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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Vera Cruz (1954)

An ex-Confederate soldier (Gary Cooper) travels down to Mexico looking for work as a mercenary. He reluctantly teams up with an amoral cold blooded gunslinger (Burt Lancaster) and his gang when they are recruited by the French colonial government to protect a Countess (Denise Darcel) from the Juaristas on her journey to Vera Cruz. But it isn't long before they suspect they're protecting more than just the Countess. Directed by Robert Aldrich (KISS ME DEADLY), this is a lively and often shocking but colorful western that remains remarkably fresh. There's a cynicism and brutality that seems more in spirit with the Leone and Peckinpah westerns that would arrive in the mid 1960s than the more conventional Hollywood westerns of its era. Indeed, Lancaster's character would have been a villain in almost any other western of the period rather than one of the "heroes" and that term is used very loosely. Everybody but everybody seems to be using each other to get what they want. Shot entirely on location by Ernest Laszlo (IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD) in Mexico and very handsomely too with a fine score by Hugo Friedhofer. With Cesar Romero, Sarita Montiel, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, George Macready, Henry Brandon, Jack Lambert and Jack Elam.

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