Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA, 1966. Pax Enterprises, Columbia Pictures. Screenplay by Richard Brooks, based on the novel by Frank O’Rourke. Cinematography by Conrad L. Hall. Produced by Richard Brooks. Music by Maurice Jarre. Production Design by Ted Haworth. Costume Design by Jack Martell. Film Editing by Peter Zinner. Academy Awards 1966. Golden Globe Awards 1966.
Exciting western has grandeur and action but also balances its character detail and drama beautifully with its scenes of violence. Wealthy Texas oilman Ralph Bellamy hires four rough cowboys to head across the Mexican border and retrieve his wife from the cruel bandit (Jack Palance in brownface) who has kidnapped her. Tough-guy lead Lee Marvin and explosives expert (and, of course, ladies man) Burt Lancaster know Palance from their younger days fighting with Pancho Villa, and so warn their companions, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode, that they have a dangerous confrontation ahead of them that they’ll need to be prepared for. When they get to their destination, they discover that Palance is actually a revolutionary and that Bellamy’s wife is gorgeous young Claudia Cardinale, who turns what they thought would be a simple extraction into anything but. The plot gets underway with smooth speed and moves from one twist to the next until the thrilling conclusion.