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In the 1840's Mexico has ceded California to the United States, making life nearly impossible for the Mexican population due to the influx of land and gold-crazy Americans. Farmer Joaquin Murrieta revenges the death of his wife against the four Americans who killed her and is branded an outlaw. The reward for his capture is increased as he subsequently kills the men who brutally murder his brother. Joining with bandit Three Fingered Jack, Murrieta raises an army of disaffected Mexicans and goes on a rampage against the Americans, finally forcing his erstwhile friend, Bill Warren, to lead a posse against him. Written by
Doug Sederberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The film takes place in the 1840s, yet the guns are mostly repeaters which were not in use yet (though a few might have existed). All pistols are clearly revolvers, rifles are repeaters. Yet the Mexican encampment has a storehouse with kegs of powder, and during the shootout there, several people die trying to bring back a keg of black powder as they were running out of ammo, which would have been useless as they needed bullets not powder. See more »
Written by Stephen Foster
Played during the opening credits
Reprised and sung a cappella by Eric Linden and Bruce Cabot
Played as part of the score often See more »
The film begins with the wedding of Joaquin Murrieta to his devoted young bride in California in 1848--just after the territory was ceded to the United States from Mexico after the Mexican War. Joaquin and his fellow Mexicans are uncertain what to expect under American rule and unfortunately matters are made much worse when gold is discovered--lawlessness and injustice seem inextricably connected to the Gold Rush. While affecting all the Hispanic community in the film, it's worst for Joaquin because Anglos rape and kill his wife (the rape is strongly implied in the film) and a bit later an insane lynch mob kills his brother. Feeling he had no other choice, Joaquin joined a group of bandits and soon increased their number and became a major force for evil. Only later, when it is perhaps too late, does he realize that his actions are wrong and he repents of his new wicked ways.
The plot for this film is quite exciting and Warner Baxter did an excellent job playing lead--as did J. Carrol Naish as his hot-tempered sidekick, "Three fingered Jack". While they were not Hispanic actors, they did credible jobs in the film and I was impressed that the film tried to give Joaquin and his men some humanity and sense of purpose. They were not just mindless killers or bandits. Oddly, Bruce Cabot, a man known for playing bad guys in 1930s and 40s films, plays a very decent and likable guy in this film--one who understands why Joaquin chose a life of crime and sympathizes with his plight. The film has enough action and plot to make it more than just another time-passer.
What makes this excellent film so interesting, though, is that after I finished watching it I did a search on Google and found that there really was a famous bandit named Joaquin Murrieta at the time. However, many of his exploits seem rather legendary and the exact story is muddled over time. How much of the Murrieta saga is based on his movie portrayals and how much of it is true is open to debate.
FYI--Though the movie is set in 1848, gun aficionados will notice that there are LOTS of repeating pistols and rifles in the film--something you would have probably not seen at the time. While there were a very few revolvers and multi-shot rifles in 1848, they were mostly experimental and took ages to load--most being hand-loaded without cartridges. Actual cartridges were super rare and were only seen about a decade later and even by the time the Civil War took place, most weapons were single-shot--taking 30 seconds to a minute to reload. This film just seemed to use the same .45s and other guns you'd find in a Western set in the 1870s. Again and again, people fired and reloaded with great ease--and this would not have been the case in the 1840s.
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