Suave Mexican cattleman Alvarez Kelly has little interest in the Civil War except to make some money. But after a long drive to deliver cattle to the Unionists he finds himself kidnapped by... See full summary »
Suave Mexican cattleman Alvarez Kelly has little interest in the Civil War except to make some money. But after a long drive to deliver cattle to the Unionists he finds himself kidnapped by Confederate Colonel Tom Rossiter. With his hungry troops surrounded in Richmond the Colonel intends, one way or the other, to persuade Kelly to help steal the herd and move it into town. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
Both William Holden and director Edward Dmytryk were concerned about the script of the film before production even began. At one point during filming, Holden, who was hung-over and dealing with an unruly horse, became angry and tried shoving the script up the horse's rear, yelling, "That's where it belongs!" See more »
Despite the firepower of the Union Cavalry at the bridge, not one steer is seen to fall down dead or wounded. There are fallen cattle seen after the herd has crossed the bridge, but these are obviously live cattle with their legs tied, as can be seen when they struggle to stand up. See more »
You disappoint me, Mr. Kelly. After what happened to your home, I should think your sympathies would be with us.
I have no sympathies, only instincts. And they shy away from losers.
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I have just watched this movie on Spain's Canal Sur, in Spanish, which probably did not make much difference, as the Spaniards are wizards at dubbing, and the main character in any case is an Irish-Mexican. In addition, I avoided by this means Widmark's Southern drawl, said by those better qualified to judge than myself to be hilariously bogus. When I have seen him in films with English dialogue including Westerns, he has always sounded very urban to me, probably hailing from some part of New York and I have never noticed that he has attempted to change his accent before. So this was probably an isolated attempt that didn't work out. He is, nonetheless, an excellent actor, and we must recall that even our late great Sir John Gielgud made a terrible hash of this too, on the very rare occasions he was induced to speak with a different accent from his plum-in-the mouth, silver tones.
If you are looking for a Western of the inferior spaghetti type (I do not include Sergio Leone in that description), with non-stop violence and a corpse a minute, be sure to give this one a miss! Although a war film, its mood for the greater part of the footage is great calm, but a calm fraught with tensions. It takes at least three quarters of an hour for the first death to occur (unless there was a fatality at the Alvarez hacienda in the first few seconds, which I happened to miss, and that is unlikely). And immediately after this fatality, a party of Blues capture a party of Greys, who with hardly a pause turn the tables on the former, but without causing any further losses to either side or even anybody getting wounded. The development of the plot is mainly without physical action, so that I must admit it does tend to drag at times. The main protagonists quietly and stealthily pitch their wits against each other: that is why the incident of the severed finger(already mentioned on the general introduction page) comes as such a brutal shock. But the true nature of war, including the American Civil War, is like that: much manoeuvring (Am. maneuvering) without very much happening for most of the time, interrupted by sporadic, sudden flare-ups.
The main characters are well-drawn with many quirks and foibles and there is much humour in their interaction and the awkward situations they find themselves in. A good example of this is the frustration of Widmark, the one-eyed Confederate colonel, who with the reluctant help of the devious civilian,but pro tem acting colonel, Holden, tries to turn the dude grey-coated soldiers into competent cow-hands. Both Widmark and Holden take turns in being the butt of the various ironies, but the stiff-necked, self-opiniated and bumbling Union major played by O'Neill, is the object of such ironies for most of his on-screen time, including from his commanding officer.
The photography is good, the scenery (supposed to be Virginian although the film was said to be shot in Louisiana) is very beautiful, and the costumery and indoor décor quite colourful and well-researched. The women,however, are rather insipid, especially when compared to those belles in a similar situation in the Wayne-Holden opus "The Horse Soldiers", not to mention the vivacious Vivienne Leigh in "Gone with the Wind", though that is an unfair comparison.
Not a movie,then, for those Western fans who like fast action. But, if you are patient enough, there is a terrific finale with a battle, which (to avoid giving too much away), is very reminiscent of a scene from "How the West was Won" which also involved Richard Widmark and, now I come to think of it, also of a sequence in "The Wild Bunch", starring Holden.
Although I had already been around for some time when this film first came out, I had hitherto never seen it or even heard of it, despite the fact that I am quite fond of good Westerns, a fan of both the main actors, and have have often been impressed by O'Neill too. I can only imagine that this occurred because it proved a commercial flop, by reason of the faults above-mentioned, and was shelved. It had never been shown before on the channel where I saw it, and there is little that they do not repeat again and again and again.
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