Robert Charlebois, Patrick McGoohan, Raimund Harmstorf, Piero Vida, Rik Battaglia, Mario Valgoi, Mario Brega, Friedrich von Ledebur, Jean Martin - Music: Ennio Morricone - Director: Damiano Damiani, Sergio Leone (uncredited)

This is the last western Sergio Leone was involved in. Not only did he come up with the idea for the movie, he also produced and supervised it, and directed the pre-credits sequence. But he was so disappointed with the final outcome that he chose to remove his name from the credits and decided he would never get involved in the production of a western again.

The adventurer Joe Thanks (that's his name) has elaborated a plan to steal $ 300.000 governmental money from a corrupt cavalry officer named Cabot, with the help of his partner Locomotive Bill and their girlfriend Lucy. When a colonel, investigating the case, gets killed, Locomotive Bill takes his place, but he is exposed by Cabot, who has destined the money for the acquisition of some Indian land, because gold has been found on it. In the style of the caper movie everybody double-crosses everybody and ends up with (nearly) empty hands, except for the Indians, for whom the money was destined in the first place.

Leone got the idea for this movie after seeing Bertrand Blier's Les Valseuses (1974), one of the several anti-establishment, anti-capitalist, anti-nearly-everything French movies of the seventies. Blier's movie was quite extreme, but had an unmistakable humanist message underneath its cynical and misogynist surface. Gerard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere play two no-goods who commit crimes and humiliate women, all because they have never learned to behave otherwise. They nevertheless start to care, little by little, for a naive, frigid girl (played by Miou Miou) who hopes that they will finally give her an orgasm. What Leone had in mind, was an ultra-black comedy, set in the West, that reflected some of his bitter ideas about how life in the West really was. But he made two major mistakes: He chose Damiano Damiani to direct the movie, and asked Terence Hill to star in it. Damiano was - in Leone's words - a good director of violent drama, but had absolutely no feeling for comedy. And Hill's name was identified with family entertainment, which meant that some of the raunchier jokes were out of the question. In this film Miou Miou doesn't seem to be worried about orgasms and her boyfriends are satisfied with a kiss on the lips.

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Leone's pre-credits sequence is wonderful, but it bears little relation to the rest of the movie. Hill's routines are all there, and you've seen them all before. A cameo was written for Klaus Kinski, but he plays it in his ominous style of "take the money and run" (although children will laugh when Hill throws him out of the window). Occasionally some of the bite of Leone's original plans shine through. Hill's partner Charlebois has learned how to shoot in a circus, so he shoots three men neatly between the eyes (yes there is some violence), but can't hit the fourth one, who's running away, because he never practised with moving targets. The stagecoach scene near the end is a highlight and so is Hill's explanation of the classical western duel. Overall the actors do well. Charlebois' rumbustious performance (as a halfbreed who furiously denies he's an Indian!) forms a nice contrast with Miou Miou's frail presence, and McGoohan is a standout as the racist Major Cabot, keeping his cool even when he's covered with a layer of ash after an explosion. Morricone's score interpolates Beethoven's Für Elise during the stagecoach sequence.

Shortly before completion some of the negatives were stolen, so they had to use outtakes to put the film together. The quality of the stock material changes from scene to scene, giving the film a very untidy look. A Genius, two partners and a Dupe is not the film Leone had in mind, but despite its obvious shortcomings it works pretty well. To my own surprise I found it quite entertaining.

Simon Gelten
Simon Gelten is a long time contributor to the SWDb. "I'm not as old as Tom B. but I'm working on it. I hope to catch up with him by the end of the next decade.", he says. Simon saw all movies by Sergio Leone and several by Sergio Corbucci in cinema, most of the time in Eindhoven, the city where he was born. Currently, Simon is living in Turnhout, Belgium. Simon is active within the database as both Scherpschutter and his alter ego Tiratore Scelto.