Bandido

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Spring break!

BANDIDO — In 1916 revolutionary Mexico, a mercenary hijacks arms for the rebels, and develops a yen for the arms dealers wife while he’s at it.  Enough plot description—now add Robert Mitchum, Gilbert Roland and a slew of real-deal Mexican locations.  Direct it with zip, give it CinemaScope, let Max Steiner loose on the score.  Have the guns go off in every direction.  Arriba!

A dandy south-western, courtesy of Richard Fleischer, a hit & miss director: this overlooked action packer rates as one of his goodies.  Mitchum is perfect in a role that for him is both standard and classic–the wisecracking, cool, resourceful tough guy with a weak spot for decency. Gilbert Roland is–well, he’s just so virile, so guy-to-pound-back-Tequilashots-with, so marvelously Mexicano.

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Not a lot of skipping in this playground.

Lots of action in a quick 92 minutes, with an exciting, large-scale opening battle in a city, between the Federales and the Villistas, topped by a great bit that has observer Mitchum casually tossing grenades at the government soldiers from the balcony of his hotel, all the while holding a Scotch in his hand. Off-the-cuff flair like that guaranteed a take of $4,700,000, shooting the locks into 64th place for the year.

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With Zachary Scott, Ursula Thiess, Henry Brandon, Douglas Fowley and that great bad-guy fixture of many a western, Rodolpho Acosta.

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Fleischer put the cast through their paces, including an extended pursuit sequence filmed in a mangrove swamp east of Acapulco that could only be reached by canoe. Stifling heat, muck, bugs galore, and a large percentage of the cast and crew afflicted by intestinal warfare. Made for a good Mitchum anecdote after he lurched out of the slimy goop, spitting up mouthfuls of yuck, laying into screenwriter Earl Fenton. Quoting from Lee Server’s great Mitchum bio, “Baby, I Don’t Care” the actor sputtered “What kind of fucking sadist would write a chase scene in a dirty goddam swamp!” Felton, who was sipping a cool drink, replied “Don’t you remember, this was one of your swell ideas?” Trumped, Mitchum said later, “I shut my mouth, and prepared to duck under the murky waters again and see what new garbage or ravenous animal I would meet.”

Among the other production difficulties was a comical but dangerous incident when Michum’s stand-in  got into a cantina brawl and a missed haymaker knocked out a pretty senorita. She happened to be the mistress of a high-ranking Mexican cop, and angry officials seized the negative of the film until things got calmed down.

A goofy tagline for the advertising declared “THE CRY THAT ROCKED THE WORLD’S HOTTEST STRIP OF HELL!!!”   Where’s that Cuervo?

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