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In 1916, a Mexican rebel named Cordoba steals six cannons from the forces of General Pershing who's been sent to bring order to the Texas-Mexico border. Pershing assigns a soldier named Rod Douglas to retrieve the cannons. Douglas recruits a trio of misfits and they, along with a Mexican officer and an enigmatic woman, travel 200 miles south to Cordoba's mountain fortress. Explosions and gun battles soon erupt. Written by
dinky-4 of Minneapolis
Cannon for Cordoba is directed by Paul Wendkos and written by Stephen Kandel. It stars George Peppard, Giovanna Ralli, Raf Vallone, Pete Duel, Don Gordon, Nico Minardos, John Larch, John Russell and Francine York. A Panavision/De Luxe Color production, music is by Elmer Bernstein and cinematography by Antonio Macasoli.
"In 1912 the border between Texas and Mexico was aflame with the raids of Mexican bandit hordes who called themselves revolutionaries. To combat them the American government dispatched General John J. (Blackjack) Pershing to deal with the bandit raiders, one of the most dangerous of whom was General Hector Cordoba!"
A Paella Western crammed to the brim with machismo and action, Cannon for Cordoba is in desperate need of re-evaluation by the Pasta Western loving crowd.
The big problem the film has is that it is so indebted to a number of other "men on a mission" movies, it has struggled to gain credit for actually doing the format well. Undeniably the viewing experience is greatly helped if you are like me, a fan of such films like The Guns of Navarone, The Dirty Dozen, Where Eagles Dare, The Professionals and The Wild Bunch etc, because this is basically the Paella version of those films. Shot on location in Spain, with what now would be called a modest budget, it's pacey, explosive, pleasing in visuals and very well performed in the traditional Pasta Western sense. While the grim textures come courtesy of torture, sexual hostility and terrorism.
Plot basically entails U.S. Army Captain Rod Douglas (Peppard) taking a very small gathering of miscreants over the border into Mexico, their mission is to infiltrate Cordoba's (Vallone) mountain stronghold and destroy the cannons claimed by Cordoba's bandits earlier in the play. The threads that run through the plot see one of the group holding a grudge against his leader, another that has the lady of the mission operating on justifiable revenge driven ends, and with so many people wanting Cordoba dead, Douglas is up against it since he's under orders to bring the General back alive to face public trial and inevitable execution.
There's an unsubtle whiff of cynicism throughout the picture, the sly asides to the Vietnam War issue carrying a glint in the eye as cheeky as Peppard's performance. Oh it's no message movie, Wendkos and his team are firmly intent on tapping into the zeitgeist of those formula movies previously, there for sure is no overt attempts at political lecturing, but the scent is there and keeps the pic smelling wholesome.
Cast are the expected mixed bag for such a production. Peppard is every inch a Spaghetti Western anti-hero, perky blue eyes, stubbled face fuzz and constantly chomping on a cigar, he's the fulcrum of the viewing experience and he's great company to be in. Vallone is on wonderfully oily villain duties, yet charming into the bargain as well, Duel is nicely edgy and Ralli (I find it hard to write her name without swooning) is a sexual ball of deviousness. Wendkos favours tilted pan shots for his action scenes, which work to a point but then feel like, well, what's the point? While Bernstein provides a robust score that stirs the blood to boiling point.
Under seen and under valued? You betcha. 7.5/10
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