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4 soldiers of fortune, one kidnapped wife, one explosive mission.
Spikeopath26 June 2010
The Professionals comes out of Columbia Pictures and it is based around the novel "A Mule for the Marquesa" written by Frank O'Rourke. Written and directed by Richard Brooks it stars Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Woody Strode, Jack Palance and Claudia Cardinale. A Panavision and Technicolor presentation it features cinematography by Conrad L. Hall and Maurice Jarre scores the music.

One of the stand out Oaters from the 1960s that is often forgotten in light of what was to come from Sam Peckinpah three years later. Though far more light hearted than "Bloody Sam's Magnum Opus" that was The Wild Bunch, Richard Brook's film has many similarities. Themes of friendship, loyalty, disillusionment and of course the changing of the Old West all get dealt a hand here, with Brooks and his team upping the action stakes in a ball of explosions, gun fights and verbal jousting. Hell! The film is even a touch risqué, with nudity, sex and a wife in distress that is not as saintly as one would expect.

Set in 1917 on the Mexican-Texas border, just after the Mexican revolution, The Professionals' only real problem is the thin story. However, Brooks is not interested in going too deep with his plot, he's more concerned with playing it for thrills and back slapping camaraderie. Which works magnificently due to the impressive cast that has assembled for the movie.

Marvin plays it restrained as Henry 'Rico' Fardan, the weary leader of the group sent into Mexico to "rescue" Claudia Cardinale's (sultry but some fluctuating accent issues) Mrs. Maria Grant from the clutches of Palance's (excellent) Bandido supreme, Jesus Raza. Lancaster is a whirlwind of testosterone as explosives expert Bill Dolworth, while Ryan and Strode are smooth background characters as the conscientious Hans Ehrengard & muscular tracker and bowman, Jake Sharp, respectively. The only complaint about the characters comes with Ralph Bellamy's Joe Grant, the apparently fraught husband who sets the men off on their mission. He's in the beginning and the end of the pic, but it's just not enough screen time to really grasp his make up and thus the character is rendered as underdeveloped.

Hall's photography is exceptional as he shoots on location at Death Valley, Lake Mead and the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. The browns are smooth on the eye and the capturing of the odd rock formations a real treat. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his work, as was Brooks in the Best Direction and Best Screenplay categories. The shoot actually suffered some serious problems such as dust storms and flash floods, thus causing severe delays. But the end result was worth it for the film was a success at the box office. The public promptly lapped it up, yes it's a bit close to the knuckle sometimes, but there's never a dull moment in it. It's basically a ripper of a good time. 8/10
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Lancaster - The Whirlingist Dervish Of Them All!
jpdoherty20 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Columbia Picture's epic adventure THE PROFESSIONAS (1966) is a classic western and ranks among my top ten favourites. But for some strange reason this exciting colourful romp is often omitted from "great westerns" discussions. Perhaps it's the setting - or the fact of it not having the quintessential unknown cow-town that is marshaled by an idealistic but embattled lawman who along with his crotchety old deputy is in constant conflict with the powerful local rancher and his cowhands. And climaxing with the rancher sending for the fast gun to take on the Marshall. Of course with many variations these things are usually the ingredients of the classic western. But not so with THE PROFESSIONALS. Here we have an almost complete Mexican setting and four men - each with their individual skills - contracted to rescue a big rancher's wife being held by bandits south of the border. Based on the novel by Frank O'Rourke this completely engaging, beautifully constructed action packed adventure was written for the screen and expertly directed by Richard Brooks. The Oscar nominated Panavision cinematography came from the great Conrad Hall.

With an offer of $10,000 each, mighty rancher(Ralph Bellamy) hires four specialists - lead by Lee Marvin - to rescue his kidnapped much younger wife Maria (Claudia Cardinale) from the clutches of bandit leader Jesus Raza (Jack Palance). "Jesus - what a name.... for the bloodiest cutthroat in Mexico" declares Bellamy. Burt Lancaster is the explosives expert. Robert Ryan is the Wrangler and Woody Strode an expert with Long Bow. On the journey Lancaster is asked his plan with the explosives. With a wry smile he explains "Well I'll tell ye brother.....if we ever do get back to this canyon, I'll light this fuse...... we'll have ten seconds to get the hell out....and then dynamite, not faith, will move this mountain into that pass.... peace brother". When they eventually do manage to infiltrate the bandit's lair they set the charges and blow the place up but to their shock they find that Maria and Raza are lovers after all ("Brother we've been had") and doesn't want to be rescued. Forcibly taking her with them anyway they make a dash for the border with Raza's men in hot pursuit. After an exciting train chase and a terrific canyon gunfight they finally make it back to the rancher's meeting point with Maria and a wounded Raza. The picture ends with Marvin preventing Bellamy from killing Raza ("You haven't earned the right to kill him" Lancaster declares) and then sending Maria and Raza back to Mexico together on a buckboard.

Performances are terrific! Although Lancaster has top billing, Marvin has the leading role. He is the main protagonist around whom all the action centres and he turns in a splendid stern faced portrayal of the conscientious director of the operation. But disappointing is Robert Ryan who gives a rather subdued performance in a surprisingly underwritten role. Lancaster, on the other hand, is a total delight to watch and steals every scene he's in. This marked a very welcome return to form for the actor and brings to mind his much loved swashbuckling roles in "The Flame & The Arrow" (1950) and "The Crimson Pirate" (1952). Excellent too is Jack Palance in the unusual role of Raza the Mexican bandit leader and also the stunning Claudia Cardinale in her first American movie. Adding great atmosphere to the whole thing is the infectious music by Maurice Jarre. The french composer's score abounds with wonderful indigenous Mexican folk tunes giving the picture an engaging south of the border feel.

THE PROFESSIONALS is a top notch western adventure. A sublime and well polished example of the genre that has lost none of its sheen in almost forty five years.

Memorable exchange from THE PROFESSIONALS ;

Marvin to Lancaster, who is clad only in long-johns "You'll have to give up this practice of always losing your's undignified". And Lancaster's response " Yeah... it's drafty too".
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The Damned Bunch.
bobsgrock25 November 2011
Though not as perceptively grim in tone and style as Sam Peckinpah's epitaph The Wild Bunch, Richard Brook's The Professionals almost certainly inspired the former and was also one of the last great westerns Hollywood ever produced. Made at a time when the 'classical' era was waning, Brooks went entirely nostalgic, creating a story about John Wayne-like characters completely loyal to their cause but also flawed in many ways.

The cast is superb. The exotic beauty of Claudia Cardinale is great fodder for the main cast of Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode. Although Ryan and Strode have considerably less screen time, the relationship between Lancaster and Marvin is terrifically fleshed out along with Brooks' steady hand guiding the entire process of four men on the hunt to rescue a millionaire's kidnapped wife only to realize all is not as it seems.

Despite the fact that this film will forever be compared to the ones it inspired like The Wild Bunch or The Dirty Dozen, it should be admired on its own terms. It is a very entertaining and satisfying film with solid writing, acting, directing and editing along with some stunning cinematography of the American southwest. Compared to today's films, who could ask for anything more?
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One of the most beautifully shot and under-watched Western classics.
A_Roode3 September 2006
There are so many remarkable things about 'The Professionals.' Conrad Hall was the Director of Photography and was nominated for an Oscar -- he didn't win but he should have. The 1967 Oscar ceremony threw as many awards as it could to 'A Man For All Seasons.' I love watching big, beautiful, widescreen westerns and this is one of the best shot. Hall's use of camera filters, his incredible dust storm and his location scouting were all impeccable. I don't pretend to understand the mechanics of camera photography. I do know, however, when something looks gorgeous. 'The Professionals' is a stunningly beautiful film and it is a shame that it doesn't get a greater audience today.

The second remarkable thing is the quality of the cast. The top seven actors and actresses billed were top grade lead or supporting actors at one point in their careers: Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Woody Strode, Jack Palance, Claudia Cardinale and Ralph Bellamy. It would be interesting to try and add up the number of Oscar nominated pictures and performances that the above group compiled throughout their careers. Even if these seven weren't enough, they get wonderful support from the gorgeous Maria Gomez and reliably ubiquitous Jorge Martinez De Hoyos. Jorge Martinez De Hoyos is a classic Mexican "Hey! It's That Guy!" supporting actor and I always welcome seeing him in a picture. He makes much out of a minor part as the goat keeper who wants to 'help.' The lead performances are terrific and well written. This may well be my favorite Woody Strode performance. He (as seemed to happen for him) doesn't get a lot to say, but the value of his character to the group of four professionals is unquestioned and undeniable. When Marvin wants an assault to look like an attack by the Federales, Lancaster may be the guy with the dynamite, but it is Strode firing explosive arrows that makes it happen. Some of his best work where he is a featured player. And I love that when the question of race is brought up by Bellamy, Marvin snorts with contempt that he would have trouble working with a consummate professional of any colour. Strode doesn't lead, but this was a very positive part and showed white and black relying on each other to get a mutual job done. Of the other leads I would add that Lancaster has the best part (much of the humour, action and girls), Marvin is amazing, and Claudia Cardinale is so stunning a beauty it hurts to look at her.

A tougher part was for Robert Ryan. He was maybe too good of an actor for a part that wasn't well written. Ryan is game but I thought his part as the horse handler wasted him. In his later years Robert Ryan was quite sick and he was sick during this production. I don't think he was the problem though. His character is sick for much of the film but as a person, one gets the impression that Ryan was still quite robust. His character doesn't seem to fit in as well or have anything to do. He is adrift. Maybe part of it comes from playing a character who values animal life over human. I say again though that in this movie he is good, but not right for the part.

'The Professionals' is an adventure film and Western filmed in the style of 'The Magnificent Seven' and a model itself for 'The Wild Bunch' which followed. It straddles the worlds of old Western and new Western. It has a moral ambiguity and over-arching plot which makes me think of the film as a kind of Western/Film-noir. When you look at the cast though, Lancaster, Marvin, Bellamy, Palance and of course Ryan were all noir stalwarts of varying degree. Maybe some of that quality is what attracted them to the script.

This is a great Western that doesn't quite reach the top tier where films like 'The Wild Bunch' sit, but it is high on the second level for me. The ending may not strike some as satisfying and I've seen it argued that this was an attempt with other Westerns to illustrate American interventionist foreign policy of the time. Those conclusions can be discussed by others because I think of the assault on the Hacienda, the time-buying duel in the canyon, Burt's use of explosives in the pass and a terrific opening credits instead. This is a great Western that has been unduly forgotten. I really wish it has won the Oscar for cinematography -- Oscars can make films more marketable and enduring. If you're a fan of Westerns, you're no fan until you've watched 'The Professionals.'
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Everything about the film is professional
Poseidon-329 December 2003
Set in the aftermath of the Mexican revolution, this action drama concerns the rescue of a Mexican lady (Cardinale) who is married to a rich, older, white man (Bellamy.) She has been taken from her American home back down to Mexico by notorious outlaw Palance. Bellamy hires a motley crew of mercenaries to retrieve Cardinale, promising them $10,000 each upon her return. The crew is led by tough as nails Marvin and includes free-wheeling dynamite-man Lancaster, sensitive rustler Ryan and archery expert Strode. This foursome sets out across punishing desert terrain to reach Cardinale and bring her back to the U.S. border. The job is at least as difficult as they expected and getting back to the border is as hard, if not harder, than getting to Palance's lair was. The film has an exceptional ensemble cast of pros. The members of the rescue team form an uneasy affection for one another. Stern Marvin and toothy, off-the-cuff Lancaster make a great pair. Ryan adds years of presence to his smallish role and Strode is his usual imposing physical entity. Palance is always a great villain and has some decent moments here. Bellamy does a nice job with his sketchy character. Cardinale is amazingly curvy and attractive even in the dusty surroundings. There is also a healthy dose of strong action, much of it taking place in the impressive domain of Palance. Dots of humor along the way relieve the tension. Time hasn't been particularly kind to Maurice Jarre's offbeat score and the film could have been just a tad shorter, but overall it is an interesting and absorbing action film.
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The Code of the Professional
mike dewey30 January 2005
I just recently revisited this great Western classic and rediscovered why I think this is the best of its genre. The setting, the plot/subplots, the casting, the writing are in a class unto themselves. First of all, what else can you say about the match-up of Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster? Two phenomenal actors with a great screenplay and story line to propel their already lofty skills to an even higher level. The supporting cast of Jack Palance, Claudia C., Woody Strode, Robert Ryan, etc. contributes to the overall storyline by portraying their individual roles, each entirely different, with skill, depth and emotion.

What starts out as a fairly self-explanatory rescue and retrieve mission ends up getting increasingly complicated. As Burt Lancaster's character noted, "there's something a little dicey about this arrangement"! As the melodrama ensues, the inevitable capture and retrieval occurs and the tension mounts as the chase begins.

When the retrieval part of the mission nears its ending, the pace slows down to where the principal combatants, Jack Palance and Burt Lancaster, render their philosophical reasons for their respective actions. Palance, the Mexican revolutionary, tells of the revolution being like the goddess at the inception and like a whore as time wears on, where lust slowly overshadows love and passion surmounts compassion. But this time, he says, "I'm on this mission for love". Burt's reply of "I'm in it for the money, what else?", has the typical mercenary ring to it, but you get the feeling it may not portray his true feelings. This depiction of revolution(s), at a time (late 60's) when revolutionary zeal was the current political motif, sheds a remarkably lucid view: what does it all mean in the end?

But true to the Code of the Professional, Burt, Lee M. et al, must fulfill their obligations to the letter of the contract. And when you see the film in its entirety, you will see how they achieve that obligation and may be surprised at the final fulfillment!
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Good genre movie
Robert J. Maxwell7 March 2003
Warning: Spoilers
You won't regret catching this one when it's on TV, unless you were expecting some black-and-white drama filmed in the Czech Republic in the rain. The story is simple enough, four mercenaries, Lancaster, Marvin, Strode, and Ryan, are hired by American millionaire, Bellamy, to steal back his kidnapped wife, Cardinale, from the revolutionary bandido, Palance, who used to be their compadre under Pancho Villa. Things get a little more complicated at the end. I'm not sure exactly who undergoes what kind of conversion in the last few minutes, or what happens to the gold. But no matter. You have to go with the flow on this one.

What a flow it is too. It's got about everything in it that you'd expect: action, character, humor, a strong plot line, eyeball-coagulatingly gorgeous locations in Death Valley and elsewhere, a fandango-tinged score by Maurice Jarre, galloping horses, exploding sticks of dynamite, smoking trains puffing and laboring away at their full speed of about fifteen miles per hour, the novelty of seeing somebody dressed like a cowboy shoot a pump shotgun, palpable desert heat, Conrad Hall's masterful shots of gorges that are almost mauve and all ready to be blown up to block the pass, Lancaster scampering out the window of somebody else's wife's house in his long johns, treacherous cholos, revolutionary fervor, post-revolutionary tristesse, a fiesta, a mass execution, and Palance trying to speak Spanish. Could you ask for more?

What craftsmanship. It's the kind of film about which you can truly say, "They don't make 'em like this anymore." (Maybe that's because they're just too much unpretentious fun to watch.) The acting echoes the semantic weight carried by the title. Here we have Lee Marvin at his best. He simply looks perfect for the part of the leader of the gang. And wardrobe should have earned a medal. He wears a dark blue shirt, buttoned up to the neck, an old army campaign hat, and beat-up stovepipe trousers over his dusty boots. He often carries a shotgun or a Lewis machine gun slung over one shoulder. Man becomes icon. His approach to the part is his singular combination of businesslike, cynical, basically trustworthy, darkly humorous, and Marvinish. At the end, just when he's given Lancaster up for dead, someone spots a dust cloud on the horizon and asks what it is, a whirling dervish? "That, gentlemen," says Marvin, "is the whirlingest dervish of them all." And when Lancaster finally rides up, full of bullet holes and trailing an unexpected burden, Marvin stands before him, hand on hip, looks away, and wordlessly extends to Lancaster a bottle of whiskey. In an earlier scene, Lancaster says to Marvin, "Well, I'll be damned." Marvin: "Most of us are." As a matter of fact there's quite a bit of 1960s wisecracking that goes on here, and not just by Marvin. Lancaster is preparing a load of dynamite on the side of a cliff and remarks to the others, "You light this fuse, you got thirty seconds to run like hell, and then dynamite -- not faith -- will move that mountain into this pass. Peace, brothers." I grant you that it's a bit hard to imagine a bunch of illiterate lowlifes in 1917 Mexico coming up with lines like that, but so what? What do you want, King Lear?

Some scenes are standouts. A tense moment while the Mexican army tries to pry some information out of a goatherd, while the gang hides in the boxcars of a train parked nearby. Throughout, no score intrudes, but none is needed because the steam locomotive is wheezing rhythmically away behind the dialog, an unsettling metallic ostinato that enhances the suspense better than any tingling tremolo could.

Palance, shot from his horse, manages to struggle to his hands and knees, still in the kill zone. What does he do? Does he immediately dash for cover? No -- he quickly scuttles crablike over to his cigar lying on the sand where it dropped after the bullet's impact, stuffs the cigar into his mouth, and only THEN dives behind a rock.

Woody Strode has only a few lines but doesn't really need many. He's as solid as Mount Rushmore and knows exactly what he's doing. Robert Ryan is no wimp in this movie but is clearly the only one who is moved by compassion throughout, for animals and for human.

Lancaster has an interesting observation about the Mexican revolution. "Maybe it's all one revolution. The good guys against the bad guys. The problem is -- who are the good guys?" Amen. We don't learn much about the revolution, and it's too bad because its history illustrates Lancaster's point rather well. The government at the time was dictatorial and Pancho Villa, one of the rebel leaders, was a hero to many Americans. Then, in an excess of ardor, Villa crossed the border and invaded Columbus, New Mexico, killing a number of soldiers and civilians. Now he was a villain. So we sent an expedition into Mexico to capture and punish Villa. The expedition only got so far into Mexican territory before it ran into a hastily organized Mexican army that was worried about territorial violations. Did that make Villa a hero again? You can see why Lancaster was confused.

Anyway, watch this movie. It's exciting, colorful, and amusing. It's a great shoot against a lot of scenery. And Claudia Cardinale has a voice like smoked Serrano jamon, and a bust line that only a Mediterranean woman could wield. It worked for Palance and it almost works for Lancaster.
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Action, adventure, morality, and a great sense of humor
myschrec28 July 2003
This is a great western... at a time when Hollywood audiences were less interested in westerns. It also developed the theme of moral ambiguity found in the Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood "Man With No Name" westerns and The Wild Bunch. Lee Marvin (fresh from his Oscar performance in Cat Ballou) shows once again how strong an actor he is ... and how well he matches up with Burt Lancaster (with his oscar for Elmer Gantry six years earlier). Jack Palance is once again a villain with a winning smile. In addition to the excellent acting and exciting action scenes, the film makes good use of the horses, the train, the weaponry ... as well as the subplot about the old revolutionaries meeting once again after many years. In the end, the plot has a nice twist ... and our heroes must make a moral choice. The film compares favorably to the best John Ford westerns, plus it has colorful scenery and a great sense of humor. You should definitely watch the "widescreen" version if you can. Richard Brooks was nominated for Oscars for directing and writing.
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Exciting Western film with an excellent script, veteran cast and plenty of action.
Slim-44 December 1999
Warning: Spoilers
Although there's plenty of action in this Western, I believe that the action plays second fiddle to the script. Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Wood Strode and Robert Ryan are first rate as the four professionals engaged on a mission which is not all it seems. They are hired by rich mining man J. W. Grant (played by Ralph Bellamy) to bring back his kidnapped wife (played by Claudia Cardinale). She has been captured by Jesus Raza (played by Jack Palance). "Jesus. . .what a name for the bloodiest butcher in Mexico", says one of the characters.

The dialogue between the characters is crisp and often funny. In one situation where Lancaster has been hung upside down in his underwear by Raza's men, Marvin asks him why he keeps losing his pants. Occasionally the dialogue turns serious. Robert Ryan is shivering in the cold desert night and asks who can live in such a "hellhole". Marvin replies that you have to be as tough as steel. "Like you and Dalworth," Ryan replies. "No, men like Raza."

The professionals have a mission, but they respect their adversary. Perhaps they even like him. When they retrieve the wife, Marvin prevents Lancaster from killing Raza. Later, when Lancaster pins Raza down in a narrow canyon they visit about old times.

The movie was filmed in Death Valley and in the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. The colorful rocks and barren desert scenery are used to good effect in the film.

Although the plot is simple, the professionals' mission is not what it seems. They feel they've been set up at the very beginning when Woody Strode, a master tracker, finds the tracks of 10 horses who have been circling. They have obviously been waiting for them. This is only the beginning of the twists and turns in this movie. The film's imaginative plot is delightfully refreshing.

The professionals have a code. Sure, they can be bought. For $10,000 these men will risk the desert, bullets and other dangers. However, they won't go to any lengths to complete their mission. The code first manifests itself when Marvin prevents Lancaster from killing Raza. Later, Lancaster finds out "how a woman can be worth a hundred thousand dollars."

This film doesn't really have a serious weakness. The mix between action, humor and outstanding scenic backdrops makes this a much better than average Western. "The Professionals" is extremely fun to watch and the movie finishes with one of the best comic lines I've ever heard in movies. You won't forget it.
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A strong flavored Western!
Nazi_Fighter_David12 July 2001
Warning: Spoilers
'The Professionals' is a greatly entertaining film, excitingly directed by Richard Brooks who makes its action sequences startlingly real allowing his stars full scope in developing their characters...

There is some nice cinematography in the movie... The Mexican countryside is a vast place, and we see the beauty of what is otherwise miles of desert...

The motion picture takes place before World War I, during the bloody time period of the Mexican Revolution, when Pancho Villa and other colorful rebel chieftains led their people in the fight against oppression and freedom...

The film is about four men of sharp instinct, men who live by their abilities and expertise: Ryan, the quiet horseman who can kill 'bandidos' but he can never shoot a fine stallion; Strode, the black giant, can hide all his feelings, but his companions can absolutely rely on him... Marvin, the ex-soldier who still wears an army hat, keeps his opinions on life but his code is incorruptible; Lancaster is clearly an adventurer without principles, but always fit for immediate action...

They may all be unrefined and unsociable but they take pride in being professionals: Burt Lancaster is a good-humored speculator, expert with dynamite; Lee Marvin is a gunnery expert and tactician, a fine demonstrator of new automatic weapons; Robert Ryan, an ex–cavalry man, a cattle boss and a wrangler, and Woody Strode, a dependable scout and tracker, specialist with rifle, rope and long bow... Their job is to go into Mexico for a mission of mercy, rescuing a kidnapped wife...

The expedition across the border is enormously dangerous but Ralph a millionaire rancher (Ralph Bellamy) believes that few daring men with great expertise and an adequate motive could get him what he seeks... He also knows that Lee Marvin fought for Pancho Villa and came face-to-face with Jesus Raza (Jack Palance), the bloodiest cutthroat in Mexico, the brutal kidnapper...

The four men make their uncertain way to the fortress of Raza... Their understanding of the country and the people, and their experience with arms and strategy allow them to locate the attractive young woman... They attack the camp at night and destroy all its strategic positions... Suddenly, thrown into the middle of a shoot-out, they are captured by an unexpected event...

'The Professionals' is about few men tempered like steel... Men who have learned the code of professionalism... Claudia Cardinale feels right in the role, her character is about a woman brought to life through her exposure to righteous struggle...

The most horrifying sequence of sound and fury in the film occurs when Raza's revolutionary army attacks a train, and retaliates against government troops... The captain who led the attack orders the hanging of the two officers and shoots the surviving soldiers...

Ryan (witnessing the scene) shows his turbulent emotions toward Raza's brutality... But Lancaster explains the motives... The men on the train were 'experts at torture' who had raided a whole village... burning the town and killing their people... The explanation partly satisfies Ryan... Lancaster clarifies: 'Maybe there's only one revolution since the beginning... The good guys against the bad guys... The question is, who're the good guys?'

With three Academy Award nominations for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Cinematography and a first-rate cast, the motion picture is a strong flavored star Western, quietly humorous, delivering what viewers want from any haunting and beautiful film... Give it a look.. You'll be glad you did.
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Strong Cast And Story
DKosty12311 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Veteran Actor Ralph Bellamy who is best know for portraying FDR is cast here in a different role as a rich Texan whose wife (lovely Claudia Cardinale) has been kidnapped and taken over the border to Mexico. Jack Palance heads up the bad kidnappers.

Joe Grant (Bellamy) hires Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode to get her back. The odds seemed stacked against them and the bad crew has a lot of guns and men while they are just 4.

In a way this might be considerer a relative to several other westerns made in the 1960's. The script though is original material which won an Oscar for best script. Marvin is near the top of his game here and Lancaster is solid.

Cardinale is good in her role and the script has a bit of the twist at the end which might surprise you. A very good western.
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Sensational Zapata Western excellently acted and marvelously photographed
ma-cortes14 December 2009
Based on novel by Frank O'Rourke titled ¨A mule for the Marquese¨ and screen-written with fine eye by Richard Brooks ; it deals about some aging mercenaries who get chance redeem themselves . A wealthy magnate named Grant (Ralph Bellamy) employs a group of expert mercenaries, as the title characters, to rescue his wife (Claudia Cardinale), from the clutches of Raza (Jack Palance)who allegedly abducted her . The bunch (Woody Strode, Robert Ryan) is led by Fardan(Lee Marvin) and Dodworth(Burt Lancaster). The two mercenaries (Marvin,Lancaster) and Raza (Palance) had previously fought in Mexican Revolution and entering in City of Mexico along with Pancho Villa and Emilio Zapata.

A kidnapping and its rescue is the subject of this stunning adventure , an epic in every sense of word. Exciting, funny and well acted , especially by Burt Lancaster as tough soldier-of-fortune. It was deservedly nominated to Academy Award for direction, screenplay, cinematography and score. Photographed in Technicolor and Panavison by Conrad Hall in Valley of Fire State Park and its Coyote Pass and Deah Valley (Nevada) where was built a Mexican headquarter for the Mexican guerrilla. Exceptional soundtrack by Maurice Jarre, now classic, with Mexican and military music. Directed and screen-played with magnificent style by Richard Brooks (Elmer Gantry, In cold blood, lord Jim) who subsequently directed another good Western titled ¨Bite the bullet¨ with Gene Hackman and Candice Bergen .The ¨Professionals¨ is an authentic must see, not to be missed for buffs of the genre. A successful movie during its theatrical release because of its awesome acting, dialog, score are world class.
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Mature moral complexity; a slower kind of western.
Kara Dahl Russell26 October 2006
I grew up watching westerns because my father is from Texas, and westerns were required viewing on a daily basis. While this one lacks the brisk pace and epic quality of YELLOW RIBBON, it has shades of gray in a genre that usually has black or white hats.

Being made in 1966 this western is not only a bit late in the genre, but is also somewhat late in the day of several of it's leads, making it a more mature action film, with the resulting slowness and ambiguity that maturity brings. This is echoed in the plot lines from early on, as Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster are sent to find a kidnapped Claudia Cardinale who is clearly making the most of her kidnapper, Jack Palance at the height of his handsomeness. The men give standard solid performances.

This film is often mentioned in documentaries about film making for the extended use of day-for-night shooting in the long climactic sequence on the mine tracks in the Mexican border village. The art direction is actually one of the best features of this film, with the interesting levels created by the omnipresent train tracks.

The plot turning moment of this film belongs to Marie Gomez, a curvaceous exotic who seems minor but becomes a revelation in character, and her level and complexity of acting. Claudia Cardinale comes off badly in comparison, not only because her acting chops are less, but her role is much less interesting. This hurts the film overall; when there are only two women in a film, their roles really effect the inner life of the film. Here, it's all Gomez - she turns everything topsy turvy. She and Palance are the only really remarkable things here. For her cathartic moment, Gomez received a Golden Globe nomination as Most Promising Newcomer in 1967.
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A Classic
Terence Allen8 June 2004
This is one of those great, all-star movies where what happens is almost inconsequential because getting there is so much fun. Marvin and Lancaster give sharp-edged, self-assured performances, Palance is delightful as always, and the rest of the cast does their job in yeoman fashion. It has the edge and cynicism that marked the decline of western movie production, but it has enough fun with the audience, and itself to stand out from other westerns made at the same juncture. Richard Brooks deserves a lot of credit for keeping the genre going because few westerns made around this time were or are memorable. This movie is not always mentioned with the all-time great westerns...but it should be.
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Impressive Hybrid to "The Wild Bunch".
tfrizzell21 October 2003
A rich Texas landowner (the elderly Ralph Bellamy) hires three men (Robert Ryan, Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin) to go into Mexico and return his beautiful wife (the ultra-erotic Claudia Cardinale) to him after she was kidnapped by a gang of ruthless thugs led by Jack Palance (made up to look Hispanic). The three accept the challenge, wanting to get paid handsomely of course, but as they advance and get closer to Cardinale a thin line develops and it becomes unclear if everything is really the way it appears to be. The scope of a quickly changing West before a backdrop of the Mexican Revolution only adds to a movie that nearly touches greatness. Writer/director Richard Brooks (Oscar-nominated in both categories) began to knock on the door with a potentially very dark Western here and in 1969 director Sam Peckinpah would knock that door down with the amazing "The Wild Bunch". Brooks, not known for this genre, created a legitimate winner here with this production. Sometimes though the characters lose out because of the beautiful cinematography by Conrad L. Hall (Oscar-nominated) and the fact that Cardinale is just illuminating when on the screen (she is the only actress with any substantial screen-time). Her amazing beauty overshadows all the males throughout. Thought-provoking, action-packed and highly interesting, "The Professionals" is a sometimes forgotten would-be masterpiece from the usually impressive genre. 4 stars out of 5.
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An explosive western!
Tweekums15 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
When wealthy Texan Joe Grant hires Henry 'Rico' Fardan to lead a small group deep into revolutionary Mexico to rescue his kidnapped wife Rico knows it won't be an easy job; four men against an army! Mrs Grant is being held by a revolutionary by the name of Jesus Raza who Rico and Bill Dolworth, an explosives expert, fought along side earlier in the war. It isn't long after they cross the border that they meet the first of Raza's men... clearly it won't be easy getting to his Hacienda and once there it will be even harder to get Mrs Grant out and back to her husband unharmed. Once they get to her they find they have another problem; she left Grant of her own free will and is in love with Raza... still they have been paid to take her back to her husband so take her back they will.

The opening scene where Rico is firing a machine gun next to a car makes it clear that this is set much later than most westerns; that doesn't stop it being a 'proper' western. While he doesn't get top billing Lee Marvin is definitely the star of the film and he does a fine job as Rico, he is ably supported by Burt Lancaster (the official star) as Dolworth, Woody Strode as Jake Sharp, an expert with a longbow and Robert Ryan as the fourth and final member of the rescue party. Claudia Cardinale puts in a feisty performance as the 'kidnapped' Maria Grant.

Fans of the genre or people just wanting an exciting adventure should enjoy this as there is plenty of action almost from the moment they cross the border; this action is mainly shootouts but there is also a train ambush and when we get to the raid on the hacienda there are numerous spectacular explosions. This may be the midpoint of the film but the return north is no less exciting. While the twists weren't all that surprising they were believable and added a bit more interest to the story.
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Four soldiers of fortune on a rescue mission...with a professional code of Honor!
Say Keng LEE12 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The Professionals:

I recently watched a rerun of this entertaining action-packed movie on cable TV. I remember I had watched it in the theater during the late 60's while I was still a young college student. It was my second movie with Lee Marvin in the lead cast. The first was Point Blank. Since then, I have always been impressed by him & have seen most of his action movies, including The Dirty Dozen.

The Professionals is definitely one kind of a movie about which I can truly say: They don't make them like this anymore! Yes, to me, it is a truly great Western classic.

It has a relatively simple plot with a terrific story, even though there were some twists & surprises right through the very end: Four solders of fortune, each was regarded as a specialist in his own chosen field, were hand-picked by a rich Texan businessman to rescue his wife, who had been captured by Mexican rebels. The ransom was US$100,000. The setting was the aftermath of the Mexican revolution.

The four soldiers of fortune were Rico (Lee Marvin), a cool & principled tactician & gunnery expert (he was really cool with his pump shot-gun); Bill (Burt Lancaster), a wise-cracking adventurer & dynamite expert; Hans (Robert Ryan), a sensitive & compassionate wrangler; Jake (Woody Stroke), a sharp scout/tracker & archery expert. It was obvious that these were brave men who lived by their tactical expertise & sharp instincts. They were paid handsomely - US$10,000 per head - to carry out the mission.

The vast scenery in the movie was magnificent: colorful rocks, barren desert & rugged terrains. Against this enchanting backdrop, many of the action sequences took place, as the four specialists had to skillfully out-maneuver a bunch of Mexican desert marauders &/or rebels.

The dialog was often crisp & witty. There were some very memorable lines e.g. as Bill was putting a load of dynamite on the rock, he said to the others: "You light this fuse, you got thirty seconds to run like hell, & then dynamite - not faith - will move mountains into this pass. Peace! Brothers."

The most cruel scene was when the four specialists witnessed a gang of Mexican rebels, led by Raza (Jack Palance) massacred a train load of Mexican soldiers. (In the movie, Bill had explained to Hans the rationale of the rebels' merciless attack. The soldiers were sadistic torturers.)

The most exciting part of the movie was probably the surprise attack, planned with military precision, on Raza's fortress & the rescue of Mrs Grant (Claudia Cardinale). It was at this scene that Rico & Bill, seemingly bewildered, began to realize that something was wrong. To their astonishment, Mrs Grant turned out to be Raza's mistress. They were caught in a moral dilemma: Rico & Bill had apparently fought alongside Raza during the Mexican revolution. Both had respected Raza for his ideals. On the other hand, they had to Honor their contract to the letter from the rich Texan businessman, Mr Grant (Ralph Bellamy). Rico quickly stopped Bill from killing Raza & eventually rescued Mrs Grant, with Raza & his rebels hot on their heels. The ensuing scenes were beautifully choreographed as Bill set out a diversionary measure to slow down their pursuit, while Rico, Hans & Jake with the rebellious Mrs Grant took off for Texas via a different route.

The most touching & climactic scene in the movie was actually the closing scene, when Rico, Hans, Jake & Mrs Grant eventually crossed the border into Texas for a rendezvous with Mr Grant & his men. The next scene showed Bill appeared out from a trail of dust at the rendezvous with the wounded Raza. Mrs Grant rushed forward with Raza falling into her embrace. Mr Grant then told Rico, Bill, Hans & Jake that they had fulfilled their contract & asked them to leave. Instead, amidst a short scuffle with Mr Grant's men, they quickly put the wounded Raza on to a wagon with Mrs Grant taking off into Mexico border. They then rode off into the sunset, with their professional code of Honor intact.

I have really enjoyed watching this entertaining action-packed movie once again. The four specialist-characters played very well in the movie, especially Lee Marvin as Rico & Burt Lancaster as Bill who stood out. Jack Palance, a fine actor (I enjoyed watching him in the Bronk TV series), as Raza did his part well too. Claudia Cardinale as Mrs Grant provided some eye candy to the movie.
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Living and Dying by "The Code" (CONTAINS SPOILERS)
marko29 May 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Richard Brooks, Lee Marvin, and Burt Lancaster are at the top of their game in this turn-of-the-century Western classic.

As the Old West dies, on the eve of World War I, a rich businessman assembles a team of ex-revolutionary mercenaries to rescue his kidnapped wife. The task is complicated by this twist -- the kidnapper is an old compadre of half the rescue team. Brooks makes the most of his material, exploring the rigid code by which such men live, and how contact with the cynical Twentieth Century can use that code as a weapon against its adherents.

Marvin was rarely better than his role here as Henry "Rico" Fardan, a tough soldier, torn between his own memories and his professional sense of honor. His performance is matched by Lancaster, in the role he was, perhaps, born to play. Bill Dolworth is a cynical scoundrel who rediscovers his own sense of decency during the mission. Lancaster is a letter-perfect smartass, and his stunt work is impressive, particularly considering his age at the time this film was made. Robert Ryan and Woody Strode have less to do, but are still interesting. Claudia Cardinale is gorgeous, Ralph Bellamy, suitably slimy, and Jack Palance even manages to invest a little dignity into the only strained sequence of the film -- his monologue about love and the revolution.

The dialogue is rich and memorable -- you may find yourself quoting whole passages. Maurice Jarre's stirring score is apt without being obtrusive. The splendidly photographed desert becomes a virtual character in the story.

A word about weaponry. Hollywood goofed more often than not when showcasing Western armaments. It could easily have happened in this film, set at a time when the Colt .45 and the Lewis gun both coexisted on the frontier. But Marvin's sequence with the Model 1897 Winchester Trench Gun is one of the best photographed gunfights in history, and shows clearly why this pump shotgun was the most fearsome close-quarters weapon ever made.

This film is rarely shown on television or cable. Fortunately, it is available once again on VHS tape, and may be available on DVD as well. While the picture is not well known, it deserves to be mentioned with "The Wild Bunch," "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," and "The Searchers."
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Interesting film anticipating later films, and recalling early ones. A classic of sorts.
holscher-429 March 2006
The Professionals features an excellent cast for the most part, and an engaging story. However, it's a bit odd for viewers to watch now, at first, if they're familiar with other Westerns. In terms of plot the film resembles those of the 1950s, but is a little quicker paced, and a little edgier. However, viewers familiar with Sam Peckinpah's westerns, which would follow this one very quickly, will find the plot here somewhat slow and surprisingly mild in tone. This film, in the hands of someone like Peckinpah, would have come out like The Wild Bunch.

The temptation, therefore, is to compare this film to the Western classics of the 50s, or the more violent Westerns of the late 60s. It really shouldn't be, however, as it's a classic of its own era. If viewed without expectations or comparisons, it's a good film, with a good, and nicely paced, plot, that isn't subject to the distractions of excessive violence or exploitation.

Lee Marvin is very good in his role, and turns in an excellent performance. It recalls his performance of The Dirty Dozen, in that he plays a typical Marvin character, but in a somewhat understated way, making the character believable. Burt Lancaster's performance is also understated. Woody Strode is given a good, somewhat minor, role, but one that is more of a fully interacting character than some other roles he was given.

Probably the weakest character in the entire film is Claudia Cardinale, which isn't surprising. Cardinale comes alive in Italian films, but in English speaking films her lack of command of the English language translates in to some fairly stilted acting. Having said that, she turns in a better performance her than in The Pink Panther, or in Once Upon A Time In The West. However, she's not up to the same level that Sandia Berger was in Major Dundee. She's clearly in the film mostly for window dressing, and in an era when it would not be regarded as excessively odd that a Mexican woman would be portrayed by somebody with a heavy Italian accent.

All in all, it's a good film, and worth seeing.
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Classic Western - One of the best!
Al22 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film when it first came out in 1966. What a great entertainment. This movie had it all: a terrific story with crisp and witty dialog, the plot has a few twists, turns and surprises right through to the very end. The acting is topflight with reigning superstars of the time Lee Marvin (hot on the heals of his Oscar-winning performance in "Cat Ballou" and Burt Lancaster who is always worth watching. Veteran tough-guy actors Robert Ryan and Woody Strode (little recognized today as the first black athlete to play professional football) round out the "Professionals" hired by another film veteran, Ralph Bellamy (15 years shy of his greatest fame as "Randolph Duke" in "Trading Places"). Claudia Cardinale and Maria Gomez are the the loan female players. Ms. Cardinale holds her own very well against these charismatic scene-stealers and it is not only because of her considerable beauty. She plays the part of Maria very well. "Tough enough to kill ya and soft enough to bandage ya." Marie Gomez plays a terrific part as Chiquita, the tough and sexy woman who can fight with the men and bed them all.

The rich dialog was not easy to pull off. Case in point Lee Marvin's line to Burt Lancaster, "So what else is bothering you besides 100 proof women, 90 proof whiskey and 14 karat gold?" Burt - "Amigo, you just wrote my epitaph." This is true western high-drama and done to the nines by the great talents on board. The only complaint I ever had, even when I saw this as an 11 year old was, Woody Strodes character which was a bit staid even for the time; calling the other men "Mister" and such. But within those confines Mister Strode is great. A real master of underplaying. Jack Palance does a great turn as Jesus Raza and is quite believable as the hardened veteran of the revolution. Burt Lancaster has his usual scene stealing moments, but the one to watch in the film is Lee Marvin who is at his unpredictable best. Mr. Marvin although very popular at the time was really a very underrated actor. He could do it all. As the self-contained and restrained Rico Fardan, Marvin simmers and seethes underneath while he works to keep the small cadre going and complete the mission.

The overall maestro is Producer, Director and Writer Richard Brooks, also an underrated filmmaker and Director and Writer of such great films as Elmer Gantry, Blackboard Jungle and In Cold Blood among others.

The cinematography and landscape is as powerful and captivating as anything one might see in the best of John Ford's westerns.

Last but not least homage must be paid to the great Maurice Jarre, my favorite film composer. He lends heart, pace and excitement to "The Professionals." I don't know why this film hasn't received the recognition it deserves. I enjoy watching it again and again and just had a great treat seeing it in letter-box for perhaps the first time since I saw it in the movies 40 years ago. This a real gem of a film-- don't miss it!
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It's very good actually......
gazzo-21 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers takes the old 'Send in a group of tough guys into the Bad Lands to rescue the Damsel in Distress' plot and does what it has to very well. Here you have fine turns by Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster and Woody Strode. Now I saw in a few of these reviews such rather strange comments as Lee Marvin 'not registering' or playing a block of wood. Really? Seemed like the standard trademark mid-60's Dirty Dozen Lee Marvin performance to me. Fit him like a glove.

Then there was a idiotic Robert Ryan as Costner/black hole comment. Gimme a break. Ryan was a solid professional in about everything he did be it 'Flying Leathernecks' or 'Dirty Dozen' or this. Certainly he didn't have as much to do as the others, but when he's on screen here, yah I bought it. He likes horses and gets overwhelmed by the heat. Sounds likely to me too.

Cardinale and Marie Gomez are both very beautiful, Cardinale essentially repeating this role in '69's 'Once Upon a Time in the West' save for she was allowed to be in a house during that one. Exotic ladies both of them.

I also enjoyed seeing Ralph Bellamy playing a baddie-something he could have done earlier in the '40's if they'd ever given him the chance I think. Usually he was the nice guy who lost the gal to the hero instead.

Of course the baddies/mexicans shoot about as well's the Empire's forces in Star Wars, not able to even so much as hit the broadside of a craphouse despite 40-1 odds. Palance as a Mexican is a stretch too, but hey he's at least worth watching every time out. If I remember right he is Polish...

Look quick for long-time TV character actor Vaughn Taylor here too-as the banker at the start. Always turned up in those old 50's-60's dramas.

Terrific scenery and locales and use of the desert. Conrad Hall was a pro's pro w/ this kinda thing.

*** outta ****. Enjoy it.
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excellent action-adventure yarn
MartinHafer25 February 2006
This was an excellent movie with only one minor quibble on my part. Towards the end, when Burt Lancaster is taking on the Jack Palance and his men in the canyon, the dialog suddenly becomes REALLY annoying and at one point consists of about 15 metaphors spoken by both characters in about 2 minutes time--as well as the many clichés! What happened to the good dialog prior to this? Well, I guess any writer can have a lull.

Apart from that, the acting and writing are good. I especially like the actors they chose--I always like seeing Woody Strode, and Ryan, Lancaster and Marvin are all good as tough but professional guns for hire. And, despite Cardinale being Italian and Palance being an American, both were fine as Mexicans. Really I have no complaints about the movie except for the still scene in the canyons--WHAT occurred wasn't the problem it was just how the characters suddenly TALK and TALK and TALK--something that was thankfully avoided in the first 80% of the movie.
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Some Nice Suprrises But Just So-So
ccthemovieman-113 November 2005
After not seeing this film for almost 30 years, I was surprised how good the cinematography was, since I had mainly just remembered this as another Western with a good cast of famous tough guys. The rugged Mexican countryside took my attention as much as the story.

Another big surprise was Robert Ryan. Noted for playing almost nothing but sadistic villains, Ryan turned an about-face here and plays the most humane person in the group, in contrast to other male leads' Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin and Woody Strode. All of these actors are fun to watch and Claudia Cardinale, although not the greatest of actresses, also fun to ogle.

This is one of those transitional films of the mid 1960s, one that still was under a morals code but was pushing it to the limit. Another year or two and it would be gone altogether. So, language started to get rougher including the Lord's name in vain which slips in here a couple of times; a plug for evolution (Big Bang theory) is given by Lancaster and there is a scene in which you see the side view of a woman's breast - all things that would prevalent in films in just a few more years.

All in all, just a so-so story elevated by the presence of some very well-known tough-guy actors.
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Incredibly well-made and entertaining, almost a classic
TheLittleSongbird11 September 2014
A great amount of talent on display in The Professionals and mostly very well used. It is a shame that Robert Ryan's role is so underwritten and he looked as lost as he did in a somewhat atypical role(this is the same Robert Ryan who made an unforgettable villain in Claggart in 1962's Billy Budd). For my liking too the film ends a little too tidily with some of the scripting a tad confused. But The Professionals is superbly made with sweeping photography that makes expansive use of the colourfully exotic locations and a lusciously evocative score from none other than Maurice Jarre, cannot get enough of the spine chilling opening sequence. The script crackles with wit and tension and is remarkably quotable(it was nominated for a Oscar and in my opinion was deserving of the nomination), the action is rousingly staged and the story, apart from a couple of plodding moments in the middle, is a vast majority of the time gripping. It was great also to see characters that were likable as well as flawed rather than resorting too much to one-dimensional stereotypes. The Professionals is expertly directed- some of the best direction of any Western not from John Ford, Sam Pekinpah or Sergio Leone names on them. And expertly acted as well, with Burt Lancaster on blisteringly funny form and Jack Palance as a slightly hammy but entertainingly menacing villain standing out, their scene on the rocks being an acting highlight. Lee Marvin gives a brooding performance without ever being one-note- every inch the figure of authority- and Claudia Cardinale looks gorgeous and involved. Ralph Bellamy is also excellent, his character's development is sketchy but he does somehow manage to make him interesting and compelling. All in all, a fine film that is sadly somewhat under-seen, the word professional for this near-classic is very apt. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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Not everybody gets this film, but it remains a masterpiece.
Jon Bogdanove20 January 2010
Still one of the best movies ever made --The Professionals is a continuous fusillade of memorable lines, including several immortal quotes. This is a tough-guy movie for thinking tough guys, with an amazing cast of screen icons.

Most of the men were WWII vets. Lee Marvin was a decorated hero. Woody Strode was a decathlete and football star. The stunts are all real and believable in scale, with Burt Lancaster performing many of his own.

Maurice Jarre's score is definitive of its genre. Conrad Hall's cinematography is smart and dynamic, making great use of breathtaking locations. But it is the tough guy ethic in the treatise that makes it work. I haven't read Frank O'Rourke's novel, but Richard Brook's screenplay is worth returning to again and again. Like a favorite book, it continues to gain resonance.

The Professionals is a stunningly-photographed high adventure and lyrical tragedy. Not everybody gets this film, but it remains a masterpiece.
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