Wednesday, October 19, 2016

'Villa Rides' BD A Bandit, A Profiteer, and a Peasant Girl



The Olive Films October 18, 2016 Blu-ray release of the 1968 Yul Brynner/Robert Mitchum historical drama "Villa Rides" is a nice follow-up to the (Unreal TV reviewed) Olive August 2016 BD release of the Frank Sinatra/Cary Grant Napoleonic epic "The Pride and the Passion." Both films feature top stars of the day in grand films that center around foreigners getting embroiled in the real-life wars of other countries.

"Pride" has Grant as a British naval officer who reluctantly teams up with a group of soldiers to battle the army of Napoleon; "Villa" has Mitchum playing American fortune hunter Lee Arnold, who comes to Mexico to sell guns to the army battling the bandit/national hero Pancho Villa and winds up joining Team Villa. The two male leads in each film competing for the love of the same peasant woman is another parallel.

Olive aptly highlights the strong pedigree of "Villa" by noting that Oscar-winning "Chinatown" scribe Robert Towne and "he was robbed" Oscar-nominated writer Sam Peckinpah are the "Villa" scribes. Further, the cast includes Charles Bronson as Villa top aide Fierro and a slew of other actors (including Herbert Lom of "A Shot in the Dark") in other supporting roles.

"Villa" opens with Arnold making a dramatic entrance by flying his small plane into a group of soldiers who are fighting Villa despite their war with him arguably being over. On completing his gun-running transaction, said soldiers deny the request of Arnold for help fixing his aircraft. This requires that he ride into a village populated by people who do not actively support Villa but are sympathetic to him.

The first of several turning points in the film comes when the soldiers determine that not opposing Villa justifies a brutal attack on the village; for his part, Villa opts to not intercede as quickly as he could have. Villa shows more intense cruelty regarding his sadistic treatment of the prisoners that he takes in the wake of intervening in the village.

A combination of a profit motive and a determination of the lesser evil prompts Arnold to ally with Villa. Their ensuing adventures include hilarity involving flying the plane and a more serious escapade regarding hijacking a train. This segment of the film is arguable the best in a film full of good moments and amusing humor.

Similar to an epic battle near the end of "Pride," "Villa" features a confrontation between our hero and his military foes. This leads to a series of surprising (but believed to be historically accurate) reversals of fortune for Villa. For his part, Arnold undergoes major life changes in the final 15 minutes  of the film.

Seeing Mitchum and Bronson play tough-guy roles allows then to do what they do best and is the best part of this film. The scenery also is very good and looks nice in BD but is a little less spectacular than hoped for.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Villa" is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.