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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
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 has a screenplay written Sam Peckinpah and Robert Towne but
a very workmanlike direction from Buzz Kulik.
Yul Brynner with added hair stars as Pancho Villa the great Mexican revolutionary with fiery passion, cunning, pig headedness and some romance as well. Robert Mitchum is a soldier of fortune with a biplane, a pilot who supplies the Mexican army with weapons, but is gradually forced to join the rebellious side after he is caught up with Villa and a Mexican beauty. Mitchum is laconic and nonchalant but we do get to see him drop homemade bombs from the plane.
More impressive is Charles Bronson as Villa's right hand enforcer who clearly enjoys slaughtering people with style and some humour. Even shoots three people with one bullet in order to be economical.
Herbert Lom and Fernando Rey round up the Mexicans also bring political intrigue to the table.
The film was shot in Spain and it starts out as intriguing but it is uneven. The film varies in tone with some comedy but then you have some villagers getting slaughtered, others being executed and women being raped. There are some good action sequences but the film is too messy as its does not have a coherent narrative.
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 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 as secondaries 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 . The motion picture 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 .
I saw this movie long ago and still remember it well enough to place a comment, so its not to bad. Westerns are my favorite movies but that's doesn't mean i like them all, i like the shootist with John Wayne but think that most Wayne movies are not that good....this one with Brynner, Bronson and Mitchum is just plain and simple a Hollywood fabrication and fun to watch,especially Bronson as Fierro. He portrays the very hard merciless right-hand of villa,(and comes up with some very nice inventions). All and all i think its time they should release it on DVD so i could add it to my collection and watch it again after so many years
"Villa Rides" says in the opening credits that it is a tribute to
Pancho Villa. And, as presented, the film is indeed a tribute in which
it paints the former Mexican bandit in pretty colors. We should
remember that the Mexican revolutionary had attacked an American town,
Columbus, New Mexico. So, the U.S. government sent our own Gen. John J.
Pershing into Mexico to hunt down and capture or kill Francisco
"Pancho" Villa. His pursuit lasted from March 1916 to February 1917.
Pershing was recalled when WW I broke out. Of course, none of this is
mentioned in this film.
So, remembering that Hollywood often glosses over history even rewrites it at times, viewers should always take films like this with a grain of salt as to their accuracy and truth. Of course, their enjoyment as entertainment is aside from that. Now, to counter that aspect, we should also remember that Villa was a real folk hero among the people. He was a Mexican "Robin Hood," who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. He wasn't out for power himself, but was a genuine revolutionary for the freedom of the people.
We should also remember that it was after 1917 that the dictatorships in Mexico began to oppress the church and religion. Recent Mexican President Vicente Fox acknowledged and lamented the previous tyrannical governments. After 1917, Mexico outlawed religion, killed priests, confiscated and closed churches, and desecrated altars. Not until 1992 did this situation begin to change. Can it be any wonder why so many Mexicans would flee their country and want to live in the U.S. in the 20th century? Besides the economic hardships, the people were terribly persecuted and denied their basic rights.
Now for this film. It has a nice plot with some good action. The cast, for the most part, are quite good. Yul Bryner is very good as Pancho, although I suspect he is quite sanitized. Charles Bronson is very good as Fierro. Some other main characters are all quite good Fernando Rey as Fuentes, Alexander Knox as Madero, and Herbert Lom as General Huerta. You'll notice I've saved Robert Mitchum until last. His role just doesn't fit as he portrays it. We need the character for the plot, but Mitchum just does not seem to play him right. He seems way too nonchalant. The script, or directing, or acting, or all three needed a major rework there to make his character much more believable. It put a sort of pale of humor over the story, and I don't think it really should be humorous. Not when we see families distraught over the hanging of many of their fathers, husbands and sons by the government army. And, I've never thought it funny when women are raped.
So, I'll give this 7 stars for the action, the story and the roles of Bryner, Bronson and some others. Back to that opening credit on the film I'm sure that Paramount didn't mean to imply that Hollywood welcomes foreign governments to attack towns in the U.S. Or that it will honor them for doing so. But, wait a minute. I could be wrong about Hollywood.
See it Like all good Sam Peckinpah directed films, this one is exciting from start to finish. This movie came right before he did "Wild Bunch," and you can see the similarities in the fight scenes. Starting with "Wild Bunch," Peckinpah began pushing the envelope and trying to get away with more and more (violence, nudity, etc). I like "Villa Rides" because it's kind of his last normal, old-fashioned movie. He doesn't try to get all Tarantino on us; he just makes a great action movie. Yul Brynner (with hair) is pretty good as Villa, considering Brynner is actually Russian (not Mexican). A young Charles Bronson steals many of the scenes as Villa's tough, Bad-A right hand man. The movie also co-stars Robert Mitchum. This is a big epic full of sweeping battle scenes and a great cast. I'm surprised more people haven't heard of it. 4 action rating
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