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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
VILLA RIDES (1968) turns out to be something of a big disappointment!
And even though Sam Peckinpah had a hand in the screenplay, along with
Robert Towne, it still emerges as a leadenly written movie dryly
directed by the undistinguished Buzz Kulik. Firstly, top billed Yul
Brynner as Pancho Villa is wrong for the part! He's not charismatic
enough to play the great Mexican revolutionary! His one note
performance lacks the fire and gusto Anthony Quinn or Gilbert Roland
could have brought to the role. Brynner simply looks like a Russian
aristocrat dressed up like a Mexican bandit who is in the middle of the
Mexican revolution instead of the Russian one. Also, second billed
Robert Mitchum is totally wasted in the picture! His part as a biplane
flying ace lobbing home-made bombs from the air in the cause of the
revolution is a poorly written meager role that could have been played
by any minor star. Mitch hasn't a decent line in the entire movie and
brings to one's mind his other Mexican revolution picture the far
superior "Bandido" (1956) which unfortunately nobody seems to have any
interest in releasing on DVD. Besides lacking any kind of style "Villa
Rides" also suffers badly without the presence of a female star! There
is starlet Grazia Buccella as a young Mexican girl who gives Mitchum
the glad eye but her casting is merely perfunctory. Someone like
Claudia Cardinale or Jean Peters could have perhaps added a couple of
badly needed notches to the faltering story line.
There are a couple of good action scenes in the movie but a couple of good action scenes do not a movie make and the less than perfect Panavision picture quality plus the over repetitive Maurice Jarre theme tune doesn't help matters.
As is Paramount's wont there are no extras - not even a trailer! Yup, a disappointing movie and DVD presentation that could have been and should have been a whole lot better.
Mexican bandit and revolutionary Pancho Villa has been portrayed in films before, most notably by Wallace Beery in 1934's "Viva Villa!". Beery bore an uncanny resemblance to the real Pancho Villa, and by all accounts his portrayal is historically quite accurate, although the movie itself isn't. While overall this film is better than Beery's, the miscasting of Yul Brynner as Villa is difficult to overcome, and Robert Mitchum's sleepwalking through his role as an American soldier of fortune caught up in the Mexican revolution doesn't help, either. The two best performances in the film are Charles Bronson as Villa's right-hand man and chief executioner Rodolfo Fierro (Bronson accurately plays him as a man who can murder dozens of people with almost no thought about it; the real Fierro was even more of a butcher than he's shown to be here, and is known to have personally murdered hundreds of people) and Herbert Lom as the murderous Gen. Victoriano Huerta, and although Lom plays him as a sophisticated James Bond-ish Eurotrash villain than the semi-literate Indian and psychopathic killer that Huerta really was, it's still an effective job. The action set pieces are extremely well done and exciting, especially a rebel charge through a marsh against a heavily fortified federale position and, as has been previously mentioned, the film's soundtrack is truly outstanding. So even though Brynner may not be anyone's idea of Pancho Villa, the movie overall is worth a watch.
Villa Rides is directed by Buzz Kulik and adapted to screenplay by
Robert Towne and Sam Peckinpah from the biography of Pancho Villa
written by William Douglas Lansford. It stars Yul Brynner, Robert
Mitchum, Charles Bronson, Herbert Lom, Maria Grazia Buccella, Robert
Viharo and Frank Wolff. Music is scored by Maurice Jarre and
cinematography by Jack Hildyard.
Film is a fictionalised telling of a period in Pancho Villa's (Brynner) life, primarily his famous involvement in the Mexican Revolution at the start of the 20th Century.
The film that should have been a Peckinpah classic!? Maybe? There is no doubting that had Peckinpah been allowed to direct his own screenplay we would have got a far better, more brutal, Pancho Villa film. In fact if we just had Peckinpah's original screenplay intact and someone like Robert Aldrich to direct, then that surely would have given us a mean and moody biography of one José Doroteo Arango Arámbula (AKA: Francisco Villa or Pancho Villa)? Film history tells us that star Yul Brynner was most displeased with the portrayal of Villa as written on Bloody Sam's page. Brynner wanted, and got eventually, his Villa to be an heroic Robin Hood type man of the people, a romanticised revolutionary as it were. Not the driven bastardo prone to acts of horror and sneak tactics that Peckinpah envisaged for the film.
Brynner laughably cited Peckinpah's lack of Mexican knowledge as reason for getting him off the film, laughable because Peckinpah was married to a Mexican and visited the country regularly! So Peckinpah was off, sold his screenplay to the producers, which was remodelled considerably by Robert Towne & Brynner, and he took much of the ideas from the writing for Villa Rides to craft his masterpiece a year later, The Wild Bunch. In to the director's chair came Buzz Kulik and Brynner got to don a toupee and portray Villa the way he wanted. Although, thankfully, Peckinpah's edginess does manage to flit in and out of the finished product.
Viva Villa! You can't fight for the revolution if you are dead.
What remains for viewing is far better than some would have you believe. True, it's no Western/War classic, some of the politico posturings fail to make a mark because they are not expanded on, and one yearns at times for some Peckinpah grit, grue and grim machinations. There's also casting issues, for although I actually don't mind Brynner as Villa because he attacks the role with fanciful relish, he is generally miscast, while Mitchum manages to get by on laconic charm rather than have a character worthy of putting effort into. But if you can forgive the obvious missteps then it's a good two hours of rip-snorting entertainment.
It's always a question of money with you Gringo.
Kulik (Sergeant Ryker) keeps things lively and proves adept at action directing. The battles scenes are high on quality, particularly for the engagement at Conejos, where stunt men and horses are flung around the place, explosions puncture the air, the artillery on show resplendent as it deals out damage. Hundreds of costumed extras cut a swathe through each other, a plane and a train impact greatly on proceedings, while potent scenes involving the bad things that men do add fuel to the loud expressive fire. Jarre's score is fabulous, Latino flavours mix with high energy thunder to bounce off the burning sun with aural pleasure, while Hildyard keeps the Spanish locales vibrant in colours. Then there's Bronson stealing the movie with his portrayal of Rodolfo Fierro, a man who enjoys killing and tormenting the enemy, with dark humour also etched into his make-up.
Fanciful, fun and fiery, with flaws enough for sure, but still a good time to be had for the genre faithful. 7/10
This exciting historical film about the famous Mexican patriot bandit
contains a succession of fights , shootouts , pursuits , raids and
breathtaking frames . The film chronicles about the title role , the
Mexican bandit and guerrilla leader who flourished in the early part of
the XX Century with broadened focus on the filming his feats and actual
war . As Mexican rebel Pancho Villa (Yul Brynner) lead a revolution
against the ¨Colorados¨ ruled by Orozco ; being helped by an American
aviator (Robert Mitchum) imprisoned in Mexico . Later on , when
President Madero (Alexander Knox) is overthrown , they fight against
General Huertas (Herbert Lom).
This vibrant movie is an uneven rehash of Pancho Villa's legend including epics battles , explosions , chases , spectacular scenes and resulting to be a feast of action for the eyes . Interesting screenplay written by Robert Towne and Sam Peckinpah , based on the novel ¨Pancho Villa¨ by Douglas Lamford . Sam Peckinpah wrote the original script and was set to direct, but Yul Brynner didn't like the script because it made Pancho Villa - a man who had given standing orders to shoot all prisoners - "look like a bad guy" ; Peckinpah was fired and his script was rewritten by Robert Towne to conform to Brynner's idea of what Villa was like . Yul Brynner plays the notorious and rowdy bandit, he is perfect in title role . Robert Mitchum is the flying gunrunner who reluctantly aids Francisco Villa's revolutionary Mexican campaign . And Charles Bronson giving one of the last of his sadistic two-fisted guy portrayal with his trademark mustache , before being promoted to tough big star . Remainder casting is frankly well : Maria Gracia Buzzela as a seducer Mexican woman , Herbert Lom as General Huertas , Frank Wolff as Ramirez , John Ireland and Jill Ireland , this was the first movie to star real-life husband and wife Charles Bronson . Being shot in Spain , there appears great secondaries , some prestigious Spanish actors such as Fernando Rey , Xan Das Bolas , Julio Peña , Jose Canalejas , Jose Maria Prada and seductive Diana Lorys who holds one of the highlights of the movie , when she dances a tempting dance with Yul Brynner . Colorful cinematography by Jack Hildyard , David Lean's usual , and supported by outstanding cameramen as Ricardo Navarrete and John Cabrera. Shot on Spanish location in Casar De Talamanca (Guadalajara) and Colmenar Viejo (Madrid). Rousing musical score by Maurice Jarre , the musician to milk the maxim impact from a lively leitmotif . Considering the talent involved plenty of magnificent actors and excellent technicians results in a good movie . Big-budgeted film by producer Ted Richmond with hundreds extras , a lot of riders , and using trains , planes , helicopter for his filming . Sergio Leone was offered to direct but the turned down , as it was well directed by Buzz Kulik helped by Jose Maria Ochoa , Carlos Gil and Eduardo Garcia Maroto as direction assistants . Kulik was an expert filmmaker of TV movies and occasionally for cinema . He directed notorious series and TV films (The Lindberg kidnapping case , Pioneer woman , Brian's song , Riot , Rage of Angela) and adapted famous films for TV (From here to eternity with Natalie Wood , Women of valor) . Furthermore , he filmed some vehicles for notorious actors as Burt Reynods (Shamus) , Lee Marvin (Sergeant Ryker) , Steve McQueen (The hunter) and Pierce Brosnan (Around the world in 80 days) .
Other films about Pancho Villa are the following : the classic ¨Viva Villa¨ by Jack Conway with Wallace Beery , forever belongs this role ; ¨Villa¨ with Rodolfo Hoyos and Brian Keith ; ¨Pancho Villa¨ by Eugenio Martin with Telly Savalas and Clint Walker and ¨Starring Pancho Villa as himself¨ by Bruce Beresford with Antonio Banderas . The picture is based on true events, thus : Pancho Villa born in Chihuahua with the name Doroteo Arango,from his peasant upbringing he became an outlaw in his youth and adopted the name Francisco Villa from another outlaw.He played a leading role in the Mexican Revolution(1910-1920),winning many victories (as Torreon battle narrated in the film).For a time Villa,who seemed in line for leadership of Mexico,enjoyed the agreeable interest of the United States government;but William Randolph Hearsts media empire's press campaign against him and USA authorities then dropped Villa and supported his rival,Carranza.Villa's resentment resulted in the revenge raid on Columbus .
First time I saw this movie I thought it was excellent, I was about
twelve then. I still have a fondness for it, and will watch it whenever
I find it on t.v.
I am not a student of Mexican history, nor do I pretend to be, but I enjoyed it, and will watch it again all over. If you are looking for a life changing event then this is not it,(really if you want to change your life then get off of the couch, movies are not life, not even a substitute, go out, meet someone, have a fling, live a LIFE) if you want an amusing hour and a half, then this should do the job for you.
What more can you you want from a movie?
"Villa Rides" is the most accurate film depicting the life of the infamous mexican bandit, Pancho Villa. It's also filled with an all-star cast. Yul Brenner plays Villa to perfection (many other actors including Telly Savalas have played the role, but not as good as Brenner). Charles Bronson is equally good as Villa's sidekick who spends his free time humiliating and shooting mexicans. Robert Mitchum plays a pilot who gets involved in Villa's revolution. There is a constant pace of action and good dialogue ("Go outside and die. Where are your manners?" is what Bronson says to a mexican after the mexican tries to force himself on a young girl. Bronson shoots him and kicks him out the door). The buzzing noise Mitchum's airplane makes becomes annoying throughout the film (the director's name is Buzz) and the actor who plays the mexican villain seems to be more of a Woody Allen-type character than a vicious, sadistic tyrant. He makes up for that in his final scene. Classic stuff! The film is very rare and hard to find. If you get it, you're lucky.
"Villa Rides" is the tale of the legendary Pancho Villa, key player in the Mexican Revolution who was a bandit, to be sure, but also undeniably a true leader deeply committed to his cause. However, the tale mostly focuses on Lee Arnold (Robert Mitchum), the American pilot who is captured by Villa's forces and eventually, reluctantly becomes caught up in their mission. Yul Brynner, sporting a full head of hair for once, is thought by some to be miscast as Villa, but in any event this reviewer does feel that his screen presence is still powerful. Mitchum, admittedly, isn't at his best and in fact looks rather disinterested throughout this thing, which is not good considering how much screen time is given to his character. Herbert Lom does well in the key role of a dubious Mexican general, and Maria Grazia Buccella is appealing and lovely in the underwritten role of Lee's love interest. The performer here who truly stands out is Charles Bronson, sporting his familiar moustache for the first time here, as Villa's associate Fierro, and the actor does capture this person's essential ruthlessness, although in real life Fierro was supposed to be an even more bloodthirsty individual. Also appearing are Bronson's wife Jill Ireland, in the first of the films that they did together, although she doesn't show up until near the end, as well as Robert Viharo, Frank Wolff, Alexander Knox, Fernando Rey, and John Ireland in a brief, uncredited bit. The screenplay is courtesy of Robert Towne and Sam Peckinpah, but it never really gives us much insight into Villa. There are some great moments of well staged action, but overall the pacing is a little sluggish. TV veteran Buzz Kuliks' direction is basically competent, although one has to wonder what might have been had Peckinpah been allowed to direct his own original screenplay, which wouldn't have romanticized Villa quite so much. Undeniably effective is the photography of some beautiful scenery and Maurice Jarres' eclectic score. This film does have its moments, such as Lee lobbing bombs as he flies his plane, but it could and should have been more interesting. As it is, it's decent entertainment but it doesn't ever quite take off. Six out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Magnificent Seven" co-stars Yul Brynner and Charles Bronson team up again as Mexican bandits-turned-freedom fighters in veteran television director Buzz Kulik's south-of-the-border epic "Villa Rides," a quasi-historical drama about Pancho Villa and the Mexican revolution during the early 20th century. Robert Towne of "Chinatown" fame and Sam Peckinpah wrote the cynical, bullet-riddled screenplay based on William Douglas Lansford's entertaining biography. Indeed, some scenes--such as Bronson's character lining three soldiers up in a row and shooting three of them at once--occurred in the book. Brynner is typically charismatic as Villa, while Bronson is appropriately Neanderthal as Villa's second-in-command Rodolfo Fierro. Fierro was a trigger-happy hombre in real-life and was always prepared to shoot first and ask questions later. Ostensibly, to give American audiences somebody with which to identify, the filmmakers cast Robert Mitchum as an aviator running guns to the villains. Later, he is captured by Villa's forced and scheduled for execution until the protagonist allows him to live to fly for them. Kulik orchestrates several major action scenes in this sprawling shoot'em up and delivers them with sufficient gusto, helped considerably by composer Maurice Jarre's rip-snorting musical soundtrack and "Bridge on the River Kwai" cinematographer Jack Hildyard's scenic lensing with Spain substituting for Mexico. Spaghetti western villain Frank Wolff has some memorable scenes, especially his death scene where he tries to hide in a well and the heroes lob a package of explosives into it.
So far I haven't seen one film about Pancho Villa that got it right and
Villa Rides is definitely one of them. Perhaps the proposed
biographical film that Johnny Depp will star in might do Villa some
Yul Brynner and Robert Mitchum co-star in Villa Rides with Brynner in the title role. Mitchum plays your typical soldier of fortune although in his case he's a pilot of fortune. He's a pilot of one of those new fangled airplanes and it is through his eyes we see the story of the film unfold.
A damaged aircraft delays Mitchum in Mexico after making a delivery and before he knows it, he's hip deep in the revolution that is going on in Mexico. At this point in his career Villa is one of several guerrilla chiefs supporting the new republic and the presidency of the idealistic Francisco Madero played here by Alexander Knox. Madero himself was a strange and fascinating character, one day he might get a biographical film study of his tragic life.
The Mexican Revolution of the teen years saw the country give way to anarchy with Villa eventually becoming one of several generalissimos controlling a piece of Mexican turf. As Villa operated in the extreme north of the country it was his bad fortune to later on raid into the USA and get Woodrow Wilson to send our army after him.
Here at the beginning Villa though after Mitchum talks his way into not being shot by his forces, Brynner sees the value of Mitchum's airplane as a weapon of war. He puts one of his aides Charles Bronson to ride herd on Mitchum and the two of them don't get along at all.
According to Lee Server's book on Mitchum they didn't get along all that well during the filming. Another Mitchum, brother John Mitchum wrote in his memoirs that Bronson was a very reserved sort who guarded his privacy strictly. They apparently had no problem on the set of Bronson's film Breakheart Pass which John Mitchum had a small part.
Mitchum and Brynner got along however which was not always the case with Brynner. Yul Brynner was a man of some mystery who liked it that way, he was and could be standoffish with fellow players, but apparently he and Mitchum worked well together in their only joint film.
The film was shot in Spain and I have to say the battle sequences were very well staged. They are the best part of Villa Rides.
A good, but not a great film. I do have to wonder that when Black Jack Pershing came into Mexico later on after the action of this film concluded, might not Mitchum be in a real jackpot fighting against the American army at that point.
This Movie is Great, besides the action & adventure , there are Great performances for this B movie that most of the times just keeps teeners (boys mainly) from the street en from their homework ! its also a movie that brings the child back in the Man ! However, besides that, i love this movie Mainly for the role of Charles Bronson, who as Fiero is a Hard ("bad") man who you gonna Love ! His portrayel is marvelous and funny !! and don't forget the Magnificent Soundtrack score from Maurice Jarre !!
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