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Original movie poster for the film Burn!.jpg
English language theatrical poster
Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
Produced by Alberto Grimaldi
Written by Franco Solinas
Giorgio Arlorio
Starring Marlon Brando
Evaristo Márquez
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Marcello Gatti
Giuseppe Ruzzolini
Edited by Mario Morra
Europee Associate SAS
Produzioni Europee Associati/Les Productions Artistes Associés
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
Running time
112 minutes (United States)
132 minutes (Restored)
Country Italy
Language Italian

Burn! (Italian: Queimada) is a 1969 Italian drama film about the creation of a fictional banana republic in the Caribbean. The film is directed by Gillo Pontecorvo and stars Marlon Brando, Evaristo Márquez, and Renato Salvatori; its music was composed by Ennio Morricone. Brando is cast as a British agent, named after the American filibuster William Walker, who manipulates a slave revolt to serve the interests of the sugar trade.


The British government sends Sir William Walker (Brando), an agent provocateur, to the fictional island of Queimada, a Portuguese[1] possession in the Lesser Antilles. Britain seeks to open the island to exploitation by the fictional Antilles Royal Sugar Company. Walker's task is to organize an uprising of African slaves against the Portuguese regime, which the British intend to replace with a government dominated by pliable white planters.

When he arrives in Queimada, Walker befriends José Dolores (Márquez), whom he entices to lead the slave revolt, and induces leading landowners to reject Portuguese rule. Dolores's rebellion is successful, and Walker arranges the assassination of the Portuguese governor in a nighttime coup. Walker establishes a puppet regime beholden to British sugar interests, headed by the idealistic but weak revolutionary Teddy Sanchez (Salvatori). Walker convinces Dolores to recognize the new regime and to surrender his arms, in exchange for the abolition of slavery. Having succeeded in his mission, he returns to Britain.

Ten years later, Dolores–disgusted by the white government's collaboration with British interests–leads a second uprising, jeopardizing the Antilles Royal Sugar Company. The company returns Walker to Queimada with the consent of the British Admiralty, tasking him with suppressing the revolt and pacifying the island. Resentful of the company's exploitation of Queimada, President Sanchez is uncooperative. Sanchez is ousted and executed in a coup engineered by Walker, who establishes a regime wholly beholden to the company. British forces are invited to the island; guided by Walker, they rapidly quell the rebellion and capture Dolores. Walker attempts to save Dolores's life but the rebel leader rejects his assistance, asserting that freedom is earned, not received.

Soon after Dolores's hanging, Walker is accosted as he prepares to depart Queimada. His assailant greets him just as Dolores did when Walker first arrived on the island, then stabs him to death.



Brando had the opportunity to have a role on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Arrangement once again with Elia Kazan, but chose instead to work on this film. He also had to turn down a major role in Ryan's Daughter because of this film's production problems. In his autobiography Brando claims, "I did some of my best acting in Burn!".[2]


The film received critical acclaim in the U.S. and abroad. Based on 11 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an overall approval rating from critics of 82%.[3] By comparison, its 2004 re-release was given an average score of 72 out of 100, based on 4 reviews, by Metacritic, which assigns a rating based on top reviews from mainstream critics.[4]

Natalie Zemon Davis reviewed the film from a historian's perspective and gave it high marks, arguing that it merges historical events that took place in Brazil, Cuba, Santo Domingo, Jamaica, and elsewhere.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The film was originally set on a Spanish island called Quemada, meaning "burnt", but it was changed to Portuguese after the Spanish government found it insulting; however, the language spoken in the film remained Spanish. Queimada (1969) at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ Brando, Marlon (1994). Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me. New York: Random House. p. 364. ISBN 0-679-41013-9. 
  3. ^ Queimada / Burn! / The Mercenary (1969) at Rotten Tomatoes
  4. ^ Burn! (re-release).
  5. ^ Natalie Zemon Davis, Slaves on Screen: Film and Historical Vision (2002) ch 3

Further reading[edit]

  • Davis, Natalie Zemon. Slaves on Screen: Film and Historical Vision (2002) ch 3
  • Martin, Michael T., and David C. Wall, "The Politics of Cine-Memory: Signifying Slavery in the History Film," in Robert A. Rosenstone and Constantin Parvulesu, eds. A Companion to the Historical Film (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 445-467.

External links[edit]