Two Mules For Sister Sara

TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA put Clint Eastwood back onto a horse and in beard & stogie mode, riffing off his earlier Italian-made westerns with one made in Mexico, directed by Don Siegel. The best item about this sluggish 1970 trifle is that the catchy score was done by the maestro who helped make Eastwood’s ‘Man With No Name’ flicks memorable, Ennio Morricone. A noisy, violent battle between Juaristas and French troops wraps it up, with Clint calmly mowing down more than his share of the latter. Getting there is a plod.

Mexico, shortly after the American Civil War. His squinted eyes on a payday, cynical ex-soldier ‘Hogan’ (Eastwood) has a deal to aid the Mexican patriots revolting against their French occupiers. Along the way he saves a nun from rape by bandits, and ‘Sister Sara’ (Shirley MacLaine) tags along (on a mule) for reasons that have little to do with piety and purity. Eventually we see the earthier habits her holy habit conceals. Reworking a story developed by Budd Boetticher, Albert Maltz wrote his first credited script in the two decades since he’d been blacklisted as one of “The Hollywood Ten”. It’s nice that he got hired, but it isn’t much of a comeback: it’s pretty weak material. First-billed MacLaine and Eastwood have little chemistry; their acting styles aren’t complimentary: he’s still in his clenched phase, and she’s phoning it in.

Siegel, on Shirley: “It’s hard to feel any great warmth for her. She’s too…unfeminine. She has too much balls. She’s very, very hard. You have the feeling that if you talk gently to her, she’ll ridicule you.”

Picturesque locations in the Mexican state of Morelos are nicely captured by cameraman Gabriel Figueroa, and the music amuses: otherwise a yawner. Budgeted at $2,500,000, it came in 33rd in ’70 (which also saw Clint score a haul while winning WW2 in Kelly’s Heroes), grossing $10,900,000 in the U.S. and Canada, likely as much elsewhere.

114 minutes, with Manolo Fábregas, Alberto Morin, leaden humor, lots of dynamite and blood.


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