After the American Civil War, mercenaries travel to Mexico to fight in their revolution for money. The former soldier and gentleman Benjamin Trane meets the gunman and killer Joe Erin and his men, and together they are hired by the Emperor Maximillian and the Marquis Henri de Labordere to escort the Countess Marie Duvarre to the harbor of Vera Cruz.
I suppose when one deals with men of action, one just expect action. "As the American Civil War ended, another war was just beginning. The Mexican people were struggling to rid themselves of their foreign Emperor--Maximilian. Into this fight rode a handful of Americans--ex soldiers, adventurers, criminals--all bent on gain. They drifted South in small groups-- AND SOME CAME ALONE" Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster head the cast as two polar opposite American adventurers who get involved with Maximilian's royal house and Juarez's revolutionaries in 1860s Mexico. Cooper plays Benjamin Trane, basically a good man, tho one tainted by much cynicism, and Lancaster plays Joe Erin, gunman and an untrustworthy crook. Vera Cruz was the first release in SuperScope (beautifully shot by Ernest Laszlo on location in Mexico) and with director Robert Aldrich at the helm, the film brilliantly captures the violence and danger that was brought about during Mexico's revolutionary period. Adapted by Roland Kibbee and James R. Webb from a Borden Chase story, Vera Cruz very much feels like (is) a precursor to Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch and Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns of the 60s. With its blend of comedy and outright action, the film is essentially a buddy buddy Western with a cynical amoral kicker. It's a blend that may not be to everyone's tastes, but with Lancaster (grinning for all he is worth) and Cooper (laconic supreme) in the leads the film rises above its oddity status. The professionalism on show, both from the obvious big stature of its stars and Aldrich's astute choreography of the action sequences, ensures this is a polished piece. There's much machismo of course, one only has to see that Charles Bronson, Ernest Borgnine and Jack Elam are in the support gallery of thugs to know this fact, but it should be noted that the picture is interested in showing a fair reflection of the Mexican conflict. The Mexican government of the time were outraged at the film, but on reflection now it's evident the film doesn't take sides. That to my mind has to be applauded. Some problems exist, notably some of the dialogue is a touch too corn based now. While as the main female character, Denise Darcel is out of her depth. One could think that she is maybe swamped by all the testosterone around her, but when you notice that Sara Montiel is coping fine in a secondary role, it shows Darcel to be limited. Vera Cruz held its own on release, neither busting the box office nor sinking without a trace. It would take over ten years before the true value of the film would start to be noticed. With that, it now shows to be very influential within the genre. Explosive, important and darn good fun, that's a mixture you just can't ignore. 8/10