The Desperados (1969) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
15 Reviews
Sort by:
American/British Western in Italian style and filmed on location in Almeria , Spain
ma-cortes11 January 2012
Unknown and tragic Western with unexpected final and ordinary actors as Vince Edwards and important appearance by the great Jack Palance who does an excessive playing . Passable Western in which Civil War deserters ravage the Old West ; it packs sad atmosphere , wonderful musical score and spectacular outdoors . It deals with a family whose father named Parson Galt (Jack Palance) is leader a violent bunch similarly to Quantrell-Bill Anderson's guerrillas , they are burning buildings , grisly raids , torching planted fields and shooting down livestock to deprive northern people of food , fodder, and support . Parson's men rode out in a little town and most of buildings were burning, including all businesses, his raiders looted indiscriminately and robbed the town's bank . The film is set during American Civil War when the eldest son named David Galt (Vince Edwards) decides the massacre needs to stop . David murders one of his own soldiers by accident during an attack and he is detained and condemned to death in a family run court . Anyway, Edwards getaway after fighting his brother Jacob (George Maharis) ; both of whom hate until death since one of them committed a crime . David goes to Texas, turning his name and living the good life with a spouse (Sylvia Syms) and a newborn. The ex-gunman hopes to settle down with his wife and son , but his old enemies have other plans for him . In Texas, only sheriff (Neville Brand ) knows Edwards' new identity . And his visions of a quiet life are doomed by the re-appearance of enemies from his past . David is taken prisoner and is humbled , beaten, shot, before he either changes certain elements of his character or learns the secret necessary to ultimately get revenge . Later on , there takes place a spectacular struggle between David and Jacob on Austin-Fort Bend train .

Here is a thinking person's Western with elements of Greek tragedy that deals with one ex-guerrillero who also is unable to shake his past and whose ultimate goal for taking root again is impeded by killing and subsequent vengeance . Acceptable twilight Western with interesting dialogue , splendid cinematography by Sam Leavitt and memorable musical score by David Whitaker . This Cain/Abel Western results to be a typical story with Spaghetti influence in which blends the common scenarios , as vengeful and tough antiheroes , difficult and fast showdowns and raids with numerous deceases , some quick zooms and habitual Spanish scenarios . The mixture of action and drama is well balanced . Watch out for the final duel it's outstanding for a Western with unexpected resolution . The revenge as main theme might be usual for this genre but with all these dreamlike flashbacks about his mother from the key character it's a fresh look . Good main cast as Vince Edwards and overacting by Jack Palance ; the support cast is full of good British actors as Sylvia Syms , Kate O'Mara and Christian Roberts . Besides, good set decoration and art direction by Jose Alguero , filmed in Spanish studios and of course 'Almeria' and Las Rozas , La Pedriza , Madrid . Levin shows a dark, depressing, and sadly realistic face of the west. In fact, the entire movie is a drama of characters and family confrontation . But watching the film, you would be able to feel how Levin equates victory with redemption .

This violent western well produced by Irving Allen and professionally directed by Henry Levin failed at Box office ; however , nowadays is best considered . Ex-actor ,director Henry Levin was a previous stage player who had a prolific and long career as filmmaker entering the directing in 1943 about every genre over the next 36 years . His heyday was in the 1960s , when he turned out several bright and frothy sex comedies, notably ¨Belles on their toes , Come fly with me , Honeymoon hotel¨ , his greatest films were on the adventure genre as ¨Genghis Khan , The wonderful world of Brothers Grimm , The bandit of Sherwood Forest , The return of Monte Cristo and Journey to the center of the earth¨ . Although Levin's forte was light comedies, one of his most interesting films was a dark, brooding western ¨Lonely man¨ (1957) and ¨Desperados¨ , both of them with Jack Palance. He finished his career piloting made-for-television movies, and died on the final day of shooting Scout's Honor (1980) (TV). If you are looking for Westerns with action , violence but also story and atmospheric scenes "Desperados" should be for you.
14 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Hate runs in the family.
dbdumonteil2 February 2015
Jack Palance is much too Young to be a credible patriarch;how can we believe this par excellence "villain" ,Edwards ,Maharis and co are a family unit?When he is directed by an efficient man (Fleischer,Aldrich),Palance can be great ;when he is left to his own devices ,like in "desperados" ,he can be awful,overplaying and bawling his curse on the good son and invoking Cain.The movie had biblical pretensions :after his sons and his henchmen ransack the town ,daddy compares it to God's wrath on Sodom.For 1969,it is a violent movie ,and it may have puzzled the audience for its lack of a real happy end.Besides,Sylvia Syms enjoys a swim in the nude in the river.

The tale,in which the brothers' jealousy sometimes recalls that of Joseph's brothers (Bible again), could have produced a worthwhile work,had it been given a good director and a good writer:but the story is desultory,the part of the mother who could have been interesting,had the flashbacks not been botched ;Devoid of a dramatic structure,for the scenes are repetitive ,"desperados" is a missed opportunity.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Tries to hard
vincentorsini13 November 2007
Not a great entry to the late '60's early 70's US Western' genre but for the most part an enjoyable fare and certainly easy enough to watch. Jack Palance recreates a role, only really seen in it's Italian counterparts and has been given a life long licence to completely overact. This might be a joy to some viewers but a tad unrealistic, if not at times irritating (here is also out of context). For sure there are some highly exciting set pieces, unusual camera angles (another Italian influence) with some rare aerial shots. Together with some death defying stunt work but as a whole comes across as somewhat contrived. More emphasis/input was needed on the script, acting, story and a little subtlety would have been greatly appreciated. 'Desperados' simply tries to hard (without the necessary class) but on the other hand is a nice little exploiter, for an extensive an ever growing western collection.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Strange on the Range or Daddy Dearest
Poseidon-328 July 2004
What could have been an interesting tale of marauding renegade Confederates out for revenge becomes a slapdash, tawdry mess of a film. Ringleader Palance (a former parson!) and his sons Edwards, Maharis and Roberts, along with a huge gaggle of violent rebels blaze a path across the southwest frontier robbing, raping and burning anything in their midst. It's all because their own loved ones were brutalized when they were out killing Union soldiers on a raid. Finally, Edwards decides he's had enough and he and his wife (Syms) start over in a new town with an assumed name. They also have a son. However, it's only a matter of time before the relentless Palance and his band of un-merry men make their way to this heretofore quiet town. Edwards (his svelte, muscular days as a posing strap model long behind him) gives an exceedingly wooden performance. His character's motivations rarely make sense because of the weak script and because it's never really clear what he's thinking! Outfitted with Elvis-style porkchop sideburns, he mostly stares blankly and expressionless at the events around him (unless constipation can be considered an expression.) At the other end of the spectrum is Palance, who mercilessly overacts with an abandon not likely to be found anywhere outside the movie "Mommie Dearest". His ungodly performance has to be seen to be believed. Inexplicably drawing out certain words and syllables, screaming at the top of his lungs and throwing over-the-top tantrums every few minutes, he is a profound embarrassment. Maharis is given little to do as the middle son, but Roberts, as the youngest son, gives Palance a run for his money in the ham acting department. It is excruciating to watch Roberts mug and cajole incessantly through the film. O'Mara pops up rather briefly as a lame hooker (!) who hobbles around everywhere when she ought to be doing her job. She finally gets a little more to do near the end. Brand turns up as the rotund, but caring Marshall of the town Edwards has settled in. He pays for his friendliness with a sound beating. The lovely and talented Syms is FAR out of place in a movie this crass and tasteless. She provides the one ounce of class that the picture has. The sets look like something that Bonanza would reject as inauthentic, the camerawork is distractingly busy, the editing is choppy to say the least and the music is alternately abysmal and inappropriate. On good thing the film has going for it is a series of pretty decent action sequences. Some of the raiding is arrestingly done and there's a nifty scene onboard a moving train. The dynamic of the son turning against the father and having a fateful reunion could have been a great one, but unfortunately there were too many weak elements involved to sell it properly. Another oddity is the prevalence of British actors in the cast (playing Americans.)
9 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A pretty desperate mess
TheLittleSongbird5 June 2015
It's a real shame, because there was potential for a truly compelling story here, and then you have a reliable director and Jack Palance on board. Is The Desperados the worst western of all time? No. Is it a terrible film? Not quite that bad? Was it a bad and disappointing film that could have done much more with what it had? Yes.

The Desperados has three or four main things that keep it from being unwatchable. The scenery(Spanish?) is absolutely beautiful while showing off some gritty atmosphere too, and the costumes and sets are equally handsome and in keeping with the film's tone. Sylvia Syms brings a lot of elegant class in a film that has very little of that otherwise. There are some decent action sequences here, with the truly exciting scene on the train faring the best. Lastly, there is a very atmospheric bleak climax that is so powerfully executed that one wishes that it came sooner and lasted longer.

Vince Edwards however is very wooden and spends his entire screen time looking numb. Don't expect Jack Palance to save the film, as much as I very much like Palance(he was also the main reason for watching) his performance in The Desperados is one of his worst. He has shown numerous times that he can be lots of fun when 'hammy' and over-the-top and this was the kind of role that Palance should have been perfect for, but like in Justine he has hammed up in a way that takes one out of the film and because everything else is taken so seriously here that was the case with his performance here. The rest of the cast, including an out-of-place Kenneth Cope, don't register and are further saddled with very one-dimensional and dull characters and very unnatural-sounding and severely underdeveloped dialogue.

With the story, it was a great idea and could have been compelling but is let down by some sluggish pacing, very abrupt tone and story shifts that give the film a constant messy feel and scenes that are either not always relevant and go on too long or because of the tastelessness in serious need of more subtlety. The direction is workmanlike and gets the job done, but that's the best it gets, in other parts it's either static leaving extras standing like confused lemons or in desperate need of more reigning in the direction of the actors. Although the scenery, costumes and sets are great, the editing is often very sloppy and while some camera angles are unusual and interesting others get too busy and give the film a distractingly overblown look. The music does have some energetically bombastic moments but a vast majority of the time it's ridiculously inappropriate, sounding more 1960s romance than Civil War western.

In summary, there are a few things that are just enough to make The Desperados a one-time viewing, but much of it despite its potential is a pretty desperate mess. 3/10 Bethany Cox
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Unbelievably Bad!
JSPrine21 August 1999
Some movies are much more than the sum of their parts. This is not one of them. Despite some well-known actors and actresses in the cast, this movie is a total flop and richly merits the "Screaming Turkey" award. This fiasco makes "Plan 9 From Outer Space" look like fine art in comparison.

When these Civil War guerrillas (a very vapid version of Quantrill's Raiders is depicted) pull out Colt Peacemakers in the start of the film (a firearm that hadn't even been invented yet), I knew I was in for a real treat as far as authenticity was concerned.

Don't waste your time watching this silly waste of money, film, and talent.
9 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
worst movie western of all time
lonniebealeusa3 October 2002
I love western movies be they "B" grade or top of the range but this miserable excuse for a movie is a shocker.How Jack Palance and Vince Edwards got involved with this is beyond my imagination.Needless violence ,bad script,bad acting and the worst director of all time.Memo to the director I hope you gave up the business.Made in the hip '60's with '60's mood music and arty camera angles,it just does not come off. I saw this mish mash on the late,late late show where it deserves to stay for all time. John Ford must be rolling in his grave if he knew what happened to western movies and if this is an example of where the movie western was heading then it was time to give western movie making one long rest.
6 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of the worst movies I ever saw
marbleann26 November 2005
Absolutely one of the worst movies I ever seen. Unlike Plan 9 From Outer Space this movie is not one of those so bad they are funny or good flicks. Why? Because it takes itself too seriously. And the production wasn't shoddy and because of the well known actors.

Jack Palance who is one of my favorite actors, but tends to have bouts of hammery really pours it on. He plays the father of a a marauding confederate gang, obviously a take on Quatrill raiders, but only because the are a violent gang and they are confederates. For some reason I see a resemblance with John Brown. He is bible spouting father, who is actually a Parson, the trouble between the brothers which happened with John Brown. But even though Hollywood tends to portray Brown as a madman as Jack Palance is in this movie in reality he wasn't. Because of those reasons I do think they were not really basing this gang on Quantrill raiders but on John Brown and his sons! The movie Che the other worst movie of all time was next up for Palance, what was he thinking?

Vince Edwards is the son who decided to break off from Daddy Dearest and the Boyz. I am just going to say he pays for it. George Maharis plays one of the brothers. Both are good, as Sylvia Syms who plays Vince Edwards wife. Vince Edwards was actually very good. A very quiet and nice performance, but then Mt St Helens would look quiet next to Palance. I forgot how much I liked him and how we lost him too early. But it is Palance's performance which needs to taught in all acting and movie schools on not how to act, that is in the center of this movie and does it suffer for it.

Lastly the music was so inappropriate it sounded like it came from another movie..a romance movie. I never heard so many flourishes in my life. It was just as bad as Palance was. I do not understand how a actor can have such bad performances but then turns right around and does work that will knock your socks off. No other actor has the knack for doing that. It is like he knows some of these flicks are stinkers and acts accordingly.

Avoid this movie if you can. It side swiped me early one morning and I continued to watch because I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I gave it 3 stars because of Vince Edwards good performance otherwise it would of have gotten a 0.
5 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Overacted, but strangely entertaining
angelsunchained18 December 2017
Jack Palance is horrible in this film. He gives what I call a "berserk" performance which is so over the top, that it is hard to watch. George Maharis and Christian Roberts are equally as bad in their acting; both sound ridiculous using Southern accents and they also grossly over act their roles as psycho lunatics. However, if you don't take this garbage too seriously, it does provide some late, rainy night, entertainment.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Galt Family Values
bkoganbing13 February 2017
Some American, some British players went to the plains of Spain where it stayed dry for the filming of this European horse opera. The story centers on a family named Galt who with patriarch Jack Palance have a Quantrill like connection to the Confederacy. But they operate pretty much on their own plundering as they please.

Two of the sons George Maharis and Christian Roberts are pretty much chips off the old block. But Vince Edwards has sickened of the life and left them after a Kansas raid and has settled in Texas with wife Sylvia Sims and his young son.

Try as they may no one can keep up with Jack Palance who overacts outrageously in his role. He so dominates this film the others barely get their innings in.

Not the greatest of westerns, but Palance fans will love it.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"You always did have the wrong kind of guts!"
classicsoncall10 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
There's only one reason to catch this Western, and that's to see just how far over the top Jack Palance can take it. There are times though when even he gets to be too embarrassing, as in a scene late in the picture when he does a drunken jag while holding his grandson hostage. He's just totally crazed and manic at that point, which makes me wonder now whether he was really on a drunken jag while filming. I guess we'll never know, but man, he was really out there.

If one has any sense of America's Civil War history, you'll probably recognize elements of the Quantrill Raider legacy in this story of Josiah Gant (Palance), leader of a vicious band of rebels even the Confederacy doesn't care to acknowledge. The opening scene is reminiscent of the Quantrill raid on Lawrence, Kansas in 1863, but in this case the location is given as St. Thomas, Kansas, and the marauding gang is nowhere near the size of Quantrill's bunch. When it occurs, Galt's oldest son Davey (Vince Edwards) has an epiphany of sorts; he begins to realize just how vile and dangerous his family is. The father's murderous nature extends to David's brothers Jacob (George Maharis) and Adam (Christian Roberts).

A quick flashback scene of Davey's dying mother telegraphs the finale, but even though her vision of the future calls for the family members to destroy each other, one wouldn't expect the ending to be as final as it was for all concerned. However it did leave a question mark over the fate of Jacob, a quick cutaway of the fight between him and Davey aboard a train left his fate inconclusive. But if you go with the premise, all the Galt's were goners.

Keep an eye on the scene when Jacob and Adam are in jail fully expecting Davey to bust them out. When Davey skips out, the bars of the jail cell actually move when Jacob shakes them. They probably could have walked out any time they wanted.

There must be something about the word 'desperado' to assign the kiss of death to movie Westerns. A 1943 film titled 'The Desperadoes" (with an 'e') starring Randolph Scott and Glenn Ford also comes up short in the way of telling a story. But that was twenty five years earlier than this one, so you can cut it some slack for the writing. Not only that, but it's a little shocking to see Neville Brand in this film as a federal marshal - I've never seen him so fat!
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Desperados
Warning: Spoilers
It wasn't that bad, until about 30 minutes before the ending, where one of the 'good' brothers and a Marshal, played by a 'bigger in the stomach' Neville Brand, outrun a bunch of Johnny Rebs. I thought the scene was idiotic and ruined the rest for me, I mean if twenty Confederates can't catch two guys who are near their camp, what then? Jack Palance would also wear a Confederacy uniform in Chato's Land (1972).

Also recommended:

Mackenna's Gold (1969)

Lust for Gold (1949)
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Awful film with ham acting and dreadful direction. Also heavily censored.
35541m12 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
The Desperados is obviously an attempt to up the ante in the violence stakes to rival that of the spaghetti western genre. It was filmed in 1968 in Spain with an American and British cast and an American director. However, the hysterical approach to the material proves counter-productive and the film is appallingly directed and choreographed with actors falling over for no obvious reason or otherwise standing still and waiting for things to happen to them.

An example of director Levin's ineptitude is when Palance and his gang raid a Texas town in order to rob the bank. After shooting up the place a while, some of the gang members dismount and enter the bank to rob it. Inside the bank, people are still at tills being served by cashiers as if nothing is happening! The same thing happens in the opening massacre when the Union soldiers are still emerging from their tents (to be easily shot) several minutes after wholesale gunfire has been raging nearby.

Matters are not helped by the fact that all prints are heavily censored. The opening massacre (based on Quantrill's massacre of Lawrence, Kansas) suffers from several obvious censor cuts - for example, as Palance is about to shoot a group of men lined up against a building there is an abrupt cutaway and we hear only a single shot dubbed over the face of Vince Edwards - and is extremely choppy as a result. A scene towards the end between Palance and Kate O'Mara is also heavily cut.

In the face of this ineptitude, some ripe overacting by Palance and the actor who plays his youngest son is the only thing left to enjoy.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Avoid Like The Plague
David_Brown23 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is a Western to avoid like the plague. How bad could it have possibly been? It is a film without any redeeming factors or characters to it (Particularly the ending, which is the most depressing ending this side of "Walk On The Wild Side."). Basically, I gave it one star because the zero star option was not available. I just saw the DVD Cover here and it was referred to as a "Classic." Trust me, it makes John Wayne's "Poverty Row" films like "Randy Rides Alone" look like "The Searchers" and "Shane" Speaking of "Shane", Jack Palance, who did Shane (And other classic Westerns, offers up the worst performance of his career. Is it the worst film, I ever saw? No there are others, but it makes the Top 10 Baddie List.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews