Vera Cruz Reviews
In the aftermath of the American Civil War, two American soldiers of fortune (Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster) become mercenaries in Mexico's civil war on the side of Emperor Maximilian (George Macready) and are assigned to escort a beautiful countess (Denise Darcel,) an elegantly treacherous Marquis (Cesar Romero,) and several king's ransoms worth of hidden treasure across rebel-held territory to the port of Vera Cruz. Intrigue, betrayal, and battles ensue.
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.
Unfortunately the image on the MGM standard DVD, which I saw it on, isn't very good: the print seems free of spots or streaks but it's a little blurry, especially in the distance shots. The sound track is fine. MGM more recently put out a Blu-Ray edition which may be better. Unrated, but I'd say a PG-13.
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).