In some films we guiltily cheer for the bad guy or rogue because they are more likeable than the good guy. Director Robert Aldrich (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, The Dirty Dozen) has fabricated a film in which that is exactly the case. The group of men who are hired to escort the countess to Vera Cruz are an unsavoury lot to say the least. And yet you end up liking them despite their dubious characters or pasts. Plenty of laughs, flair, beautiful scenery, and action are the hightlights of this great Western.
Benjamin Trane (Gary Cooper – High Noon, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town) and Joe Erin (Burt Lancaster – From Here to Eternity, Airport) are two mercenaries who meet up and along with Joe’s gang decide to make their way to Mexico looking for some adventure and money. It is 1866 and the Mexican Rebellion is going on meaning that getting your hands on money and travel can be tough unless you are willing to fight for one side or the other.
Luck happens upon them as they are hired to escort the wealthy and beautiful Countess Duvarre (Denise Darcel – Tarzan and the Slave Girl) of France to escort her and a fortune in gold to rendezvous with the forces of the Emperor Maximillian (George Macready – from television’s Peyton Place) in Vera Cruz.
All along the journey they come face-to-face with danger, betrayal and murder. Plus Ben finds himself sympathizing and then joining forces with the revolutionaries. This causes trouble between Ben and the Mexican Army as well as between himself and Joe.
This is one Western in a string of them in the 1950s that were incredibly strong. Filmed on location in Mexico by cinematographer Ernest Laszlo (It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Stalag 17) in Technicolor and SuperScope, it is a film that looks beautiful in blu-ray. Keep your eyes open for great scenic vistas of the Mexican countryside along with the pyramids of Teotithuacan and Mexico City’s impressive Chapultepec Castle.
Plot twist after plot twist keeps your attention with the film. If you doze off you will find yourself lost. The action scenes (especially the gunfights) are great. With its combination of great cinematography, plenty of action and multiple double crosses the film went on to be a huge influence on Italian directors in their creation of the spaghetti western.
The two leads are immoral characters who will do just about anything to get their hands on money but are incredibly charismatic. Burt Lancaster is quite sexy in his role as a dangerous desperado.