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December 2010

100 Rifles

cast: Jim Brown, Raquel Welch, Burt Reynolds, Fernando Lamas, and Dan O'Herlihy

director: Tom Gries

105 minutes (15) 1969
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Optimum DVD Region 2

RATING: 7/10
review by Mark West

100 Rifles

In Mexico, 1912, an Arizona lawman called Lyedecker (Jim Brown) is on the trail of a half-breed, Yaqui Joe (Burt Reynolds), who has robbed a bank and taken $6,000. Joe took the money to help his people, the Yaqui, buy the 100 rifles of the title. They are being systematically wiped out by the vicious Mexican General Verdugo (Fernando Lamas), who is in league with the railway (represented by Dan O'Herlihy) and a German advisor (played by Hans Gudegast/ Eric Braeden). Assisted by the indian revolutionary Sarita (Raquel Welch), the three decide to take on Verdugo and help the Yaqui.

I should confess, from the off, that the western isn't one of my favourite genres. Having said that, on watching this, I can see what draws people to it. Of its time - the late 1960s - this nevertheless has a lot of interesting things to say about race and harmony that still ring true today. The Mexicans treat Jim Brown with a general indifference from the start, whilst Reynolds and Welch accept him straight away (and there's a nice sequence with a load of child villagers, following him around) and, in fact, it's Lyedecker who seems to have more racial attitudes (at least near the beginning) towards the Yaqui than they have against him. Interestingly, it's Brown and Welch who have the romance in the film - viewed today, there's no issue but this must have been a fairly brave move back when this was made.

The film has a good pace, which it maintains throughout and the locations are superbly photographed (it was filmed in Almeria, Spain), with a lot of sequences playing out in huge vistas. Probably the most spectacular is the one where Raquel Welch manages to stop a train full of Mexican soldiers by showering under the water tower (and paying particular attention to her breasts). When the camera cuts to a long shot, and the ambush starts to happen, it's a fantastic image as the indians come out of their holes in the ground.

Some of the dialogue is ropey, but the more philosophical speeches (especially between Reynolds and Brown) come off well. The General is a great character and Lamas plays him with gusto, right up to his death scene. Unfortunately, the goodies aren't so good - Reynolds gives his all but Brown is fairly wooden, whilst Ms Welch shows her cleavage when her acting isn't going so well.

Surprisingly brutal and vicious in places, ridiculously exciting in others (a cliff-top fight, a night attack to get the village children back, the climax in town), this was a cracking little film and I really enjoyed it.

The only extra on my screener copy was a trailer, a three-minute marvel that let chunks of sequences speak for themselves and paid tribute to its biggest stars - Brown and Welch.



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