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In 1909, Emiliano Zapata, a well-born but penniless Mexican Mestizo from the southern state of Morelos, comes to Mexico City to complain that their arable land has been enclosed, leaving them only in the barren hills. His expressed dissatisfaction with the response of the President Diaz puts him in danger, and when he rashly rescues a prisoner from the local militia he becomes an outlaw. Urged on by a strolling intellectual, Fernando, he supports the exiled Don Francisco Madero against Diaz, and becomes the leader of his forces in the South as Francisco 'Pancho' Villa is in the North. Diaz flees, and Madero takes his place; but he is a puppet president, in the hands of the leader of the army, Huerta, who has him assassinated when he tries to express solidarity for the men who fought for him. Zapata and Villa return to arms, and, successful in victory, seek to find a leader for the country. Unwillingly, Zapata takes the job, but, a while later, he responds to some petitioners from his ... Written by
Marlon Brando was reportedly involved in a string of stunts during filming. On location in Texas, he shot off a string of firecrackers in a hotel lobby, serenaded Jean Peters from a treetop at three in the morning, horrified cast and crew by playing dead for several minutes following the hail of gunfire that ends Zapata's life, and told visiting reporters that he once ate grasshoppers and gazelle eyes. See more »
When Zapata rides away across the plaza after a confrontation, his pistol falls out of his holster without his noticing. See more »
First of all-you can get a copy of it from Corinth Video, New York City. When I saw that Tyrone Power was originally picked to play Zapata I almost fell out of my chair. An inch deep Hollywood pretty boy playing this role? It would have been ghastly. He could never have carried it off with Kazan directing and against the great other actors. Maybe he could have strutted around with a knife in his teeth and brandishing two pistols. It took a dramatic actor like Brando to probe the range of feelings, conflicts, various personalities: from bumpkin to leader, from uncertainty to decisiveness, from vulnerability to strength, the growth from peasant to leader. Brando was a tour De force. I have seen this movie 100 times. It never stops evoking new elements and dimensions. It still hasn't gone stale in spite of some melodrama here and there. I began to see a sea change somewhere in the middle, maybe when he had to do politics - maybe the scene in President Madero's office when he was offered the ranch, or Eufemio's going bad, from upbeat anthem to a steady decline to tragic destruction, and that causes me sadness. I was a kid when I saw it first and it transformed my life. An exposition of what it is to be a decent man trying to do the right thing, thinking of his people in a world of cynicism and greed. One interesting thing for me was how the two people closest to Zapata acted out as his alter egos: Pablo the conciliator and peace lover, and Eufemio as the angry shoot first and ask questions later guy. Unfortunately, I identified too much with Fernando, the soulless operator dedicated to "nothing but logic". He is so necessary as the "observer", namely us - the cold modern man in contrast to all that humanness and passion. That this movie is not a docudrama about events or a man's life is irrelevant -it is an allegory. One of Hollywood's greatest but lost in the dust. Maybe it was too close to the human heart for Hollywood. It could never be made today.
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