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Three disparate travelers, a disillusioned preacher, an unsuccessful prospector, and a larcenous, cynical con man, meet at a decrepit railroad station in the 1870s Southwest. The prospector and the preacher were witnesses at the singularly memorable rape and murder trial of the notorious Mexican outlaw Carasco. The bandit duped an aristocratic Southerner into believing he knew the location of a lost Aztec treasure. The greedy "gentleman" allows himself to be tied up while Carasco deflowers his wife. These events lead to the stabbing of the husband and are related by the three eyewitnesses to the atrocity: the infamous bandit, the newlywed wife, and the dead man through an Indian shaman. Whose version of the events is true? Possibly there was a fourth witness, but can his version be trusted? Written by
[laughing after hearing a description of the corpse]
Ah, hah-hah! I know, I know. You know, they all look so surprised... them cadavers.
I bet death must be a lot different than anybody thinks.
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This remarkable 1964 film has many virtues, among them a strong script, fine photography, and a pre-Kirk William Shatner (whose idiosyncratic acting style is already well-developed, however).
The story is a Westernization of "Rashomon", the story of a rape and murder told from the points of view of three participants and an outsider. The contrast between the subjective stories (told by the bandit, the husband, and the wife) and the story told by the miner who witnesses what really happens is both hilarious and thought provoking.
Everyone is in fine form, but DaSilva's miner and Edward G. Robinson's snake oil salesman are especially fine. Newman's portrayal of the Mexican bandit is often over-the-top, but always interesting.
This is one of those movies that makes one wonder if Mr. Maltin saw the same thing. I think that it is one of the better films of the 60's, a decade that produced a great many of the best movies ever made.
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