March 9th, 2013: The Professionals (1966)

The Professionals

Cast: Maurice Jarre (Score); Conard L. Hall (Cinematography)

What It’s About: Texas millionaire Joe Grant (Ralph Bellamy) hires a group of mercenaries to rescue his wife Maria (Claudia Cardinale) from the hands of bandit Jesus Raza (Jack Palance), who is holding her in Mexico.  Each man is an expert, the top “professional” in his field:  weapons master and former Pancho Villa advisor Rico Fardan (Lee Marvin), wrangler Hans Ehrengard (Robert Ryan), tracker Jake Sharp (Woody Strode), and demolitions man Bill Dolworth (Burt Lancaster).  Grant tells the men that he’d rather pay them $40,000 and be sure of getting Maria back than pay Jesus’s $100,000 ransom.  Can the “Professionals” learn to work together and rescue Maria against enormous odds?  Is there more to the situation than Grant is letting on?

Why Watch it Today?:   Pancho Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico, on this date in 1916.  Villas raid inspired an ineffective American intervention into the simmering conflict in Mexico, but he also inspired films.  Villa himself appeared in a series of documentary-ish films between 1914 and 1916.  In the 1960s an entire sub-genre of Westerns that used the Mexican conflict as a background appeared, including today’s film as well as The Wild Bunch, A Bullet for the General,  Companeros, A Hundred Rifles and more.  The Professionals boasts a great cast nad some beautiful Western scenery and solid action, and, if it’s not quite a classic, it’s what my father would have called “a good shoot-’em-up.”

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