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Cooper and Lancaster sporting a disarming but treacherous grin throughout...
Nazi_Fighter_David14 July 1999
The middle fifties saw the production of an astonishing variety of Westerns of high quality... Robert Aldrich followed "Apache" in 1954 with a cheerful, action-packed adventure called "Vera Cruz," which starred Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster sporting a disarming but treacherous grin throughout... Its chief highlight is a display of sharp-shooting in which Cooper and Lancaster demonstrate the effectiveness of the rifles they are trying to sell to the Emperor Maximilian (George Macready) by snuffing out the torch flames ranged round the palace balustrade...

"Vera Cruz" opens during the Mexican revolution in 1866 where two American adventurers decide to join forces and fight for whichever side pay them the most... The saucy Sarita Montiel, who has fallen for Cooper, implores them to fight for the rebels, while Cesar Romero, an aid to the Emperor Maximilian, asks them to fight on his side...

At a ball in the sumptuous Chapultepec Palace, the pair meets the vivacious Denise Darcel who appears as a colorful but doublecrossing French Countess, and soon agrees to escort her on the hazardous journey to Vera Cruz... Later, she informs them that she is actually transporting a gold shipment to the Emperor's forces... Shortly after, she offers to steal the gold and split it with them...

In spite of the strong presence of Gary Cooper who lines up on the side of the Juaristas, Burt Lancaster steals the show as the smiling, black-dressed American adventurer, unable to forget Mexico's shining gold...

"Vera Cruz", with excellent supporting cast, is filmed on location in Mexico... Cooper and Lancaster well know that when one outdraws and shoots the other, one is the "quick" and the other, the "dead." Ernest Laszlo photography, in SuperScope and Technicolor, captures well the Mexican scenery with glorious shots of Mexico City's famous Chapultepec Castle, and the pyramids of Teotihuacan...

Sarita Montiel whose sensuality draws lustful aggression from Bronson's peripheral tough-guy, Pittsburgh, flourished more beauty to this exciting Western...
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Sensational Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster as two gunslingers involved in plot to seize a gold shipment in revolutionary Mexico
ma-cortes7 July 2013
Entertaining , moving and violent film set in Mexican Revolution in which a pair of two-fisted characters confront enemies in diverse sides . During the Mexican Rebellion of 1866 , an unsavory group of American adventurers are hired by the forces of Emperor Maximilian to escort a countess to Vera Cruz . Napoleon III, emperor of France , creates in Mexico a vassal state governed by Maximilian (George Mcready) of France . The French troops control the country and the fate of its inhabitants . There soon emerges a rebel leader , Benito Juarez, whose supporters took the name of "juaristas" . Two soldiers of fortune find themselves in different camps , as "Benjamin Trane" (Gary Cooper was 52 at the time of filming, although his character was only supposed to be a couple of years older than Burt's role) is the good guy and "Joe Erin" (Burt Lancaster) is the bad guy , both of whom along with their motley group (Ernest Borgnine , Jack Lambert , Jack Elam , Charles Bronson) decide serve the Emperor Maximilian . Meanwhile , Benjamin Trane falls in love for a beautiful Mexican rebel (Spanish Sara Montiel) . During a party celebrated by Marquis Henri de Labordere (Cesar Romero) they meet the Countess "Marie Duvarre" (Denise Darcel) , both gunmen must protect her from possible attacks of the revolutionaries . In fact , they are planning seize a stagecoach filled with valuable gold . The picture was partially based on historical events , as Maximilian was proclaimed Emperor of Mexico on 10 April 1864, with the backing of Napoleon III of France and a group of Mexican monarchists who sought to revive the Mexican monarchy. Many foreign governments, including that of the United States, refused to recognize his administration. This helped to ensure the success of republican forces led by Benito Juárez, and Maximilian was captured and executed in 1867.

Interesting as well as action-packed Western full of thrills, emotion , intrigue , shootouts and marvelous outdoors from Mexico . The two giants , Cooper and Lancaster , battle in the biggest spectacle of them all . Anthological performance by Burt Lancaster is fabulous , his character would influence profoundly in Spaghetti Western ; he steals every scene as the black-dressed , smiling gunfighter . As the roles are more cynical , selfish and unscrupulous than traditional western . In fact , this film is sometimes called the "first spaghetti western," due to its reputed influence on the Italian directors such as Sergio Leone who popularized the genre . The screenplay by Roland Kibbee and James R. Webb is pretty basic but holds your interest until the exciting climatic Shotdown . Rousing as well as emotive musical score by the classical Hugo Friedhofer . Gorgeous cinematography by Ernest Laszlo , being the first film to be made in the SuperScope process. Luxurious sets and spectacular production design and one of the first major Hollywood films to be made on location in Mexico . Film-making legislation in Mexico meant that a local director had to be involved in the production in some capacity, though he wasn't actually used ; however , the Mexican authorities were appalled at the way their citizens were depicted in the film so any subsequent Hollywood productions had to conform to some strict rules .

The motion picture was compellingly directed by Robert Aldrich and produced by Burt Lancaster's own production company for $1.7 million, it went on to become a sizeable hit, grossing over $11 million. It was Robert Aldrich's personal favourite , he particularly enjoyed the fact that it had a hero and an anti-hero. Aldrich directed a considerable plethora of genres but almost all of his films contained a subversive undertone and violent scenes . He was an expert on warlike (Dirty Dozen , The Angry Hills , Attack , Ten seconds to hell) and Western (The Frisko kid , Ulzana's raid, Apache , Veracruz , The last sunset) . Raing : Above average , it's a must see and a standout in its genre .
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Cracking Nineteen Fifties Western
boston2step9 July 2004
This western film is typical of the 50's era. It was well made in excellent outdoor locations. "Coop" gave his usual professional touch which we came to expect of him & "Lancaster" was superb That "smile" really made his character and gave the humour that was needed to make a balanced film. The cast including Borgnine & Bronson added real class to the production. I saw the film as a fifteen year old teenager when it was first released, queuing for 2 hours to obtain entry into my home city's main cinema. Even after 50 years I still watch it with the same excitement & interest. They do not make films like this anymore. Modern films have no answer to it
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A Forgotten Footnote to the American Civil War and Maximillian's Mexico
theowinthrop25 December 2005
VERA CRUZ picks up on a bit of business from the American Civil War that is rarely discussed in our movies. Only a slight, similar comment is brought up in the film ANOTHER PART OF THE FORREST, where John Dahl plans to leave the south and fight in the Brazilian Army. It is 1870, and Dahl (an ex-Confederate officer) decides to fight for an army from the one large nation that still practices slavery. Many Confederates at the end of the Civil War sought employment outside the United States, where their military skills would be appreciated and they did not have to live under the U.S. Flag. George Pickett (of the famous charge at Gettysburg) was offered the job of Commander-in-Chief of the the army of the Khedive of Egypt (but he did not take the offer).

Many of the ex-Confederates decided to go to Mexico, because during the Civil War Maximillian was pro-Southern (as Juarez was pro-Northern), and the French who supported Maximillian were pro-Confederate (unofficially) as well. Napoleon III of France saw the Confederates as one of those "nationalities" he championed in the name of his uncle's so-called revolutionary principles. He also had a belief that the United States was growing too potentially powerful. Throughout the first two years of the war, while Lee and Jackson were doing so well in the East, Napoleon III did all he could to get the British and himself to coordinate mediating a peaceful (i.e. "pro-Confederate") solution to the war. But every time it looked like that would occur, there would be a Northern victory (Antietam Creek, Gettysburg) that upset the plan. Also the release of the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863 muddied the waters. It reminded the people of France and Britain that the South favored slavery.

Napoleon III was hoping a Southern victory would ensure his puppet Maximillian's Empire in Mexico would be secure. During the war he had conferences with a former Senator from California, Dr. William Gwin, who was pro-Confederate. Gwin wanted to have a portion of the Sonora state of Mexico set aside for Confederate emigrants to farm and mine.

All this collapsed on April 9, 1865 when Lee surrendered. VERA CRUZ follows the collapse of the Confederacy, and how Gary Cooper joins the exodus to link up with fellow former Rebels in Mexico, to support Maximillian. He also links up with Burt Lancaster, who leads a gang of gunslingers for hire, and the story turns on a huge gold shipment that is for Maximillain's forces. But in VERA CRUZ everyone sees this gold shipment as the key to a happy future for themselves or for their people. Cooper (the hero in the film) would like to use it for helping to rebuild the South. Lancaster and his gang (including Ernest Borgnine and Charles Bronson) see the riches for themselves. Maximillian (George Macready, in a very short scene - unfortunately - where he is not as sweet and well intentioned as Brian Ahearn had been in JUAREZ) - wants the money sent for future purposes. Cesar Romero and Henry Brandon are intending the money should go to France. Denise Darcel, a French aristocrat, wants the money sent to France to - for herself.

There are plenty of films about gold and how it brings greed out of everyone, and VERA CRUZ is one of the best. It is not settled until the end who will get the gold - and only after one last gunfight after the battle.
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A Classic Adventure; Mexico's Revolution, Gold and Romance
silverscreen88815 July 2005
This unpretentious and incredibly influential western began as a vehicle for Burt Lancaster with his production company's executives. He was looking for work as the film industry was being murdered by Congress's seat tax and its new hastily-created TV networks and payments to people to make movies abroad instead of in the U.S. He hired long-in-the-tooth but screen-wise Gary Cooper to play opposite him, and a script was developed by three veteran writers--Borden case, Roland Kibbee and James R. Webb. Its storyline featured groups of gunmen heading south to serve for pay as Empreror Maximilian of Mexico tried to put down the native revolution against his corrupt government. There is a bang-up opening as Ben Trane, Cooper, shoots his injured horse and buys another from Joe Erin, Lancaster. They are chased by Mexican officers; Cooper wonders why and Joe tells him he's riding the Lieutenant's horse, which he himself had stolen earlier. Ben leaves Joe behind when there is only one horse unharmed between them; he rides into a town where the Erin gang are waiting. They are about to attack him en masse when Joe shows up, just as Ben has beaten up Ernest Borgnine. Others in the gang include Charles Bronson in an early role, Jack Elam and James McCallion., et al. The next problem, is to settle who will lead the Americanos, Joe or a rival, powerful Jack Lambeert. A gunfight settles that question. The new recruits are take by Cesar Romero and Henry Brandon, Maximilian's chief men, to meet the Emperor. George Macready plays the french-born Maximilian, beautifully as always, at a grand palace party, where the Yankees put on a shooting exhibition and the Emperor tries his hand as well. Meanwhile, they have encountered Sarita Montiel, stealing Ben's money, and General Ramirez, beautifully underplayed by Morris Ankrum, who asks them not to join the Emperor's army; he turns out to be the head of the revolution; they escape his well-planned trap by threatening some children, but at least they realize what they are getting into. Their first assignment is to escort Denise Darcel, a Countess, and her coach to safety. Of course she turns out to be carrying gold, to pay Maximilian's forces elsewhere. Joe and Ben want the gold, and eventually they get it. But then comes the reckoning--between a Southerner, a man who had lost everything in the Civil War in a lost cause, and a man who regards all "softness" as a weakness and even killed his own mentor, years before...Ben wins the shootout and decides to turn the money over to the revolution, and keep Sarita Montiel for his own prize. This is a very tight script, a favorite film with male and female moviegoers. It has many pluses other than the actors and the strong situational dialogue. Robert Aldrich's direction is clean, straightforward and keeps the action moving in between interesting dialogue exchanges. The first-rate cinematography is by Ernest Laszlo,the very good costumes by Norma, production design by Alfred Ybarra; Hugo Friedhofer composed the excellent music. In terms of the acting, which dominates half this otherwise outdoor film, Cooper succeeds by underplaying; Lancaster later said he himself had started the film on too-high a level, and learned lessons that served him for years from Cooper during this feature's filming. Darcel does not seem like a Countess but gives her part energy; lovely Montiel has an odd accent but is very strong. Borgnine and Elam do well, and Lambert and the rest of the gang all do well. Brandon, Romero and Macready as usual steal their scenes. All in all, a western that satisfies, does not look fifty years old and has no slow points, no real defects. This is the sort of film Hollywood youthful corporate types cannot make any more; and it inspired a generation of Italian filmmakers including Sergio Leone. It is an adventure that should live long in the minds and hearts of fans of the Western genre.
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The first 20 minutes or so . . .
rmahaney47 February 2002
The first 20 minutes of Vera Cruz are excellent, starting with the great score by Friedhofer and the meeting of Cooper's and Lancaster's characters. The most striking scene is in a plaza, with a great gunfight followed with the meetings with the main players in the plot including a couple of hundred revolutionaries and Cesar Romero, whose character serves the Emperor of Mexico, Maximillian. This initial sequence of scenes are very well done, have a tough and cynical feel about them, and seem a little ahead of their time. After this point the movie becomes a more typical 1950s big budget adventure film. It remains entertaining, but looses the sharpness that these first striking minutes had. Only at the very end of the film does it regain it's edge. It could have been an excellent film, but is still entertaining and well worth watching.

Cooper and Lancaster are good as always and their usual on-screen personas compliment each other well.

The Mexican locations were great.

This film was very influential on the Italian filmmakers that would go on to create the spaghetti western. Stylistically the influence can be scene most in plaza scene. The plot filled with multiple double crosses and betrayals will also seem familiar to fans of the eurowestern, as does the primary character motivation -- greed. Also, this film may explain the large number of SW that involve Maximillian, Jaurez, and soldiers of fortune manipulating them.
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I suppose when one deals with men of action, one just expect action.
Spikeopath23 March 2010
"As the American Civil War ended, another war was just beginning. The Mexican people were struggling to rid themselves of their foreign Emperor--Maximilian. Into this fight rode a handful of Americans--ex soldiers, adventurers, criminals--all bent on gain. They drifted South in small groups-- AND SOME CAME ALONE"

Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster head the cast as two polar opposite American adventurers who get involved with Maximilian's royal house and Juarez's revolutionaries in 1860s Mexico. Cooper plays Benjamin Trane, basically a good man, tho one tainted by much cynicism, and Lancaster plays Joe Erin, gunman and an untrustworthy crook. Vera Cruz was the first release in SuperScope (beautifully shot by Ernest Laszlo on location in Mexico) and with director Robert Aldrich at the helm, the film brilliantly captures the violence and danger that was brought about during Mexico's revolutionary period. Adapted by Roland Kibbee and James R. Webb from a Borden Chase story, Vera Cruz very much feels like (is) a precursor to Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch and Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns of the 60s.

With its blend of comedy and outright action, the film is essentially a buddy buddy Western with a cynical amoral kicker. It's a blend that may not be to everyone's tastes, but with Lancaster (grinning for all he is worth) and Cooper (laconic supreme) in the leads the film rises above its oddity status. The professionalism on show, both from the obvious big stature of its stars and Aldrich's astute choreography of the action sequences, ensures this is a polished piece. There's much machismo of course, one only has to see that Charles Bronson, Ernest Borgnine and Jack Elam are in the support gallery of thugs to know this fact, but it should be noted that the picture is interested in showing a fair reflection of the Mexican conflict. The Mexican government of the time were outraged at the film, but on reflection now it's evident the film doesn't take sides. That to my mind has to be applauded.

Some problems exist, notably some of the dialogue is a touch too corn based now. While as the main female character, Denise Darcel is out of her depth. One could think that she is maybe swamped by all the testosterone around her, but when you notice that Sara Montiel is coping fine in a secondary role, it shows Darcel to be limited. Vera Cruz held its own on release, neither busting the box office nor sinking without a trace. It would take over ten years before the true value of the film would start to be noticed. With that, it now shows to be very influential within the genre. Explosive, important and darn good fun, that's a mixture you just can't ignore. 8/10
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Where double crossing rules.
Vera Cruz is one of those westerns that came out so right, the great thing about it is that although it was big budgeted it did not try to make any statement, it just tried to tell a good story in the best way possible. That was quite an achievement at the time of "High Noon" and "Shane". Burt Lancaster is excellent, nobody after seeing this film will forget his smile, showing all his teeth. The scenery, the locations, and also the beautiful colours they all make this an outstanding western.
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Great Movie
joevudal8 November 2004
One of the most influential western of all time, Vera Cruz depicts a Mexico rarely seen on the screen. The exchange of harsh words and quips between the top billed stars, Gary Cooper & Burt Lancaster throughout the movie is excellent. Actors like Charles Bronson, Ernest Borgnine, Cesar Romero and Sara Montiel, at the beginning of their career was a solid support to the production. Excellent photography, taking in consideration the film is 50 years old. Excellent soundtrack, beautiful wardrobe and the hundreds of extras in a story that has all the ingredients to keep the vier' attention, make this movie one of the best crafted westerns.
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Enjoyably twisted Western
otter28 February 1999
There is no honor among thieves, unless Gary Cooper is one of them. Compelling film about badass American gunslingers in Mexico is one of my favorite westerns. It's plot twist after twist, double-cross after double-cross, as a filthy gang of desperadoes led by Cooper and Burt Lancaster is hired to escort a "lady" across the Mexican hinterland.

Cooper is magnificent as a man who needs money so badly that he tries to wrestle his conscience to the ground, but he's topped by Burt Lancaster in one of his best (sexiest) performances. He's amoral and dangerous, yet charming and so sexy that words fail (cartoon wolf noises being more appropriate). Two compelling characters become both friends and enemies, all building up to a fabulous finish. A must-see!
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"Now we both got girls."
bkoganbing22 December 2005
Vera Cruz is an old fashioned buddy western with two dissimilar buddies with 180 degree contrasting acting styles.

Since one of the co-stars was the producer of this, he got the showier part. But in truth I certainly couldn't see casting either one in the other's part.

Burt Lancaster was the producer and star and he got the scenery chewing role of Joe Erin, disarmingly charming and ruthlessly amoral gunfighter down in Mexico working for Emperor Maximilian for a price. He's leading a mini army himself of gunfighters that include among other, Ernest Borgnine and Charles Bronson.

Along the way Lancaster hooks up with Gary Cooper, former Southern Colonel Ben Trane, who's also looking to restart his life by making some money in Mexico so he can rebuild his plantation in Reconstruction Louisiana.

Basically these two play themselves or at least stay true to the image that we have of both Cooper and Lancaster.

The prize her is a big gold shipment that Maximilian is sending out of Mexico to pay for more troops from Napoleon III. The gunfighters are escorting it, but they don't know it. They think the job is to escort a squeeze of Maximilian's, nicely packaged in the shape of Denise Darcel.

Just about everyone in the film from George Macready playing Maximilian to Cesar Romero playing a French marquis down to Lancaster, Cooper, Darcel, and the rest of the gunfighters all have their own plans for the three million in gold they're carrying. Let's just say that it's no surprise where it winds up.

Morris Ankrum plays a solid version of a Juarista general and Mexican film star, Sarita Montiel, does one of two American films, the other being Serenade with Mario Lanza. She was and is a big name in the Mexican and Spanish cinema and no doubt her presence sold a few tickets south of the Rio Grande. She's an extraordinarily beautiful woman and she pairs with Cooper as Darcel pairs with Lancaster.

Some of the dialog is a bit hokey. I always laugh whenever I hear Darcel tell Lancaster "at heart you are French." But the action moves right along under Director Robert Aldrich and the climatic battle between the French and the Juaristas is well staged.
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Twists and Betrayals
Claudio Carvalho12 June 2007
After the American Civil War, mercenaries travel to Mexico to fight in their revolution for money. The former soldier and gentleman Benjamin Trane (Gary Cooper) meets the gunman and killer Joe Erin (Burt Lancaster) and his men, and together they are hired by the Emperor Maximillian (George Macready) and the Marquis Henri de Labordere (Cesar Romero) to escort the Countess Marie Duvarre (Denise Darcel) to the harbor of Vera Cruz. Ben and Erin find that the stagecoach is transporting US$ 3,000,000.00 in gold hidden below the seat and they scheme to steal it. Along their journey, betrayals and incidents happen changing their initial intentions.

"Vera Cruz" is a very entertaining western directed by the great director Robert Aldrich and with excellent performances of Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper. Their partnership is hilarious since their behaviors, educations and personalities are totally different, or opposite. Ben Trane is a honored, intelligent and idealistic man, who lost his possessions in the war and now is trying to have some financial gain with his abilities. Joe Erin is cynical, amoral, brutal, intuitive and mercenary. In common, only their skills in handling weapons. Erin cheats all the time, but the smart Ben is one step ahead in every situation and the result is a good movie. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Vera Cruz"
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The Whitest Teeth In The West!
bsmith555229 May 2003
"Vera Cruz" is not a bad western but it could have been better. It's about two soldiers of fortune (Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster) who venture into Mexico following the American Civil War to hire themselves out to the highest bidder between the forces of Emperor Maximillian (George Macready) and the revolutionaries led by Morris Ankrum. It turns out that there is a large shipment of gold that everyone is trying to get their hands on. There are double crosses and triple crosses a plenty before the matter is finally settled.

Cooper plays Benjamin Trane a former Confederate Colonel who rides in alone and meets up with grinning teethy all in black gunslinger Joe Erin (Lancaster). Erin has a gang that includes the likes of Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson (using his real name, Buchinsky) and Jack Elam. Jack Lambert heads up a gang that opposes that of Lancaster.

Cesar Romero plays the Marquis Henri de Labordere a senior but corrupt official in Maximillian's government and Henry Brandon plays his second in command. Denise Darcel and Sarita Montiel provide the female treachery, each after the gold for their own reasons and of course involving our heroes.

Cooper looks out of place as Trane, a little too long in the tooth to be convincing as the fast on the draw hero. Lancaster on the other hand, apparently was given his head by Director Robert Aldrich and goes way over the top flashing those pearly whites at every opportunity. It was interesting to see Borgnine and Bronson in early roles before they made it big. Romero dashing as always, steals the picture in my opinion.

The battles scenes are well staged and exciting and the wide screen photography is spectacular.

"Vera Cruz" is OK if you don't mind being blinded by the "whitest teeth in the west".
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Very cruzy
tomsview9 March 2014
I first saw this film in 1955; it was the sort of movie I lived for back then. Compared with movies such as "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "Good Morning Miss Dove', which I also saw around the same time, "Vera Cruz" was an island of refuge in a sea of ennui for an eight-year old boy.

Now that my movie horizons have broadened a little, most of those old war movies and westerns seem very one dimensional if not totally unwatchable these days.

But there are exceptions, and "Vera Cruz" is one of them. After a recent viewing I can appreciate it's panache and even touches of brilliance.

The story follows a group of American adventurers in Mexico during the Juarista revolution against the French imposed rule of Emperor Maximillian. Ben Trane (Gary Cooper) teams up with Joe Erin (Burt Lancaster), and it seems they are prepared to help whichever side pays the most money.

They initially join forces with the French, but later change to the Juaristas. They have the opportunity of getting away with three million dollars in gold, but Ben Trane becomes emotionally attached to the Juarista cause, while Joe Erin only has an emotional attachment to himself and the money - a showdown is inevitable.

It would be hard to accuse the characters in this film of being one-dimensional because they are so over-the-top. They also bring a lightness of touch without which the whole thing would be pretty heavy going. With a witty script, and the perfect cast, director Robert Aldrich hit all the right notes with this film.

All the actors playing the French turned the ham knob up high. Ceasar Romero is charming, urbane and duplicitous. Henry Brandon's close-cropped captain is superbly arrogant, and has some great lines with Joe Erin. When he sees Joe greedily tearing into a whole chicken at a banquet, he comments, "Your acquaintance with etiquette amazes me monsieur, I had no idea you knew which hand to use". Of course their association was bound to end badly.

As a scheming countess, Denise Darcel femme fatales all over the place, and George Macready as Maximillian delivers yet another variation on his unique brand of cultivated evil - this time with a gnome-like beard.

But it's Burt Lancaster who steals the show. With that coiled spring grace and those clipped sentences, he exudes a sense of danger despite overdoing the famous grin in just about every scene.

Against all those fireworks, Gary Cooper wisely underplays. He gets the girl at the end -played by beautiful Spanish actress Sarita Montiel - despite looking old enough to be her father plus some.

The Jaurista cause is seen in a positive light, and the whole film was shot in Mexico, often with Aztec ruins as a spectacular backdrop. If any group is cast in a bad light it is the American adventurers who are uncouth and bad-natured almost to a man.

The action sequences are superbly staged although there is little evidence that the human body contains eight pints of blood - despite the carnage, the whole affair is quite bloodless.

"Vera Cruz" is a movie without any agenda other than to entertain, and it does that with style. Like most movies of the era, the filmmakers didn't let historical accuracy or cultural sensitivities get in the way of telling a good story.
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Simply Superb!! Precursor to modern thriller/westerns
centralbeerangi6 November 2013
The trivia page for this film on IMDb captures three essential elements of this movie that makes it a true precursor to virtually countless modern thrillers and spaghetti westerns: 1) The SuperScope process predates the Techniscope process of the Leone Westerns by nearly a decade. 2) The quick cuts and full frame closeups adds incredible momentum to the action and suspense and predates Dr. No and the Connery Bond films by more than half-decade. I mean I cannot think of later Hollywood pics until the Europeans made the Bond films and the Leone westerns that actually used fast cutting and terrific banter between the hero and anti-hero to such great success (For a great example of an older movie, I would offer Carol Reed's The Third Man). 3) And as mentioned the pacing and the character build up and the final showdown predated the showdowns in the Eastwood/Leone westerns. For comparison watch Hang 'em High for the Hollywood western of that era that starred Eastwood following his three outings in Italy. Stylistically Hang 'em High is a snoozefest even though it had a compelling revenge motif and a brutal hanging to enliven the pace.

So what we have here is a wonderful western with Lancaster playing the charming but utterly sociopathic antagonist--quoting one Ace Hanna-- for life's hard lessons and Cooper playing an equally resolute good guy with a sense of humour and world weariness and smarts to see through Ace Hanna aphorisms into Lancaster's heart of darkness. The dialogue is razor sharp witty and the supporting cast of thespians playing their part perfectly. And at 94 minutes it is one heck of breathless ride. I love this movie!
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A little Freud with your oats
rsyung17 September 2002
I'm not one to psychoanalyze a movie's characters, usually finding the exercise film-studies-pedantic and of limited interest at best, but I thought the Freudian underpinnings of this story are so obvious they are worth noting. To me, Cooper was clearly the father figure to Lancaster's prodigal son, and parallels to the Oedipal myth are scattered throughout. Lancaster at one point tells Cooper how the man who shot his father, remorsefully offered him a place to live-- becoming, in essence, a surrogate father. The inevitable outcome of that relationship is revisited at the end of the story when Lancaster confronts Cooper. What impressed me beyond that was the sharpness of the characterizations of Cooper and Lancaster. Mercifully short on exposition, they are nevertheless richly drawn, revealing motives and depth through their actions. What we know of their backgrounds (Lancaster's brief remarks mentioned above, and Cooper's Civil War background) imply just enough to understand their disaffection. What more did we need in a 50's Western? Oh yes, beautiful scenery and pretty women and Vera Cruz has them, too.
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Enjoyably cynical, extremely influential Western
Hancock_the_Superb16 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Defeated Confederate Colonel Ben Trane (Gary Cooper) drifts south into Mexico after the Civil War, hoping to sell his services to whichever army - the Juaristas or Emperor Maximillian (George Macready) and his French allies - offers better pay. The straight-laced Trane joins up with Joe Erin (Burt Lancaster), a grinning psychopath with a multi-racial gang of American criminals, gunslingers and deserters, and they are recruited by Maximillian's lackey, the Marquis de Labordere (Cesar Romero), to protect a French countess (Denise Darcel) being transported to Vera Cruz. Along the way, Trane and Erin discover the wagon is actually carrying gold, and a complicated series of schemes, tricks, and double-crosses between the Americans, the Countess, the French troops, and Juaristas under General Ramirez (Morris Ankrum) develops. It leads to an explosive climax as Erin and Trane join forces with the Juaristas, and Trane is torn between his chivalrous nature and his desire for gold.

"Vera Cruz" is an extremely important landmark in film history. Directed by leftist filmmaker Robert Aldrich (also responsible for such films as "Apache", "Attack!" and "The Dirty Dozen"), it paints a cynical portrayal of American intervention in Latin America and depicts gunslingers as, at best conflicted individuals, at worst mass murderers. The movie's influence can be seen in any number of films: "The Magnificent Seven", which could be read as a rebuttal to Aldrich's film; the Man With No Name Westerns of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood; Richard L. Brooks' equally cynical "The Professionals"; and Sam Peckinpah's "Major Dundee" and "The Wild Bunch". But "Vera Cruz" is more than just a bit of cinematic history. Although a bit dry and draggy in spots, "Vera Cruz" is, for most of its length, a largely entertaining and enjoyable Western.

For a film made in 1954, during the midst of the Cold War, with the conservative Westerns of John Wayne dominating the genre, "Vera Cruz" must have come as a shock. The film's characters are anything but the traditional white-hatted, two-fisted, unequivocally good heroes. Presaging Henry Fonda's villainous turn in "Once Upon a Time in the West" (albeit not in as extreme a fashion), Western icon Gary Cooper plays a character who, as outwardly chivalrous as he appears, cares only about money and is not above betrayal or double-crossing to get it. Ben Trane only becomes a noble warrior at the very end, and is driven to it mostly by the increasingly psychotic actions of Erin. Another classic Hollywood icon, Burt Lancaster, is even more extreme. Joe Erin dons a black outfit, spins and draws his pistol for fun, and sports a charming yet disconcerting grin. He is not above double-cross, trickery, or murder (even of his sidekicks and partners) to achieve his ends. While Erin seems a mirror image of the noble Trane, he is simply an uninhibited image of Trane himself.

The film's attitude towards violence is fairly casual and shockingly blunt. In the film's most affective scene, Erin, with his men surrounded by Ramirez's Juaristas, takes a small group of children hostage and threatens to kill them unless his opponent withdraws. Ramirez nobly intones, "Wars are not won by killing children", but this is perhaps the only example of chivalry in the film. The large scale action scenes are, if not graphic by modern standards, still pretty rough for 1954. We see a Juarista shot in the face by the Countess, a captured Juarista corralled and tortured by mounted French lancers, an epic, bloody climactic battle featuring machine guns and artillery, Erin grinning as he impales a French officer (Henry Brandon) on a lance, and the film's ending, where Erin, for no particular reason, shoots his only surviving sidekick Ballard (Arch Savage Jr.) in cold blood. And yet, despite all this, the violence is portrayed in a casual and frenetically enjoyable style. It's not at all difficult to see where Leone and Peckinpah got inspiration for characters like the Man With No Name, Tuco, and Pike Bishop. In this amoral world, all that matters is survival and gold, and not necessarily in that order. And, needless to say, no one can be trusted.

On a technical level, Aldrich's handling of the battle scenes and shootouts makes for rousing good fun, almost belying the message he is pushing. The final battle in particular is a well-staged bit of action. Ernest Laszlo's beautiful cinematography captures the action scenes and the gorgeous Mexican countryside in most flattering manner. James R. Webb and Roland Kibbee script is witty, quotable and enjoyably cynical, while Hugo Friedhoffer contributes a pretty good (if unremarkable) score.

Gary Cooper gives an excellent late-career performance as Ben Trane, the Southern gentleman whose mercenary instincts and ingrained chivalry come into conflict with one another. Burt Lancaster is well-cast as Joe Erin; he might grin a few too many times and chew a bit too much scenery, but given his reputation as an athletic, lovable hero his casting as the psychotic bad guy is very unsettling and effective. Reliable character actors Cesar Romero, George Macready, Henry Brandon, and Morris Ankrum turn in fine performances as the film's antagonists. Denise Darcel and the lovely Sara Montiel are well-cast as the film's femme fatales. And if you look among Lancaster's gang, you'll see Jack Elam, Ernest Borgnine, and Charles Bronson (nee Buchinsky) in bit roles.

"Vera Cruz" is a very entertaining film. While the pacing drags at times, particularly in the middle, its amoral, violent and cynical nature makes it an interesting ride. Beyond its status as a cinematic landmark is a damned enjoyable film, regardless of what one makes of it.

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Pure Adventure in Old Mexico
ragosaal2 October 2006
"Vera Cruz" is settled in Mexico during Austrian emperor Maximilian's ruling and the Juaristas revolution. Ban Trane (Gary Cooper) and Joe Erin (Burt Lancaster) cross the border to hire their guns for the cause that pays better. Trane is a former southern officer ruined by the American civil war and Erin is a self made top gun. Somehow the two men get to like and respect each other and they are paid by the emperor to take a mysterious French countess through Juarista country to the Port of Vera Cruz.

Mexico's colorful outdoor locations are very well used by director Robert Aldrich to give the film some sort of greatness, unusual in early 50's westerns. Lots of action and well done battle sequences help the movie too. The final gun duel couldn't be spared and it is a good one too.

Cooper has no trouble with his character and gives a good performance, but no doubt Lancaster's character is more interesting and he takes the best of it. In fact when you remember "Vera Cruz" Lancater's Joe Erin is what first comes to your mind. His black outfit, his complete lack of class and manners, his limitless ambition and completely unscrupulous behaviour; and yet you feel sympathy for the guy. This is indeed a Burt Lancaster picture.

The supporting cast is also outstanding. You'll find future stars in early roles such as Ernest Borgnine and Charles Bronson, along with Jack Elam all of them members of Erin's gang (what else?). But classical actors of the 40's and 50's are there too: Cesar Romero, George Macready (Maximilian), Morris Ankrum and Henry Brandon among others. Spanish actress Sara Montiel plays a Juarista that gets mixed up with Coooper.

Not only for western fans but also for action and adventure movie followers, "Vera Cruz" is a film to enjoy every once in a while. A top one in both genres.
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A Western ahead of its time
jerrybor17 March 2002
This 1954 film was considered mindlessly violent upon its initial release. Seen today, it is more of an action flick characteristic of its genre, pre-THE WILD BUNCH (which IS a truly violent film). It may have seemed excessively violent to 1954 audiences because of the ingredient of amorality which permeates the story. This aspect of the film truly is a precursor of later trends in film making.

The film presents Burt Lancaster as a daring shootist, thoroughly amoral, and thus an anti-hero. Self-interest governs Lancaster's character and coupled with his undeniable virility, his persona exudes danger. Lancaster, as with virtually every other cast member, is something akin to a "snake-in-the-grass", motivated by nothing more than greed and selfishness. This type of character became more common in later films, replacing the traditional virtuous hero (doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do) with heroes based on narrowing self-interest. (See the recent OCEANS 11, for example)

Against the Lancaster persona and character, VERA CRUZ counters with the epitome of virtue, the old westerner himself, Gary Cooper. Cooper brings the old virtues to play: decency, honesty, and fidelity to our fellows. Contrasted with Lancaster's youth, vigor, and amorality, Cooper projects a fellow laconic, world-weary, and basically decent. And equally to be respected in matters of violence.

The inevitable final showdown between Lancaster and Cooper is to my mind the single best "gunfight" scene in Western films.
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For a Few Dollars More...
cstotlar-111 November 2014
This is the film I'd been waiting for and I wasn't disappointed at all. It's true that Burt Lancaster was the "star" (after all, it was his production) and Gary Cooper was pretty much there for show, but there were some wonderful supporting roles as well and the film had an undeniable verve. At this time in his career Robert Aldrich was making history, particularly with his influence on the "spaghetti westerns" that followed this one and "Kiss Me Deadly" which stopped Mike Hammer, Mickey Spillane and the whole crew dead in their tracks. "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" started a trend as well and is still by far the bunch of that lot. It's easy to see why this is considered a cult film.
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A good Western that precedes the Italians
Gabriel Teixeira25 August 2013
In a time when Westerns were dominated by John Wayne and his moralistic, conservative and boring characters, the Western genre was rarely not boring. I always thought it was thanks to the Italian ('Spaghetti') Westerns that this all changed, but it actually began earlier.

'Vera Cruz' is a rare non-moralistic American western; instead of the goody two-shoes Wayne rip-offs, it is filled with morally ambiguous characters. Ben Trane (Gary Cooper), a former Confederate soldier, and Joe Erin (Burt Lancaster), an outlaw, are just two of many who go to Mexico to fight in their revolution; but rather than helping the rebels free their country, they strike a deal with Emperor Maximilian to escort a countess all the way to Vera Cruz.

That is what made the Italian Westerns so good. The characters are fighting not for an idealistic protection of 'freedom' or whatever John Wayne would have used to justify it, but for pure gold and money. They fight for themselves, and themselves ONLY, no matter if their side is 'right' or 'wrong'. They are not above double-crossing others, even their 'friends', to help themselves.

And believe me, there is a lot of double-crossing going around here.

The casting is very good; Lancaster tends to be irritating with the way he keeps smiling and showing his teeth all the time, but acts well and Cooper is terrific as always. The supporting cast, with includes a equally terrific Cesar Romero and the then-unknowns Charles Bronson and Ernest Borgnine, is very good. The actors all actually look their part, another characteristic Italian westerns got from here.

Unlike them, though, 'Vera Cruz' is not slow. It does not take its time to bask in the excellent scenery (which is as good as those of some Sergio Leone's films, for example), and moves toward the action every time its possible. For its time, it's surprisingly violent and realistically so; again, not like Wayne's westerns.

An excellent western that influenced the Italian ones from the decade after, 'Vera Cruz' is exactly what American westerns should have been. It still needed a bit more polishing, something Sergio Leone and his contemporaries did masterfully, but it is still one of the best westerns I've ever seen.
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A classic western imperative for the fans of this gender and the cinema
psagray1 January 2010
In 1866 Napoleon III, emperor of France, creates in Mexico a vassal state governed by Maximilian. The French troops control the country and the fate of its inhabitants. No takes to emerge a rebel, Benito Juarez, whose supporters took the name of "juaristas". "Benjamin Trane" (Gary Cooper) and "Joe Erin" (Burt Lancaster) decide serve the Emperor Maximilian. During a party known to the Countess "Marie Duvarre" (Denise Darcel) who, both gunmen must be protected from possible attacks of the revolutionaries.

Western of always brilliant director Robert Aldrich, with a large cast of actors stressing to the two main Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster., in addition to be accompanied by some secondary luxury: Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson or Jack Elam, among others. Cooper away some of his role solitaire with "High Noon". The anthological performance of Burt Lancaster is fabulous. The cynicism of type hard, womanizer, rude but with class and a perfect shooter, make it the best actor of the movie and what amount to the best thing that has given us Hollywood, and demonstrated subsequently in " Gunfight at OK Corral " and especially in "The Professionals". Accompanying performances of Denise Darcel "Countess Marie" and Sarita Montiel "Nina" to participate in the cast, and later in another western, "Run of the Arrow" of Samuel Fuller.

It should be emphasized the importance that had this film, thus created, nothing more nor less than the germ of "Spaghetti-Western". This movie filmed on 1954, is quite unusual, because it contains much violence for that time, and because the characters are the most cynical, selfish and unscrupulous. It is assumed that Cooper is the hero, but not the typical hero relentless that both liked the Americans in the unrepeatable movie "High Noon". And we also know that Sergio Leone knew personally to Robert Aldrich, because Leone replaced Aldrich in a movie that should lead in Cinecittà: "Sodom and Gomorrah". Thus, we believe that the western 'Vera Cruz' has been the inspiration of Leone.

Western without excessive violence. Contains one of the end more anthological of western.
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Hammy in spots but a good duster
david-54614 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film years ago(mid late 1950's) in a B theater that was unable to handle "Superscope" and CinemaScope. The result was everyone was super tall and skinny making it at the time more laughable then it was enjoyable.

Flash forward to the present and I found myself on a kick to see some Robert Aldrich films. Since I love old westerns I thought this one might be pretty good given the director and the two stars. Basically I wasn't disappointed. It had good action and the story moved along quite crisply. Good start to the film in introducing the two protagonists Lancaster and Cooper and a tense standoff in a plaza. Great ending.

But the film also had its hammy moments although I suspect it was unintentional. Lancaster's white teeth constantly flashing became more of an annoyance then anything else. Boy great teeth for the 1860's. Some of his gang were comical more than anything else and one poor sap was given to dancing (sorry can't remember his name) and of course became a caricature. Grant you it wasn't unusual given the time. The love scenes were more hilarious then anything else as both love interests were mismatched to the men involved although at least Lancaster and Denise Darcel gave it a whirl. But Cooper who is stilted at the best of times was just plain laughable with his love interest in Sara Montiel. Best part was Lancaster slapping Darcel around.

Other parts that were unintentionally funny was that they were supposed to be headed to Vera Cruz which is on the Gulf of Mexico coast in the south of Mexico. At one point they had them headed north through the pyramids of Teotihuacan. Okay I guess it was for effect but anyone with even some knowledge of Mexico would find it just silly.

So what was there to like? Well it was noted that this film had an impact on Sergio Leone who did the spaghetti westerns. The setting in Mexico and the gunfight at the end between Cooper and Lancaster was great. Reminded me of course of the final gunfight between Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda in Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. Even gave Lancaster and Cooper good face.

But they should have mentioned some clear influence on Sam Peckinpah particularly his classic The Wild Bunch. The village scenes and especially the assault on Maxmillian's forces by the Juaristas especially brought back fond memories of the final clash in the Wild Bunch. We even had Cooper and Lancaster grab a hold of the repeating machine gun ala Holden and Borgnine in the Wild Bunch. Great influence and a great scene.

Would have loved to have rated it higher than the 6 I gave it but the hammy parts and the stilted love scenes (kind of why bother) dropped the score.
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A "Must See" top notch Western
boardwalk_angel9 August 2005
"Money. Is that worth risking your life for?" a Juarista general asks Ben Trane...played by Gary Cooper. "Comes closer than anything I know." says he.

Robert Aldrich's second feature film ...Set during the Mexican revolution of 1866, filmed on location ...featuring a number of now familiar faces: Ernest Borgnine ; a young Charles Bronson (who hadn't even changed his name to Bronson yet); Jack Elam.... packed with plot twists, intrigue, double crosses, triple crosses.....backstabbing..shaky & shifting a lot of fun....shot in SuperScope featuring the great Ernest Lazlo's cinematography. In many ways...a transitional film (from a 40's style -->the 50's style)..& a transitional western, one that signals a change from old-style epic Hollywood actually combines the large Hollywood spectacle with the grittier, more cynical Westerns of the 50's & 60s... and anticipates & influences the Spaghetti western ...& the "Mexican Revolution" theme or subplot.

Cooper plays a loner named Benjamin Trane. He rides into Mexico hoping to sign up with either Emperor Maximilian or the revolutionary Juarez--whoever will pay him the most. ...He stumbles across Joe Erin (Lancaster)..their first encounter is a hoot & gets this movie off on a rousing note.. ...& hooks up with a group of mercenaries headed by Erin.... . However, their negotiations with Marquis Henri de Labordere (played to the hilt by Cesar Romero) is interrupted by the arrival of the Juaristas. From then on...The story becomes a matter of who's conning who. .... a fortune in gold ...& what seems like EVERYBODY's playing EVERYBODY....& a terrific conclusion.

"Man's got to have more. Needs something to believe in." "I've got that too," says Trane as he holds up his rifle and gives it a shake.

Cooper & Lancaster are terrific as Ben Trane and Joe Erin...playing with & off each other smoothly & delightfully....the character that Burt Lancaster plays in "Vera Cruz" really paves the way for his portrayal of Dolworth in "The Professionals"..(could be a younger version of the same character, in many ways...although ultimately much darker)...............Neither Aldrich, nor Lancaster, take the easy road w/ Joe Erin's character...& kudos to both of them for it.

A fabulous supporting cast.........some great dialogue......(Joe Erin's "Ace Hanna" story being a particular favorite of mine), ahead of its time as well as a product of it....... major inspiration of the Italian Westerns, which came a decade later...."Vera Cruz" is not only a top notch, crackling good Western.....but an important one......& deserving of " must see" status.
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Well-Crafted Western With Lots of Action & More
Snow Leopard31 May 2005
It's just a little surprising that "Vera Cruz" is not as well-remembered as some of the other westerns of its era, because it has a great deal going for it. Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper both give fine performances that get the most out of their characters, and the story, setting, and photography are all nicely done. It's an entertaining and often suspenseful movie that is well-crafted with plenty of action as well.

The setting in late 1860s Mexico is the kind of setting that has often produced some of the finest westerns: a confused struggle where loyalties are up for grabs, no one can be fully trusted, and issues of right and wrong are easily clouded by personal desires. Joe and Ben (Lancaster and Cooper) are right at home in this atmosphere, and the story makes good use of the possibilities.

The opening sequence is a fine way to open the story, with Joe and Ben confronting each other as well as the military. The battle of wits and weapons is interesting in itself, and brings out a great deal about the characters right from the start. It is quickly clear that Joe and Ben have some important differences, but also that they will need each other before long.

The location filming in Mexico is an important part of making it work so well, with plenty of interesting sights to go along with the realistic backgrounds. The rest of the cast is also good, and they get a few moments of their own (Sarita Montiel, in particular, grabs your attention), although it is always Lancaster and Cooper who are the center of attention. It all makes for good entertainment, and it has more than enough substance to it as well.
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