To the average viewer it’s probably a film chiefly memorable for the fact that Claudia Cardinale gets tied up in it. What average viewer, you ask? Who knows. Male, Caucasian, as they say over the car radio in Kojak (or, as I prefer to call it, Kapok). Like the man said, someone who just wants to watch that TV advert all night with the girl’s wet T-shirt clinging to her tits in all that surf.
Claudia Cardinale is a Mexican revolutionary. Not that you know that straight away. She’s married to a rich American rancher (Ralph Bellamy). But she’s been kidnapped and taken over the border by this bandit, Raza, played by (who else?) Jack Palance. Except, she hasn’t really been kidnapped. She’s escaped. But you don’t know that either yet. Nor do Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster, who the rich American rancher hires to bring her back.
Lee Marvin is an armaments expert and Burt Lancaster a dynamiter. They’re old buddies. These days, though, they’re both drifters, desperados, mercenaries awash from their last professional war. But they’re the best there is on armaments and dynamite. Lee Marvin’s in charge of things. He has a persisting air of military authority, and wears a hat like a scoutmaster’s, only tipped forward more. They must have worn them in the Texas Rangers or the Cavalry. Burt Lancaster is unshaven, a rough diamond and something of a womanizer. He seems always to be in grimy longjohns and pulling a whisky-cork out with his teeth. Sounds corny when you try to write it down, and perhaps it is. But I’ve always liked Lancaster’s style. He’s good at things like that.