The Professionals comes out of Columbia Pictures and it is based around the novel "A Mule for the Marquesa" written by Frank O'Rourke. Written and directed by Richard Brooks it stars Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Woody Strode, Jack Palance and Claudia Cardinale. A Panavision and Technicolor presentation it features cinematography by Conrad L. Hall and Maurice Jarre scores the music.
One of the stand out Oaters from the 1960s that is often forgotten in light of what was to come from Sam Peckinpah three years later. Though far more light hearted than "Bloody Sam's Magnum Opus" that was The Wild Bunch, Richard Brook's film has many similarities. Themes of friendship, loyalty, disillusionment and of course the changing of the Old West all get dealt a hand here, with Brooks and his team upping the action stakes in a ball of explosions, gun fights and verbal jousting. Hell! The film is even a touch risqué, with nudity, sex and a wife in distress that is not as saintly as one would expect.
Set in 1917 on the Mexican-Texas border, just after the Mexican revolution, The Professionals' only real problem is the thin story. However, Brooks is not interested in going too deep with his plot, he's more concerned with playing it for thrills and back slapping camaraderie. Which works magnificently due to the impressive cast that has assembled for the movie.
Marvin plays it restrained as Henry 'Rico' Fardan, the weary leader of the group sent into Mexico to "rescue" Claudia Cardinale's (sultry but some fluctuating accent issues) Mrs. Maria Grant from the clutches of Palance's (excellent) Bandido supreme, Jesus Raza. Lancaster is a whirlwind of testosterone as explosives expert Bill Dolworth, while Ryan and Strode are smooth background characters as the conscientious Hans Ehrengard & muscular tracker and bowman, Jake Sharp, respectively. The only complaint about the characters comes with Ralph Bellamy's Joe Grant, the apparently fraught husband who sets the men off on their mission. He's in the beginning and the end of the pic, but it's just not enough screen time to really grasp his make up and thus the character is rendered as underdeveloped.
Hall's photography is exceptional as he shoots on location at Death Valley, Lake Mead and the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. The browns are smooth on the eye and the capturing of the odd rock formations a real treat. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his work, as was Brooks in the Best Direction and Best Screenplay categories. The shoot actually suffered some serious problems such as dust storms and flash floods, thus causing severe delays. But the end result was worth it for the film was a success at the box office. The public promptly lapped it up, yes it's a bit close to the knuckle sometimes, but there's never a dull moment in it. It's basically a ripper of a good time. 8/10
For some reason I hadn't heard of this classic Western until recently. Stumbling across it and reading the enthusiastic reviews I decided to give it a go, and I have to say that I was not disappointed. It's a classic film, and a roaringly good 100 minutes of solid entertainment with a brain and a heart behind it.
Made in 1966, this falls between the psychological westerns of Anthony Mann and the deconstructive revisionism of Peckinpah and Leone. The story and characters are clearly influenced by the Mann template, and the way in which the west is depicted is clearly paving the way for Peckinpah's Ride the High Country and Wild Bunch.
It's a story of four men, men of violence who are very proficient and very professional. Hired by a rich Texan magnate to rescue his wife, kidnapped and taken to Mexico by an evil bandit. The four men set out across the desert, and along the journey we find out about them, their history and reasons for being where they are. The leaders of the group, Lee Marvin's impassive Rico Fardan and Burt Lancaster's roguish but heroic Bill Dolworth have been to Mexico before, and have a history with Jack Palance's bandit Jesus Raza. Throughout the journey, rescue and inevitable race back to the Texan border chased by murderous bandits loyalties are tested, friendships strained and they find out what is really important to them, leading to an ending that I really didn't see coming and was perfectly suited to the film.
It's a film shot in colour, but with many shades of grey. There are no clear cut heroes and villains, just men and women who today find themselves on opposite sides of the war, but tomorrow might be fighting alongside each other if circumstances so dictate. The study of the main characters is fascinating. There is also some nice philosophising, especially from Raza, that gets you thinking. Along with all the deep stuff there is plenty of action as the professionals get into and out of a variety of scrapes and fights. Burt Lancaster is especially impressive here, getting to show off his athleticism on various bits of scenery.
There is just one point in which the film fails a little. Robert Ryan's Erhengard and Woody Strode's Jake are essential characters, but are not explored to their full potential, especially Woody Strode, who is given little opportunity to do anything interesting.
In all it's a film that works on many levels. For those looking for straightforward gunfights and chases, they're here in spades. For those looking for a film with character development, interesting characterisation and a bit of brain behind it then you're in luck. And on top of all that there is a typically cool and magnetic performance from Lee Marvin, and Claudia Cardinale looking quite beautiful as the damsel in distress (just don't analyse her wandering accent too much...)
5 stars for this impressive Western.
This review is a kind of little tribute to "Honest Trailers" by "Screen Junkies". Some SPOILERS below!
Somewhere around 1920, in the southern part of Unites States, a Morbidly Rich Old Gringo (Ralph Bellamy) searches for some tough guys for a special job. His favourite Pair of Breasts (Claudia Cardinale), to whom he is incidentally married, was abducted by an Obscenely Ugly Smelly Mexican Bandit (Jack Palance) and is being held in a sinister hideout of desperados, somewhere in the middle of a desert, so dangerous that "nothing is harmless there, until it is dead". This hideout can not be found by anybody who wasn't there before... er, no, wait, that's not quite right - sorry, wrong film... strike that last sentence...)))
In order to save his beloved Pair of Breasts the Morbidly Rich Old Gringo hires a team of four Professionals:
- Black Apache (Woody Strode)
- Horse Whisperer (Robert Ryan)
- Han Solo (Burt Lancaster)
- Tough Guy Who Looks Like Lee Marvin (Lee Marvin)
Those four not so nice fellows will have to ride into Mexico where a full-scale civil war is still a-raging, cross a desert so deadly that "nothing is harmless there, until it is dead" (yes, I know, it was already said, but this desert is so deadly, that it needs to be said twice), will have to fight ugly desperados, sandstorms, heatstrokes, even uglier desperados, goat shepherds, thirst, hunger and lack of women, before finally reaching the secret keep of the Obscenely Ugly Smelly Mexican Bandit. This place, full of machine guns, Winchesters, tequila, mariachis, dirty smelly guys and busty wenches, will be a tough nut to crack - and this will be only the beginning of their REAL problems...
I will not say anything about the second part of the film - but it is even better than the first part.
When watching this movie, be ready for:
- excellent dialogs
- MEGATONS of humor
- Pair of Breasts bad attitude (Claudia Cardinale gives here the performance of her life...)
- every single cliché in the book about Mexico and Mexicans (political correctness was not yet fully observed in 1966)
- Lieutenant Chiquita (Marie Gomez), an absolutely incredible sidekick of the Obscenely Ugly Smelly Mexican Bandit, a girl who "can lick a whole regiment but can't dance a lick". She also never says no. To nobody? EVERYBODY!
- as much slightly aged testosterone as in "Expendables" franchise
- a killer punch line!
- and also armored trains, Lewis machine guns, dynamite, mass executions, ruined haciendas (ever wondered, why in westerns all buildings in Mexico are ALWAYS ruined?), health conscious "bandidos", cemeteries of nameless men, goat milk, guys running around in underwear, etc, etc.
Bottom line, if you liked the "Dollars" trilogy, "Red Sun", "Kelly's heroes", "Dirty Dozen" and "Where eagles dare" - this film is FOR YOU! To buy, watch, keep and re-watch! ENJOY! KA-BOOOOM!
on 13 October 2009
The Professionals is a very good film with a good cast including some western legends such as Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster. It does not like many westerns have the usual good vs bad guys plot and also is set at a much later date than most of them. The film has a good mix of humour and action with some rather deeper thoughts and ideas which puts it above the usual film in this genre. All in all it is a very good film.
on 27 February 2009
The Professionals [Blu-ray] 
Another one of my favorite two reel Super 8 digests purchased from America in the late 1970's (the English prints were inferior and shorter thanks to the Mountain scissors). I purchased the DVD in 2003 for £8.49 from Play, my friend's comments to whom I lent the DVD are still inside the box and read; "Mum & Dad loved the film they didn't fall asleep!" Well after an excellent M&S meal, dine in for two for £10, highly recommended and the offer includes a bottle of wine. On went the video projector; my wife and I watched the film without nodding off; always a good test of how good a film is especially after a few glasses of vino! Though compared to the two-reel Super 8 digest I did feel it was a bit too long at 117mins. The Blu-ray version gains French & Italian 5.1 audio, though the English version claims a true hd, it sounds very mono and I suspect does not do full justice to the stirring music of Maurice Jarre.
This semi classic western, though not an outright comedy like Cat Ballou, has however many tongue in cheek witty lines. The late Conrad Hall's wonderful cinematography of the Wild West really makes the film. The Professionals team really work well together. Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Jack Palance and Woody Strode all turn in an excellent performance in their worthless mission to save Claudia Cardinale. The letterbox transfer is pretty good of similar quality to CE3K. Sadly none of the team are still with us and no suitable extras material would appear to have been available. However the limited extras do include recently made featurettes, not on the original DVD and the trailer for CE3K. These extras include some interesting contributions from Conrad Hall, Maria Gomez, a thoughtful sincere Burt Lancaster's daughter and not a very convincing Claudia Cardinale. Recommended for western lovers and owners of this film on Super 8. It's a four out of five star print with not very good audio.
on 26 September 2014
One of the best western films ever made, the storyline is involving, a lot of twists & turns, the acting is wonderful & there are no weak performances across the entire casting. The role by Robert Ryan is especially poignant as you find out that he was unwell during filming, he has always been a favourite of mine & so I'm going to be biased, this type of film is one that you can keep watching over & over again. The scenes between Jack Palance & Burt Lancaster are worth waiting for & not to give anything away, this type of slow burn film making is wonderful, where scenes linger & the camera panning is such that it allows the film to tell its storyline without any gimmicks. This dvd comes with some informed extras & nice insights into the backgrounds of the actors & film makers.
on 19 May 2013
I own and love a lot of Westerns, even though i do not consider myself much of a Fan of the Genre! I am one of those people who Love Film, and if a Movie is good in my opinion then it is good, regardless of the Genre or anything else either. The Professionals is a Great Movie/Western full stop!!! The Movie Plot could of been set in many different Genres like Sci Fi, Horror, Modern Action, War Action, Mafia and many other scenarios, but with the same Plot and it could still be a Great Movie. The Cast of the Movie only adds to it with Stars like Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Claudia Cardinale, Jack Palance and Hans Ehrengard, this is a Very good Cast to say the Least. A real good old Action Western that is great from start to finish, and no slow or weak scenes. A Classic!!! As for Blu Ray, the picture and sound are very good for a Movie of its age, and some good Features to add! Nicely put together as a Blu ray package and worth every penny.
on 28 July 2014
Westerns don't get any better than this; not many movies get better than this. Four men who understand about honour, commitment and a reason to die. Marvin, Lancaster, Ryan and Strode play it to the hilt. Direction, script and cinematography were Oscar-nominated. The script should have won: there are more great one-liners here than in three dozen latter day blockbusters. A truly great movie from a great source novel.
on 21 September 2014
Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, and a host of other stars of the day, star in this classic western. Hired by a millionaire to rescue his kidnapped wife, from a mexican bandit, four men, experts in their field, start their trek to find the kidnapped wife, played by Claudia Cardinale. But is Razza, the mexican bandit, really the nasty old kidnapper he's supposed to be?
This blu ray release has been transferred in it's original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Picture Quality is pin sharp, and the colours are vibrant. The sound has been mastered into 5.1.
The photography makes full use of the 2.35:1 format, and there is a good soundtrack by Maurice Jarre.
This is a good rip-roaring western, with plenty of action played to perfection by a brilliant cast.
on 7 May 2016
Rancher J.W. Grant claims his wife has been kidnapped by Raza a Mexican bandit. He hires four soldiers of fortune to carry out a mission to take the ransom of 100 thousand dollars and bring her back safety. However things are not as simple as they seem.
This was one of the biggest box office hits of 1966 and features a all star cast that includes Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Woody Strode, Robert Ryan and the beautiful Claudia Cardinale. It also received three academy award nominations including best director and screenplay for Richard Brooks.
Lee Marvin in his biggest role at the time plays the groups leader Rico Farden, who is a weapons specialist. His biggest roles before this had been Cat Ballou and The Man who Shot Liberty Valence. Then we have Burt Lancaster as his old war buddy Dolworth who is handy with explosives (and also other mens wives). The next two characters get a lot less screen time but are effective none the less. First there is Woody Strode plays as the scout and archer and Robert Ryan is a horse expert. Claudia Cardinale plays the kidnapped Mrs Grant and Jack Palance is Raza the ex revolutionary.
The story builds up nicely with an introduction to each character then we get to see each one use their skills. Lancaster is perfectly cast as the laid back ladies man Dolworth and Lee Marvin has a cool leadership quality about him which maybe why he was eventually cast in The Dirty Dozen the following year.
We get a few short but effect action sequences as our heroes come across various Mexican bandits in the desert valleys (which is a great location). The climax has Dolworth stay behind in the mountain pass to hold off Raza and his men, that was my favourite part of the film. The story has a slight twist were we discover that Mrs Grant wasn't kidnapped but she fled to be with her childhood sweetheart Raza. Even with this discovery the group still decide to press on with their mission.
Maurice Jarre composes a catchy and upbeat theme tune and it sounded similar to his later score for El Condor which starred Lee Van Cleef and Jim Brown.
Overall it is a entertaining action filled western that is a must see for fans.