Thursday, April 4, 2013

100 RIFLES


Here's a believe-it-or-not worthy of Ripley himself. When 100 RIFLES (an average western which I watched this afternoon) was released in 1969, Jim Brown was a bigger movie star than Burt Reynolds. Brown, the all-pro hall-of-famer NFL running back for the Cleveland Browns, quit football at the peak of his career to pursue an acting career. His first film was Robert Aldrich's WWII epic THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967). 

In 100 RIFLES, Brown plays a U.S. sheriff in Mexico out to capture and bring-him-back-alive one Yaqui Joe (Reynolds), a half-Indian, half-Alabaman, who robbed an Arizona bank for $6,000. He used the money to buy 100 rifles (don't you love it when the title of the film is actually used in the dialogue?) for the oppressed Yaqui Indians. They're under the boot heel of Mexican Army General Verdugo (Fernando Lamas) who is aided by a German military adviser played by the actor who was at the time known as Hans Gudegast. Gudegast was a regular on the late '60s television series THE RAT PATROL. Shortly after 100 RIFLES, Gudegast changed his name to Eric Braeden. Oh, and Dan O'Herlihy plays Grimes, a representative of the railroad line who plays both ends against the middle in the fight between the Mexican army and the Yaquis.

But of course, the real attraction (and ticket seller) here is Raquel Welch. Welch, who was under a multi-year contract at 20th Century Fox at the time, stars as Sarita, a Yaqui freedom fighter who will stop at nothing to liberate her people from their oppression.

Brown just wants to arrest Reynolds and bring him back to the U.S. but the two keep getting captured by the Mexicans. They keep escaping from the Mexicans. They keep being chased by the Mexicans. Then they are once again captured and the whole cycle begins again.

Of course, Brown and Welch eventually take to bed in what was at the time a pretty daring depiction of interracial sex. Brown leads the final attack against Lamas in a well-staged action sequence involving a train and a heavily armed town. In the end, (spoiler warning) Welch is dead, Brown returns to the U.S. and Reynolds is left to lead the now free Yaquis.

100 RIFLES is competently directed by Tom Gries and the screenplay by Clair Huffaker (from a novel by Robert MacLeod) mixes action and humor. It's no classic but it was never intended to be. It was made to advance the careers of Jim Brown, Raquel Welch and Burt Reynolds and it did so successfully. It's worth seeing if you're a fan of any or all of these performers or if you like westerns. 

Note: the one-sheet shown above mistakenly lists Akim Tamiroff as being in the cast. Wonder how that happened?
















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