The Professionals (1966)

Rough, tough and ready.

The Professionals is a 1966 American Western film directed by Richard Brooks. A kidnap-rescue adventure set in about 1917, it features a small group of experts heading into Mexico to free the Mexican-born wife of a wealthy Texan from several hundred bandits. The film is based on the novel A Mule for the Marquesa by Frank O'Rourke.

4 soldiers of fortune, one kidnapped wife, one explosive mission.
The Professionals comes out of Columbia Pictures and it is based around the novel "A Mule for the Marquesa" written by Frank O'Rourke. Written and directed by Richard Brooks it stars Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Woody Strode, Jack Palance and Claudia Cardinale. A Panavision and Technicolor presentation it features cinematography by Conrad L. Hall and Maurice Jarre scores the music.
One of the stand out Oaters from the 1960s that is often forgotten in light of what was to come from Sam Peckinpah three years later. Though far more light hearted than "Bloody Sam's Magnum Opus" that was The Wild Bunch, Richard Brook's film has many similarities. Themes of friendship, loyalty, disillusionment and of course the changing of the Old West all get dealt a hand here, with Brooks and his team upping the action stakes in a ball of explosions, gun fights and verbal jousting. Hell! The film is even a touch risqué, with nudity, sex and a wife in distress that is not as saintly as one would expect.
Set in 1917 on the Mexican-Texas border, just after the Mexican revolution, The Professionals' only real problem is the thin story. However, Brooks is not interested in going too deep with his plot, he's more concerned with playing it for thrills and back slapping camaraderie. Which works magnificently due to the impressive cast that has assembled for the movie.
Marvin plays it restrained as Henry 'Rico' Fardan, the weary leader of the group sent into Mexico to "rescue" Claudia Cardinale's (sultry but some fluctuating accent issues) Mrs. Maria Grant from the clutches of Palance's (excellent) Bandido supreme, Jesus Raza. Lancaster is a whirlwind of testosterone as explosives expert Bill Dolworth, while Ryan and Strode are smooth background characters as the conscientious Hans Ehrengard & muscular tracker and bowman, Jake Sharp, respectively. The only complaint about the characters comes with Ralph Bellamy's Joe Grant, the apparently fraught husband who sets the men off on their mission. He's in the beginning and the end of the pic, but it's just not enough screen time to really grasp his make up and thus the character is rendered as underdeveloped.
Hall's photography is exceptional as he shoots on location at Death Valley, Lake Mead and the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. The browns are smooth on the eye and the capturing of the odd rock formations a real treat. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his work, as was Brooks in the Best Direction and Best Screenplay categories. The shoot actually suffered some serious problems such as dust storms and flash floods, thus causing severe delays. But the end result was worth it for the film was a success at the box office. The public promptly lapped it up, yes it's a bit close to the knuckle sometimes, but there's never a dull moment in it. It's basically a ripper of a good time. 8/10

Columbia Pictures by Richard Brooks, Frank O'Rourke.
Stars: Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Woody Strode.

Genres: Action, Adventure, Western

Keywords: mexico kidnapping plan rescue desert mexican bandit escape plan

12/13/1966

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