The hangman is summoned to take care of a band of bank robbers lead by Dee Bishop (Dean Martin). But the real hangman never makes it. Instead, Dee's brother Mace (James Stewart) takes his place. Just as the robbers are about to have their necks snapped, Dee uses Mace's gun to make a daring escape. With a posse hot on their heels, the gang heads for Mexico. Along the way, they pick up a hostage, Maria Stoner (Raquel Welch). Maria just happens to be the widow of one of the men killed in the bank holdup. They've got a good lead on the dogged sheriff, but once they enter Mexico, they're in bandolero country. They'll have to elude,not only the sheriff, but the local bandits if they're to escape.
As is obvious from the rating I've given Bandolero!, I enjoy this movie. It's not perfect - far from it in fact - but it's got a lot going for it that really works on me. First, the opening 45 minutes with the robbery, hanging, and escape moves at a really nice pace. It's a nice way to get things kicked off.
Second, the acting is stellar and a real key to my overall enjoyment. Stewart gives a surprisingly touching performance that I wasn't expecting in a movie like Bandolero! Martin plays it straight and comes off looking like a real actor. Welch isn't great, but goes a long way to redeeming herself in the film's finale. The supporting cast is top notch with Will Geer, Denver Pyle, Andrew Prine, Guy Raymond, and George Kennedy. Kennedy, in particular, is worth mentioning. He plays against type and imbibes his Sheriff July Johnson with unexpected vulnerability.
Third, i got a real kick out of Jerry Goldsmith's score. Seemingly inappropriate at times, it reminded me a bit of something you'd hear from Morricone in an Italian Western - not an American made Western.
There are other touches here and there, like some really impressive scenery, but I won't go into detail. The biggest complaint i have is with the plotting and pacing after the initial escape. Once in Mexico, the film settles into a predictable pattern - ride, camp, attempted rape, Dean Martin saves the day - repeat. Still, the overall film is entertaining enough for me to rate a 7/10.
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