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Author Topic: Vera Cruz (1954)  (Read 15839 times)
T.H.
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« Reply #30 on: September 19, 2008, 07:11:31 PM »

Yeah, I forgot to mention that. That "hat shot" is absolutely incredible.

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« Reply #31 on: November 12, 2008, 11:32:09 AM »

I just watched it and I have to agree with previous posters that, eventhough I enjoyed it, it is more interesting than it is entertaining. Wild Bunch connections are obvious but there's also a lot of stuff that probably influenced Leone. It was actually funny to see Broson playing a harmonica Grin Action scenes were a bit disappointing, too confusing, but that might have something to do with the fact that I saw a pan 'n scan version Undecided

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« Reply #32 on: November 12, 2008, 04:13:41 PM »

I don't think I posted my IMDB comment yet:

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Defeated Confederate Colonel Ben Trane (Gary Cooper) drifts south into Mexico after the Civil War, hoping to sell his services to whichever army - the Juaristas or Emperor Maximillian (George Macready) and his French allies - offers better pay. The straight-laced Trane joins up with Joe Erin (Burt Lancaster), a grinning psychopath with a multi-racial gang of American criminals, gunslingers and deserters, and they are recruited by Maximillian's lackey, the Marquis de Labordere (Cesar Romero), to protect a French countess (Denise Darcel) being transported to Vera Cruz. Along the way, Trane and Erin discover the wagon is actually carrying gold, and a complicated series of schemes, tricks, and double-crosses between the Americans, the Countess, the French troops, and Juaristas under General Ramirez (Morris Ankrum) develops. It leads to an explosive climax as Erin and Trane join forces with the Juaristas, and Trane is torn between his chivalrous nature and his desire for gold.

"Vera Cruz" is an extremely important landmark in film history. Directed by leftist filmmaker Robert Aldrich (also responsible for such films as "Apache", "Attack!" and "The Dirty Dozen"), it paints a cynical portrayal of American intervention in Latin America and depicts gunslingers as, at best conflicted individuals, at worst mass murderers. The movie's influence can be seen in any number of films: "The Magnificent Seven", which could be read as a rebuttal to Aldrich's film; the Man With No Name Westerns of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood; Richard L. Brooks' equally cynical "The Professionals"; and Sam Peckinpah's "Major Dundee" and "The Wild Bunch". But "Vera Cruz" is more than just a bit of cinematic history. Although a bit dry and draggy in spots, "Vera Cruz" is, for most of its length, a largely entertaining and enjoyable Western.

For a film made in 1954, during the midst of the Cold War, with the conservative Westerns of John Wayne dominating the genre, "Vera Cruz" must have come as a shock. The film's characters are anything but the traditional white-hatted, two-fisted, unequivocally good heroes. Presaging Henry Fonda's villainous turn in "Once Upon a Time in the West" (albeit not in as extreme a fashion), Western icon Gary Cooper plays a character who, as outwardly chivalrous as he appears, cares only about money and is not above betrayal or double-crossing to get it. Ben Trane only becomes a noble warrior at the very end, and is driven to it mostly by the increasingly psychotic actions of Erin. Another classic Hollywood icon, Burt Lancaster, is even more extreme. Joe Erin dons a black outfit, spins and draws his pistol for fun, and sports a charming yet disconcerting grin. He is not above double-cross, trickery, or murder (even of his sidekicks and partners) to achieve his ends. While Erin seems a mirror image of the noble Trane, he is simply an uninhibited image of Trane himself.

The film's attitude towards violence is fairly casual and shockingly blunt. In the film's most affective scene, Erin, with his men surrounded by Ramirez's Juaristas, takes a small group of children hostage and threatens to kill them unless his opponent withdraws. Ramirez nobly intones, "Wars are not won by killing children", but this is perhaps the only example of chivalry in the film. The large scale action scenes are, if not graphic by modern standards, still pretty rough for 1954. We see a Juarista shot in the face by the Countess, a captured Juarista corralled and tortured by mounted French lancers, an epic, bloody climactic battle featuring machine guns and artillery, Erin grinning as he impales a French officer (Henry Brandon) on a lance, and the film's ending, where Erin, for no particular reason, shoots his only surviving sidekick Ballard (Arch Savage Jr.) in cold blood. And yet, despite all this, the violence is portrayed in a casual and frenetically enjoyable style. It's not at all difficult to see where Leone and Peckinpah got inspiration for characters like the Man With No Name, Tuco, and Pike Bishop. In this amoral world, all that matters is survival and gold, and not necessarily in that order. And, needless to say, no one can be trusted.

On a technical level, Aldrich's handling of the battle scenes and shootouts makes for rousing good fun, almost belying the message he is pushing. The final battle in particular is a well-staged bit of action. Ernest Laszlo's beautiful cinematography captures the action scenes and the gorgeous Mexican countryside in most flattering manner. James R. Webb and Roland Kibbee script is witty, quotable and enjoyably cynical, while Hugo Friedhoffer contributes a pretty good (if unremarkable) score.

Gary Cooper gives an excellent late-career performance as Ben Trane, the Southern gentleman whose mercenary instincts and ingrained chivalry come into conflict with one another. Burt Lancaster is well-cast as Joe Erin; he might grin a few too many times and chew a bit too much scenery, but given his reputation as an athletic, lovable hero his casting as the psychotic bad guy is very unsettling and effective. Reliable character actors Cesar Romero, George Macready, Henry Brandon, and Morris Ankrum turn in fine performances as the film's antagonists. Denise Darcel and the lovely Sara Montiel are well-cast as the film's femme fatales. And if you look among Lancaster's gang, you'll see Jack Elam, Ernest Borgnine, and Charles Bronson (nee Buchinsky) in bit roles.

"Vera Cruz" is a very entertaining film. While the pacing drags at times, particularly in the middle, its amoral, violent and cynical nature makes it an interesting ride. Beyond its status as a cinematic landmark is a damned enjoyable film, regardless of what one makes of it.

8/10

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« Reply #33 on: May 12, 2009, 05:34:38 PM »

This one has been swallowing dust on my shelf for years. Taped it on a VHS cassette but never got in the mood to re-watch it... Until a few days ago.

I wasn't impressed by it the first time, though can't deny that this time it was a little more interesting because of the various connections and influences to those fellas that came making Ws after Aldrich.

The intro is atypical for (American) Westerns of that era and really entertaining, the second part turns into a more or less predictable revolution story. I know, I know, it was filmed more than 50 years ago, it was a revolution itself in those days... I know, but it just doesn't go down as it should for me.

Gary taking children for hostages... I can only imagine what The Duke thought about it.

I might give it another try in a few days but doubt it'll change my opinion. The scene with the boys and good old Max shooting the flares is the last I liked. The scenes with the two women; Countess and Nina, are the only things I remember from the second part. The rest is blank.

5.5/10

« Last Edit: May 12, 2009, 05:36:41 PM by Dust Devil » Logged



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« Reply #34 on: May 12, 2009, 05:41:36 PM »

Burt has a great smile.

True, he even beats this little fella: Grin


The acting is OK. Burt is the only one that really shines, the others are not bad but nothing special.

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« Reply #35 on: November 02, 2009, 09:30:48 AM »

I liked it much better than the first time. Until the meeting with Maximilian is very good, then it becomes predictable but entertaining: and for being warfare experts these americans have a knack for getting themselves into clear ambushes repeatedly in the story. I don't like Cooper: sorry. he looks older than he already is. Lancaster could have completely stolen the show had he known how to play at the time: he can't manage the performance a Lee Marvin will deliver in later movies. Another down is Darciel: how she grabbed the part is a mystery. Montiel is very sexy. Still a solid 8\10.

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« Reply #36 on: March 30, 2011, 05:09:12 PM »

The Blu-ray has been announced for June 7th. I don't see how this can be released, though--all previous video versions suck and I haven't heard about any kind of restoration work done on the film. I'd love to see a good transfer of a restored print of the film, but is that what this is gonna be? I shall be proceeding with caution . . .

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« Reply #37 on: June 11, 2011, 08:22:00 AM »

This seems a fair assessment of the BD: http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Vera-Cruz-Blu-ray/22488/#Review

I've watched it too. I agree with all the caveats about the PQ, but this is a huge upgrade from the DVD.

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« Reply #38 on: September 09, 2011, 02:47:38 PM »

So I just saw the film for the first time; took longer than i wanted: I rented it on Netflix, but the dvd was damaged, so i had to wait to receive a new one, just got it and watched it. Since I had to wait extra long to watch it, I figured I'd write these extra two lines, so you'd have to wait extra long to read my opinion of it  Tongue.....


Anyway... I really liked the film. I'd  give it an 8/10.

I'd really been anticipating watching this movie for a long time, because of how much Frayling said this movie (along with The Bravados) influenced FAFDM. Now, one of my firm movie-watching rules -- which I had never broken since I enacted it -- is that i never, EVER, watch a Burt Lancaster movie. There is something about him and the way he talks that just irritates the hell out of me. But since I'd been dying to see this movie for such a long time, I waived my rule. Lancaster was even more annoying than usual; his grin made me wanna shoot myself. But I ignored that as much as I could, and enjoyed the film very much.


Really cool to see a very young Borgnine, Elam, and Bronson/Buchinsky. Is it just me, or does Bronson look much shorter in this movie than he was later in life? Did he actually grow several inches after this movie? Or was he just much skinnier? He bears no resemblance to the big muscular guy we would come to know later on.

There were a few things that bothered me:

1. During the wide shots showing the cavalry riding in the wide open landscapes (after the juaristas' failed ambush), there is at least one shot where -- I hope I can explain this properly -- the shot is intended as one continuous shot, but it is plain to see that it is two separate shots pieced together. Ie. they filmed them riding for a few seconds, then filmed it again, then put the pieces one following the other, wanting you to believe it is one shot (ie. with no time lapse). But it is clear that it is two separate shots one after the other, because first you see them riding, and then suddenly you see them riding in different positions on the screen! Maybe I'm nitpicking, but that's bad editing.


2. The Mexican "accents" were absolutely awful. It is so obvious that the leading Mexican characters are really played by Americans. I did not recognize any of them, but I could instantly tell that they were Americans by their Yankee accents. Those are the  sort of little careless things that make a movie less believable, that i wish they had been more careful about.

3. I found completely ridiculous  that the Marquis would basically tip off Lancaster and Cooper that he knows that they know the stagecoach had gold. The morning after he knows they discovered it, he makes sarcastic remarks about how they must have had a restful night, and about how the Countess is worth her weight in gold. In that sort of situation, the Marquis should play dumb; there is absolutely no reason why he would want them to know that he knows they are aware of the gold in the coach. That's another thing that may be a cute line for a movie, but again, makes the stories less believable. When I watch a movie, I like to "get lost" in it, so to speak, ie. forget that it is a movie, as much as possible. These little careless things do bother me.

4. Of course, Cooper going off with the girl that picked his pocket was ridiculous, but every AW from that period has to have at least one ridiculous love subplot, right?


Anyway, this was a very good movie overall, a very good script.

And certainly influential.

Groggy: i enjoyed reading your review very much, as always  Afro

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« Reply #39 on: September 09, 2011, 03:46:48 PM »

1. But it is clear that it is two separate shots one after the other, because first you see them riding, and then suddenly you see them riding in different positions on the screen! Maybe I'm nitpicking, but that's bad editing.

Dude, this is an Aldrich picture, not a Kubrick film! You make no allowance for different directors and/or production values of different periods? Ged Outta Here!

Quote
2. The Mexican "accents" were absolutely awful. It is so obvious that the leading Mexican characters are really played by Americans. I did not recognize any of them. . . .
  Man, you're really beginning to chaff my butt. You didn't recognize Morris Ankrum? The second most regular judge on Perry Mason? He's even got a bit in In A Lonely Place! And again: this is a 50s Hollywood product? You're expecting authentic Mexicans with that? In the words of one of the true Immortals, What Planet Are You Smokin'?

Quote
3. I found completely ridiculous  that the Marquis would basically tip off Lancaster and Cooper that he knows that they know the stagecoach had gold. The morning after he knows they discovered it, he makes sarcastic remarks about how they must have had a restful night, and about how the Countess is worth her weight in gold. In that sort of situation, the Marquis should play dumb; there is absolutely no reason why he would want them to know that he knows they are aware of the gold in the coach. That's another thing that may be a cute line for a movie, but again, makes the stories less believable. When I watch a movie, I like to "get lost" in it, so to speak, ie. forget that it is a movie, as much as possible. These little careless things do bother me.
I don't think it was carelessness. It was Aldrich making sure the audience understood that Ceasar Romero was wise to our heroes. Anyway, the kidding goes over Burt and Coop's head (i.e. Aldrich doesn't allow them to understand). It's not logic-logic, it's movie logic.

Quote
4. Of course, Cooper going off with the girl that picked his pocket was ridiculous, but every AW from that period has to have at least one ridiculous love subplot, right?
What's ridiculous about Sarita Montiel? Or about the prospect of some old goat like Coop (who must have been about 104 at the time) nailing a senorita in her prime? A filmed entertainment is largely a wish-fullfilment projector. Speaking personally, every time I see that ending I get a tear in my eye.

And about Burt being irritating . . . dude, in this picture he's supposed to irritate you. And not so you'd want to shoot yourself, but so that you'd like to shoot HIM. So when Coop, our surrogate, finally cowboys his ass, you and I and Kenny the men's room attendant will all feel a sense of satisfaction. Aldrich promises us entertainment, and then he delivers in spades! That's why he got to make as many films as he did.

Glad you liked the film, though. You're all right in my book, I don't care WHAT cigar joe says about you.

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« Reply #40 on: September 09, 2011, 04:20:31 PM »


  Man, you're really beginning to chaff my butt. You didn't recognize Morris Ankrum? The second most regular judge on Perry Mason? He's even got a bit in In A Lonely Place! And again: this is a 50s Hollywood product? You're expecting authentic Mexicans with that? In the words of one of the true Immortals, What Planet Are You Smokin'?

Sorry for chaffing your butt, but i don't know who Morris Ankrum is. I'm a couple of age brackets lower than you,  (26 years old to be exact) and I have never seen an episode of Perry Mason. And never seen In a Lonely Place. Sorry  Smiley  

I don't think it was carelessness. It was Aldrich making sure the audience understood that Ceasar Romero was wise to our heroes. Anyway, the kidding goes over Burt and Coop's head (i.e. Aldrich doesn't allow them to understand). It's not logic-logic, it's movie logic.

We already know that he knows, cuz we see him sneaking to the carriage the moment after Cooper and Lancaster leave

What's ridiculous about Sarita Montiel? Or about the prospect of some old goat like Coop (who must have been about 104 at the time) nailing a senorita in her prime? A filmed entertainment is largely a wish-fullfilment projector. Speaking personally, every time I see that ending I get a tear in my eye.

It must be pretty easy for you to get tears in your eyes. But it's touching to hear  Wink

And about Burt being irritating . . . dude, in this picture he's supposed to irritate you. And not so you'd want to shoot yourself, but so that you'd like to shoot HIM. So when Coop, our surrogate, finally cowboys his ass, you and I and Kenny the men's room attendant will all feel a sense of satisfaction. Aldrich promises us entertainment, and then he delivers in spades! That's why he got to make as many films as he did.

I don't mean he is irritating just in this particular movie. He ALWAYS irritates me

Glad you liked the film, though. You're all right in my book, I don't care WHAT cigar joe says about you.

Thanks. That'e better than most people will say  Wink

« Last Edit: September 09, 2011, 04:22:04 PM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #41 on: September 09, 2011, 10:05:16 PM »

Even though we see Ceasar Romero sneaking to the carriage after Burt and Coop leave, Aldrich, in my opinion, makes doubly sure the audience knows what he knows with the joking references the next day. I know it probably seems unnecessary to a 21st Century audience, but filmmakers 60 years ago went out of their way to keep audiences clued in on every plot point. That sometimes meant giving information more than once.

And yeah, I got that you always find Burt annoying, I was just saying that in this particular case it works for the film rather than against it.

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