This is possibly the weirdest film ever to emerge from the Rank Organisation inasmuch as it seems oblivious to the full import of its own implications like some exotic bloom steadfastly cultivated in an English nursery. On the one hand it's a brightly-coloured Spanish Western with bandits and gunfights, on the other a darkly rippling tale of unrequited and impossible love, some of it openly declared and some of it not. Catholic priest Father Keogh arrives by bus in a little Mexican town to take over the flock from an older colleague who's being forced out by anti-clerical tearaways led by Anacleto. The local police would like to put him away but lack evidence or witnesses against him and seem content to let him 'reign' provided he doesn't rock the boat too much. Anacleto and the good Father see a challenge in one another, the priest to reclaim the sinner, the bandit to find out what his opponent's really made of. After an attempt on Keogh's life fails the bandit pursues a more insidious tack. He discovers that a local girl, Locha, has fallen in love with the priest and uses this knowledge to trap the other man into an emotional involvement which the priest acknowledges. Keogh agrees to capitulate to Anacleto's power in the town but afterwards breaks his word and denounces him from the pulpit. Taken into custody Anacleto is rescued by his gang and a gun-battle ensues in the main square. As bullets fly the bandit is fatally injured and the priest is shot by one of the gang as he administers the last rites. Both men die together in a strange 'reconciliation', Anacleto pretending to respond to the ritual in order to comfort the priest. Names like Brando and Burton were in the frame at one time apparently but the film was eventually cast from contract-artistes. Dirk Bogarde insisted on following an agenda of his own as the bandit, black-leather duds and a homo-erotic attraction to the priest, which certainly lifts the film into another dimension. He doesn't use an accent and neither does any other Mexican character, apart from the girl. It all seems to be taking place in some transplanted English community during a heatwave where everyone wears fancy-dress and talks posh. It was something of a tradition at the time that British actresses couldn't - or shouldn't - do 'provocative' roles and the usual recourse was to send across the Channel for someone (Simone Signoret in ROOM AT THE TOP for instance). Mylene Demongeot was cast as Locha, a palely-loitering wispy blonde with a Bardot-pout, touches of humour and a hint of steel. (She's given a blonde American mother to explain her colouring.) And the focus of all this simmering passion was good old reliable Sir Johnny Mills as the priest. Unfortunately reliability was not enough on this occasion, he's chronically miscast - too old, too stolid, too resolutely uncomplicated. When he tells the girl he loves her and kisses her at her request he's just playing the script like a co-operative pro with absolutely no feeling that he's crossing a forbidden threshold. It all looks so innocuous it might not even have bothered the Pope. And this was 1960 when sex-scandals in the Church didn't get the publicity they do today. As for his Oirish accent, he doesn't quite say 'begorrah' but comes close. Director Roy Baker, adept at the matter-of-fact, lacks the ability to probe beneath the surface. The film is most interesting for what it doesn't say but that's simply an omission here not an artistic approach. Bogarde's subtle intelligence, like that of Brando, takes the piece over and makes it his own, part of his inner mystery. With more suitable support and in the hands of a master this could have been a knockout. As it is it's a fascinating curio where the left hand doesn't know what the right is up to. It has its niche and is worth preserving. The dvd from Granada Ventures restores the full-length version unlike some other editions but still applies the pan-and-scan format except for the credit-sequences. The colour-print is excellent.