I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the TV listings. At 2:05 a.m., TBS was airing a movie called “A Fistful of Dynamite,” a Sergio Leone Western I had never heard of. When Clint Eastwood Week would come around every six months on Denver’s local UHF channel I would dutifully watch all three Man With No Name movies, and I had later discovered the epic “Once Upon a Time in the West.”
But “A Fistful of Dynamite”? What was that?
I wasn’t sure what to make of the movie when I first came across it almost 30 years ago (and, given the start time, probably didn’t make it that far into before nodding off). Rod Steiger as a sort of Tuco knockoff, chewing up the scenery with glee. James Coburn with a soft brogue as an ex-IRA bomber looking to ply his trade in the Mexican Revolution. The tone was jaunty, yet melancholy at the same time, perhaps the slowest paced film that also features huge explosions.
Garry Marshall once quite a TV writing job as a young man because he wouldn’t write what the producer called “schmunny” – i.e. schmaltzy and funny. Ironic, of course, since schmunny would sum up most of Marshall’s career as a director, sometimes tipping towards funny (“Overboard”), oftentimes tipping towards schmaltz (“Beaches”), but always somewhere in between the two.
His second film, 1984’s “The Flamingo Kid,” gets the balance just right, although I’d call it sentimental and nostalgic, but not schmaltzy. The underrated gem may get a second look now that it’s being turned into a Broadway musical next year, and is out this week in a new Blu-ray edition from Kino Lorber.
Last night on Twitter, Vulture film critic Bilge Ebiri posed the question: “What film would you like to live in?”
I don’t know if I have a good answer, other than “Whatever the opposite of ‘Hard to Be a God’ is.”