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Les pétroleuses
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Synopsis for
Frenchie King (1971) More at IMDbPro »Les pétroleuses (original title)

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Iris in. In a laboratory, a man named Dr. Miller (Henri Czarniak) draws crosses on a map as a chemist tells him the locations where oil can be found. The chemist informs him that its all within the limits of the Little P. ranch. He gloats about the discovery, saying they are the kings of oil. Dr. Miller agrees, but when the chemist turns his back to him, he draws his gun and shoots him, killing him and saying that there is always only one king. He puts the map of the ranch in his suitcase.

Cut to a moving train, where a trainman plays a banjo and sings The Ballad of Frenchie King. Dr. Miller rides on this train. Hes bothered by a Pekingese dog sniffing around his suitcase. Miller picks it up and pets it for a while, but when the train passes through a tunnel, obscuring the inside, he throws the dog out the window.

Outside, the trainman continues his song, only to be violently interrupted by an assailant in black, who knocks both him and his colleague unconscious. The assailant goes down to the passenger wagon, walks quietly inside and picks up a knitting yarn that a young woman drops. The young woman says her thanks but screams when she looks at the assailants masked face, at which moment they hold her hostage. Four other assailants dressed like the first one show up at the passenger wagons doors and surround the passengers. They herd them into the cattle wagon, taking money and other objects from them as they pass. Dr. Miller takes out all his money and gives it to them while holding onto the suitcase. One of the assailants tries to take the suitcase from him, but Dr. Miller strikes them with it and draws his gun. Two of the assailants gang on him and the first one wrenches the suitcase from him as the other strikes him from behind, knocking him out, and he is left dangling from the train. The suitcase is emptied and then left behind. The first assailant places the flower they were carrying in their lapel on a wanted poster of Frenchie King and leaves the train with their companions.

The five robbers run until they reach the spot where a middle-aged black man is holding their horses. They throw the loot from the train into a wagon, which the man drives, and mount their horses. They gallop away from the crime scene as the initial credits roll. At the end of the scene, the robbers take off their masks and hats, revealing that they are all women.

Dr. Miller lies bloodied on the tracks. An Asian man finds him and takes money from the doctors pockets, then carries him away.

In Bougival Junction, a French immigrant town, Christmas is being celebrated. The villagers going about their daily life are rudely interrupted by five horsemen, a woman named Maria Sarrazin (Claudia Cardinale) and her four brothers, riding into the village and firing off their guns in glee as they wish everyone a merry Christmas. Many of the villagers cry out the Sarrazins! in terror and duck for cover.

In the town marshals office, Marshal Morgan Jefford (Michael J. Pollard) wakes up from a nap and fumbles with his holster as he bemoans his stationing in an immigrant town. He orders Maria and her brothers to drop their guns, but Maria smiles at him and wishes him a merry Christmas and Morgan, smitten by her, ignores their conduct. He asks her where shes going, and Maria says shes going to the train station to pick up presents. Morgan decides to follow, but has trouble getting his horse to listen to him and the villagers laugh at him.

At the train station, Maria effortlessly commands her brothers as she joins the crowd waiting for the train. Everyone is startled when the train doesnt stop, but Maria is quick to get on her horse and give chase to the train. She cuts over a hill and manages to get on the train, then runs on the wagons until she gets to the engine, and stops the train.

Marias brother Mathieu walks through one of the passenger wagons and claims that Dr. Millers suitcase is his. He tears away the owners name with a knife.

Morgan listens to the passengers complaints and their hyperbolic description of Frenchie King and swears that hell hang the outlaw, who he assumes is a man. He then goes to flirt with Maria and asks if he can visit sometime, to which she answers that he should learn French first. Morgan wonders if she doesnt need a man to help her out at the ranch and Maria laughs at that as she rides home with her brothers.

That night at the Sarrazins house, the family dines and sings Christmas carols while theyre attended to by their Native American servant, Spitting Bull (Valry Inkijinoff). Its obvious that Maria is the leader of the family as the brothers cower under her commands and scoldings. When the clock strikes midnight, the brothers scurry to open their presents, all from their aunt Amelie. Jean gives her the suitcase that Mathieu found in the train earlier. Maria goes up to her bedroom, leaving her brothers to celebrate. She opens her other gift, a red corset. Then she inspects the suitcase and finds the map of Little P. ranch in a hidden compartment. She is shocked to discover that the ranch has oil.

Out in the prairie, Louise (Brigitte Bardot), whos the leader of the robbers, distributes the trains loot over her gang consisting of her half-sisters, while their manservant Marquis (Leroy Haynes) cooks them dinner. When Louise goes to light a cigarette, Marquis tells her that shes smoking more than her father, the original Frenchie King. Louise drily asks if thats what killed him, making Marquis cry. Louise recalls that Christmas day was the day her father was hanged, eight years before. She claims shes been long over it. She and her sisters muse on what a great man their father was. Louise discovers that the paper shes using to light her cigarette is the deed to the Little P. ranch. She decides that the gang is to throw away their guns and take possession of the ranch. To this end, she will take on the identity of Dr. Miller.

Somewhere else, the Asian man reanimates Dr. Miller with acupuncture.

The next day, the Sarrazin brothers are doing chores around the house while Maria goes out to town. She is accosted by two drunken men but makes quick work of them. She enters a brothel where a woman is singing. The woman interrupts herself when she sees Maria and runs to hug her; shes Marias aunt Amelie (Micheline Presle).

Maria tells aunt Amelie about the Little P. ranch and how its filled with oil, hoping that she might borrow money from her. Aunt Amelie disbelieves her story. Maria decides that shell ask the bank for a loan, but aunt Amelie, distrustful of banks, stops her and lends her five dollars. Maria asks what shes supposed to do with so little money, but aunt Amelie simply sends her on her way with her co-worker Forsythe. Forsythe helps Maria play the rigged casino roulette and she wins enough money to buy the Little P. ranch.

Meanwhile, Louise and her sisters arrive at Bougival Junction and cause sensation among the inhabitants. Morgan finds himself in a conundrum as Angeline Letellier wants him to kick them out of town, while the men try to convince him to protect them. As Louise makes her way to Little P. ranch, she barely misses Maria and her brothers going to town.

Maria tries to buy the Little P. ranch, but Morgan informs her that its already been sold to Dr. Miller. Maria is outraged that the property has been sold to who she thinks is an American and angrily rides there.

At Little P. ranch, Louises sisters are disappointed at the derelict state of the place and Louise resolves that theyll spend the night at Fort Sages hotel and then leave. Then, Maria and her brothers storm the property while firing their guns and order the occupants of the house out, to which Louise and her sisters, gunless, comply. Maria questions their identity and intentions and Louise fully takes on the guise of a doctor. Maria claims that Little P. ranch has nothing of value and that shell help Louise out by buying it off her at triple the price. She leaves, saying she expects an answer by the next day. Louises sisters are charmed by Marias offer, but Louises pride has been wounded by Marias haughty attitude, so she decides that theyll stay after all. Louise suspects that Maria is hiding something and orders her sisters to investigate the brothers while she takes on Maria herself.

The next day, Louise shops around the town and asks the villagers about Maria. After hearing that she breeds horses, she goes to visit her at her ranch, ostensibly with the intention of buying a horse. Maria mocks Louise, thinking shes a city girl not used to life in the Wild West, and tries to sell her a bad-tempered horse. Louise shows her expertise in riding untamed horses, impressing Marias brothers and leaving Maria offput.

Meanwhile, Morgan receives a telegram informing him that Frenchie King is in the area, disguised as a woman.

That night at Letelliers bar, Morgan studies French to impress Maria while Louises sisters flirt and play poker with Marias brothers. Morgan notes Louises absence and suspects that she might be Frenchie King. He goes to the Little P. ranch and sees Louise digging a well. Marquis comes to urge Louise to go find her sisters as they are late in arriving home. Morgan then tries to spy on her taking a bath to confirm her gender, but is unsuccessful.

Back at the bar, the sisters cheat at poker by speaking in code but are found out by the brothers. The sisters start a bar brawl in response and overpower the brothers. Maria then runs in firing off her pistol to stop the ruckus. She chastises her brothers and forces the sisters to return the money they unfairly won, but then Louise walks in. She mocks Maria, saying its easy to give orders with a gun in the hand. Maria gives her a gun and challenges her, then shoots the ground around her to make her dance. Louise decides she has had enough and demonstrates her skill with guns by cleanly shooting the brothers hats off their heads and Marias gun off her hand, leaving her stunned. Louise then gives Maria her gun back, having proven her point. Maria tells Louise to leave the town immediately and it seems like the two are about to have a shoot-out in the bar, but Morgan walks in and clumsily stops them.

The next day, out in the prairie, Dr. Miller practices his shooting and complains to the Asian man that he wont heal his legs. The Asian man says that he wont do anything if hes not paid.

At the Sarrazins ranch, the brothers discuss the merits of marrying Louises sisters, namely that theyd be marrying into the oil fortune. Maria comes in and says shes expecting a suitor to visit her, and sends the brothers up to their rooms, but they sneak out of the house through the window. The suitor turns out to be Morgan; Maria is looking to convince him to kick Louise and her sisters out of Little P. ranch by seducing him. Morgan tells her its impossible, that the ranch is now sold. Maria gets angry, tells him to find a way and forces him out of the house. Morgan departs, saying hell never understand women.

Maria sees that her brothers arent home and goes looking for them. They are down by the river, spying on Louise and her sisters taking a bath after tearing down Marias fence. Maria arrives, chastises them and sends them home, then takes Louises dress and throws it in the river to spite her. After she leaves, Louise remarks that Maria is starting to irritate her.

The next day, theres a festival going on in Bougival Junction. Louise tells her sisters to get to their positions in preparation to execute a plan. Louise distracts Maria and makes her sing a song in front of the entire town. Maria is hoisted by a crowd and hits her head in a doorframe. She faints. Using her authority as a doctor, Louise sends her home with instructions for Spitting Bull to keep her asleep.

Meanwhile, the Pekingese dog limps on the train tracks.

The sisters then go around town to find the brothers. Upon finding them, the sisters knock them out and carry them off to the Little P. ranch. During this, Louise flirts with Morgan and gets him drunk to distract him. Morgan confesses that he suspected Louise was Frenchie King, which Louise laughs off. Once Louise sees that her sisters have completed their part of the plan, she discards Morgan and leaves for Little P. ranch. Morgan finds the Pekingese dog and takes it in.

On the way to Little P. ranch, Louise orders Caroline to make the brothers squeal about the ranchs secret.

At the Sarrazins ranch, Maria wakes up in a fit. Spitting Bull prepares a concoction, apparently prescribed by Louise, which puts her into a restful sleep.

At the Little P. ranch, Louise waits for her sisters to present results. She becomes impatient, picks up a rifle and goes up to their rooms. She discovers that her sisters prefer romancing the brothers to doing their part and angrily herds the brothers downstairs. She tortures the brothers by stripping them naked and training her rifle on them, demanding to know what Maria is looking for. When she starts shooting at their feet, they admit that the ranch has oil, but dont know exactly where it is.

Maria wakes up, fully rested, and asks Spitting Bull where her brothers are. He answers cryptically and hands her her clothes. Maria looks for her brothers all over Bougival Junction, deserted from everyone passing out drunk during the festival. When Morgan fails to be of any help, she takes one of his rifles and rides out to Little P. ranch.

Back at the Little P. ranch, the sisters and the brothers continue to flirt with each other. Marquis warns Louise that Maria is approaching. Louise orders her sisters to herd the brothers into the well she has been digging. The sisters then say theyll back Louise up while she confronts Maria, but Louise refuses, saying this is only between the two of them.

Maria arrives at the ranch and demands Louise to show herself. Louise confidently steps out. Maria asks where her brothers are. Louise replies by asking where the oil is. Louise then approaches Maria and shows that shes not carrying any weapons. Maria throws away her guns in response, then steps forward and punches Louise in the face. The two women start fighting.

Marquis and Spitting Bull watch from the nearby shed and bet on wholl be the winner. In the well, the brothers wonder whats going on and Luc, who appears to be claustrophobic, starts panicking. Caroline wants to break the two women up but Virginie argues that Louise told them not to meddle.

In the town, Dr. Miller goes into Morgans office with several men and lets him know that hes the real owner of the Little P. ranch. Miller forces the drunken marshal to come along with him.

Louise and Marias fight continues; they are obviously becoming tired. The brothers unsuccessfully try to climb out of the well, so Luc starts digging the ground with a metal bar. The sisters eventually all agree that the fight has to stop, but halt when they see Morgan, Dr. Miller and his men arrive.

Dr. Miller orders Morgan to arrest the people whove taken his property, but Morgan hesitates. When two of Millers men advance, Morgan stops them, saying hes the law. Morgan watches Louise and Maria fight for a bit more before intervening, but he gets caught up between blows and knocked out.

Luc keeps digging at the well in a frenzy, and then stabs the ground with the bar in frustration. From that place, oil starts gushing out. Louise and Maria stop fighting upon seeing the geyser and faint from fatigue. Marquis and Spitting Bull take advantage of the chaos to take their mistresses away without Dr. Miller and his men noticing. However, the sisters and the brothers are caught. Morgan wakes up to take the prisoners away while Dr. Miller rejoices. After everyone but the doctor has left, the well suddenly explodes, presumably killing Dr. Miller.

Marquis and Spitting Bull carry Louise and Maria away in a wagon. The two women wake up and each ascertains that the other is okay before complimenting her skills. They remark that they mightve been friends if theyd met before.

Sometime later, the group is resting by the river. Louise is relaxed and eating but Maria paces nervously because their siblings are under arrest. Maria berates Louise, who she now knows is Frenchie King, for being so careless and tells her that Morgan has sworn to hang her, but Louise is unimpressed. Maria starts to guess that she actually has a plan, but Louise frustrates her again. Maria decides she has had enough and that shell go to rescue her brothers herself. Louise relents and goes with her, but not before giving her a white outfit that mirrors her own black one as Frenchie King.

Back in town, Morgan marries Louises sisters and Marias brothers to each other before getting them to prison by train. Louise and Maria get on board the moving train. Virginie signals their arrival to Marc, distracts Morgan by throwing her knitting yarn on the floor and he bends to pick it up. Maria points her gun at him and the siblings draw their own weapons to force the sheriff and the passengers into the cattle wagon. The new family of bandits then makes their escape, with each newlywed couple jumping off one by one, trailed by Louise and Maria who jokingly give each other precedence before jumping off. Louise and Maria land behind a bush and laugh together.

Morgan sits in his office, put off by his failure as sheriff. He contemplates a wanted poster of Frenchie King, which now includes a new bandit known as The Man in White (Maria, of course) and a raised bounty, and remarks to the Pekingese dog that there is no place in the West for the real men as he throws away his holster and badge.

Far away in the prairie, Louise and Maria lead their siblings, and Marquis and Spitting Bull in their wagon. They put on their masks, Louise and Maria gesture forward and they start galloping into the distance.

THE END

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