Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: 100 Rifles

As an early Christmas present, Livia gave me a stack of Western DVDs that I'd either never seen before or last saw so long ago that I might as well have never seen them. You can expect to see posts about many of these over the coming weeks.

The first one we watched was 100 RIFLES, which certainly has a good pedigree behind the camera. The movie was directed by Tom Gries, probably best known for the iconic World War II TV series THE RAT PATROL (which still holds up pretty darned well, as far as I'm concerned), and written by Gries and the great Clair Huffaker, based on a novel by Robert MacLeod that I've never read.

The story is set in Mexico during the early 20th Century and centers around the efforts of a brutal army general (Fernando Lamas) to exterminate a bunch of rebellious Yaqui Indians. An outlaw known as Yaqui Joe (Burt Reynolds, who in an earlier film played a character named Navajo Joe) robs a bank in Arizona and escapes with the loot into Mexico, where he uses it to buy a shipment of a hundred rifles that he intends to give to the Yaquis so they can fight back against the Mexican army.

Complicating matters is Raquel Welch, a beautiful Mexican revolutionary also allied with the Yaquis, and former NFL superstar Jim Brown playing an American lawman who has chased Reynolds' character into Mexico in an attempt to recover the stolen money. As you might expect, all this leads to a lot of riding around and shooting. Unfortunately, that's one of the problems with this movie. It tends to wander around rather aimlessly at times. The evil general captures the three protagonists, they escape, the evil general captures them again, they escape again...you get the idea. All the while, the rifles and their hiding place serve as the plot's Macguffin.

None of the leads are called on to do much acting. Reynolds is cocky and charming, Welch is beautiful and fiery, Brown is stalwart and heroic. Brown's low-key performance is probably the best. He definitely had some screen presence. Lamas isn't helped much by the script. At one point he gloats to his prisoners, "So, we meet again, eh?"

All that said, I had a pretty good time watching 100 RIFLES. The scenery is good, and the action scenes are excellent, as you'd expect from Gries. It's always fun to watch Reynolds work, too. At this point he's not quite a movie star yet, and he brings a lot of enthusiasm to his role. There's a big battle at the end with Gatling guns and a train wreck and Stuff Blowing Up Real Good, and all that's right up my alley.

So while 100 RIFLES isn't a great film, it's entertaining, and if you're a Western fan and haven't seen it, you should check it out.


pattinase (abbott) said...

A pre-CHristmas present. What a nice treat.

Anonymous said...

When I think "Tom Gries" the first thing that comes to mind is the great WILL PENNY.

Jeff M.

Bill Crider said...

I hate to say it, but any movie in which the villain says, "So, we meet again, eh?" is probably my kind of movie.

James Reasoner said...

I'd forgotten about WILL PENNY. That's a really fine film.

August West said...

"The Californio" is the novel by Robert MacLeod which the film was based on. And it's a good one. MacLeod was a fine Western writer. He didn't write many, but the ones he wrote are all good. I always thought he deserved more praise as a Western author.

Nik said...

James, I've got this DVD and agree with your assessment. It's enjoyable, maybe a bit overlong, yet it draws you in to the point where you wonder who's going to double-cross who next!

wayne d. dundee said...

This is one of my favorites, too, James. And while Raquel's train-stopping shower scene would make it memorable no matter what else --- it's got plenty more going for it.
I also agree with August West that MacLeod (who had at least one other book adapted for a big-budget movie - THE APPALOOSA, starring Marlon Brando) was a fine Western writer who should have done a lot more.

Cap'n Bob said...

You're right, but it's worth suffering through some of the earlier scenes to see the big battle at the end.

Duane Spurlock said...

Excellent theme music!