Tuesday, April 05, 2016

100 RIFLES (1969)

I have a very long list of older films that I want to eventually see and this Tom Gries directed western has been there for years. I've seen a few of Gries' other work (TV movies EARTH II and HELTER SKELTER, Charles Bronson western BREAKHEART PASS) but have yet to catch his more critically lauded work (Charlton Heston western WILL PENNY). Now that I've seen 100 RIFLES I will have to make some serious effort to check out the rest of his credits because I thought this was great!

The main reason this film was on my radar was because of Rachel Welch. Yes, of course, she's a gorgeous woman but I also always find her a pleasure to watch onscreen. (Mind out of the gutter, folks!) In the late 60's and early 70's she starred in several movies and I'm especially interested in seeing the westerns as they all seem to have pretty good reputations. I'll eventually get around to BANDOLERO (1968) and HANNIE CAULDER (1971)  but I'm glad I started here. Jim Brown plays an American bounty hunter in Mexico chasing down bank robber Burt Reynolds and the $6000 he stole in Texas. Reynolds plays an American who has embraced his mother's Yaqui Indian heritage and used the money to purchase the titular 100 rifles to help the tribe fight the Federal army led by General Verdugo (the excellent Fernando Lamas). As you might expect, things do not go the way the bounty hunter would hope and soon he is chained to his target and suspected of being a collaborator with the Indians. Adding to the story is Welch as a (damned convincing) Mexican rebel on the side of the Yaqui and a cowardly railroad executive played by Dan O'Herlihy trying to keep his hands clean as he assists the General. Did I mention the film has an amazing cast?

Oh! And for fans of Euro-Trash cinema there is a featured role by the legendary Jess Franco actress Soledad Miranda in the first few minutes as a prostitute in bed with Burt! She has a solid speaking part and spends most of her screen time nude so that's another point in the movie's favor. Also turning up in a small but important role is Argentinean actor Alberto Dalbés who I've come to appreciate because of his many appearances in Spanish films such as CUT-THROATS NINE (1972), MANIC MANSION (1972), Paul Naschy's HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE (1973) and several of Franco's 1970's films.

I should also add that I really get a kick out of Burt Reynolds onscreen. In the 1970's he became one of the biggest stars in the world but it is evident even in his early work that he had what it takes to hold the audience's attention as a main attraction. He has a tricky character to play here and although he doesn't hit every mark perfectly he is very good and displays the abilities that would bring him huge fame very soon after this film. As good as he later became in comedic parts he is much more able in the dramatic scenes in 100 RIFLES even as he plays them with a well crafted light touch. Some of that can be attributed to the script which paints him as a man who has had to use his smile and charm to gain things in life but a lot has to be laid at the actor's feet. Reynolds had real screen charisma and here you can see it beginning to blossom. Of course, you can also see just how little real hair he had even in 1969! Those hairpieces and hats in later years must have been a separate line item on the budget of SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT films. 


Nick Rentz said...

Apparently Welch and Reynolds didn't get along during filming. You've got to see Hannie Caulder as soon as possible. It's an incredible movie, however, Bandorlero is just okay. It starts out well and looses steam halfway through. Both might still be on Netflix.

Rod Barnett said...

I've heard a lot of positive comments about Hannie Caulder so it's inching higher on my list.