In the opening to Sergio Leone’s 1971 film, Duck, You Sucker (aka A Fistful of Dynamite),there’s what one might consider a nod to Sam Peckinpah. All you see is Rod Steiger’s bare feet spread apart as he urinates on a tree trunk that’s crawling with ants. The camera pans down as the tiny insects are washed away in a flood. Two years prior, Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch opened with a famous scene where a group of youngsters are poking sticks at a couple of scorpions being attacked by fire ants. The kids end up setting the insects and eight-legged creatures on fire.
When Leone had originally conceived Duck, You Sucker, he wrote it for an American director because he had grown tired of the Western genre, and The Last Picture Show’s Peter Bogdanovich was an early candidate. But after Bogdanovich’s departure, Peckinpah agreed to direct only to be purportedly turned down by United Artists for financial reasons (arguably, the sole competition Leone had at the time, or since, was Peckinpah – what a union of filmmaking that would have been!). Still, in what would become one of his last Westerns, Leone directs a mini-masterpiece, albeit not as well-known as Once Upon a Time in the West and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, in a genre that forty years later is continuing to feel his influential impact and emulate his style.