Vera Cruz Reviews
This 1954 spectacular by Robert Aldrich (who would go on to direct over two dozen other films, many forgettable, but including such classics as Kiss Me Deadly, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, The Killing of Sister George, The Dirty Dozen, and The Flight of the Phoenix) is ostensibly a Western, but it's really a rollicking, old fashioned swashbuckler wearing a cowboy hat. Lancaster is irresistible as the lovable rogue with his incandescently wicked grin (he looks like he must have gotten his teeth whitened between every take,) and his chemistry with the stoic, rather solemn good guy Cooper is constantly beguiling. Like any swash buckler it pays more attention to making the action engaging rather than realistic, but if you make a certain suspension of disbelief, the film is great fun.
Vera Cruz's impressive Mexican landscape photography, vividly realized rural Mexican settings, and its band of scruffy American desperadoes, all together are very similar to a much grimmer film, The Wild Bunch (1969 Sam Peckinpah,) which I suspect it may have influenced.
On that note, the movie is quite interesting from an historical perspective, in that it deals with the relatively unknown Franco-Mexican War of 1866.
Good plot, using some of the actual characters from history (Emperor Maximilian, for one).
Solid performances from Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster in the lead roles. It was a sort of changing of the guard, as Gary Cooper's career was past its peak, and Lancaster's was taking off. Also features some later stars in early-careers: Ernest Borgnine and Charles Bronson. Neither are particularly good (though Bronson never was much good, acting-wise).