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STEPHEN'S MOVIE GUIDE

Burn (aka Queimada) (1969)  

Review: written 2005

Riveting Tale of colonial era

I bought this movie because I am an Ennio Morricone completionist, but I was totally unprepared for what an absorbing movie it would be.

One might think from the pedigree and the advertising that it is another Spaghetti Western of sorts, but that would be a grave injustice. The producer, Alberto Grimaldi, is indeed the long time Sergio Leone collaborator, and the opening titles could be straight from one of the dollars movies, but the film is something quite different.

The tale surrounds Marlon Brando as an Englishman sent to a Portuguese colony in the Antilles - his role, to manipulate an uprising against the Portuguese, in order for the area to be opened up to British trade, for the lucrative sugar market. His relationship with the slave who becomes a rebel leader under his guidance underpins the movie, and it is a fine performance from Brando, even if the accent is somewhat effected.

The atmosphere of the colony is brilliantly portrayed, authentic through its use of non actors in key roles and in background colour. Not least, the atmosphere is conveyed by Ennio Morricone’s fantastic score. This is as equally idiosyncratic as his spaghetti western scores, but with a different flavour altogether, using tribal rhythms and organ music to make unlikely bedfellows.

Be warned, the only print of this I have seen available is painfully washed out and flickers from time to time. The dubbing is not as bad as some spaghetti western lovers may be used to, but still comes across a bit strange at times. Although this would benefit from a restoration, this is a movie with a message and with character which belie the limitations of the print.

Buy this for an undiscovered Brando performance, and a terrific political tale, as long as you can thole the dubious quality of currently available transfers





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