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Manuel Artiguez, a famous bandit during the Spanish civil war, has lived in French exile for 20 years. When his mother is dying he considers visiting her secretly in his Spanish home town. But his biggest enemy, the Spanish police officer Vinolas, prepared a trap at the hospital as a chance to finally catch Artiguez. Written by
Olaf Mertens <email@example.com>
The movie was banned in Spain, which was still ruled by Generalissimo Francisco Franco, the fascist victor of the Spanish Civil War. See more »
In the first 5 minutes of the movie it is supposed to be 1939 and the Loyalist (Republican) soldiers are crossing into exile on the French border. As they cross over they are turning in their guns and the first one to turn in his gun turns in a Russian PPSh-41 submachine gun. The PPSh-41 was not developed until 1941. See more »
One of the few films to deal with the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Behold a Pale Horse is a now completely forgotten but once high-profile well-intentioned failure where you can see the good intentions and valid reasoning behind every misstep. It certainly has pedigree to spare: Gregory Peck and Anthony Quinn resuming on screen hostilities after their ruckus on Navarone, a supporting cast including Omar Sharif and Christian Marquand, a screenplay based on a novel by Emeric Pressburger (the wonderfully titled Killing a Mouse On Sunday) and direction by Fred Zinnemann. At its core is an effectively simple idea, with Anthony Quinn's failing local police chief trying to tempt Gregory Peck's legendary Republican bandit across the border into Franco's Spain and right into a trap, with the rebel's dying mother as the bait. But the film wants to be more than a thriller or a simple adventure story and in the process ends up considerably less. The biggest problem is a slow opening half, where Peck is kept deliberately at a distance, seen only through the eyes of a child and filtered through the hatred of Quinn as the film tries to build him into a mythic figure so that when we finally do meet the embittered, grumpy and overly cautious man the void between reputation and reality is that much greater. Unfortunately he's kept at far too much of a distance and the film is just far too low-key and drawn out to really draw us in.
Thankfully the second half is considerably more successful as the moral dilemmas multiply and the story enters Graham Greeneland as the tired, violently atheist hero has to face the betrayal of friends and the help of a priest, although it's not without its absurdities (most notably in a scene in Lourdes where they look for, and find with comical ease, one specific group of priests among thousands). This desperately wants to be a great film, but sadly it rarely manages to be a good one, much as you may appreciate the effort. Those with an eye for trivia might want to note early bit parts from Michel Lonsdale at a reporter in the final scene and an uncredited future producer Claude Berri as well as the involvement of actress Nicole Stephane and writer-director Frederic Rossif in putting together the extremely effective opening montage sequence.
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