Friday, April 5, 2013


I watched another Raquel Welch western this afternoon. This one was BANDOLERO! (1968). The lovely Ms. Welch is supported by James Stewart, Dean Martin and George Kennedy. And any western that has Denver Pyle and Dub Taylor in bit parts is a winner in my book.

Stewart and Martin play brothers(!) separated by the Civil War. The action takes place in Val Verde, Texas in 1867. Martin and his gang of outlaws stage a bank robbery but are quickly arrested by the town sheriff (Kennedy). During the course of the hold-up, an innocent man is gunned down. The man is Welch's husband and his death leaves his beautiful young widow a very wealthy woman.

Stewart intercepts a traveling executioner sent to hang the men and poses as the hangman in order to rescue Martin and his gang. They do so and take Welch hostage in the course of their escape. Stewart, finding the town deserted after the escape, successfully robs the bank that Martin struck earlier. 

Martin, Stewart and Welch cross the border into Mexico, pursued by Kennedy, Andrew Prine and a sizable posse. Kennedy is determined to rescue Welch, whom he is in love with, although she's fallen for Martin. The fugitives soon enter the territory of the bandoleros, rapacious bandits who strike suddenly and without mercy. 

The climax of the film takes place in a deserted Mexican village where an exciting gun battle is staged between the outlaws, Kennedy and his men and the bandoleros. In a surprisingly downbeat ending (spoiler warning), both Stewart and Martin are killed leaving Welch alone with Kennedy. He gets what he wanted after all.  

It's a stretch to believe that James Stewart and Dean Martin are even remotely related but it's always a pleasure to watch Stewart and Martin tries his best not to be Dean Martin and play a character with some depth. He's fairly successful. Since both men are outlaws, it's inevitable that they must face some kind of justice at the end but it's still a downer to see them both die. Welch is gorgeous, the direction by genre veteran Andrew V. McLaglen is assured and there's a nice score by Jerry Goldsmith.

An added attraction to the film is the fact that much of it was filmed at Alamo Village, the movie set originally constructed for the production of John Wayne's THE ALAMO (1960). The set, north of Bracketville, Texas, was a major tourist attraction and movie set for many years before finally closing in 2009. 

Also, BANDOLERO! was a major influence on Larry McMurtry's novel LONESOME DOVE. Both stories begin near the Texas/Mexico border and both involve bandoleros. Both have a sheriff named July Johnson and a deputy named Roscoe who travel a great distance in search of a wanted criminal and the woman who rejected the sheriff's love. Both stories have a charismatic outlaw named Dee (Martin), who is about to be hanged and who wins the love of the woman before he dies. 

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