Most moviegoers misinterpreted this western satire, wich is not unlike BEAT THE DEVIL; they thought it was just another violent oater. The film is set in the Roaring Twenties in an unnamed Central American country (the kind of place O. Henry wrote about in his lesser-known works).
Hutchison (in a spoof on the role he did in STRAW DOGS) is an Irish citizen who has been caught in this country, which bubbles with revolution. He meets Buono, a bootlegger-con man from England. Buono, who would have been the next Sidney Greenstreet-Laird Cregar if his obesity hadn't taken his
life, talks Hutchison into a whiskey-smuggling run. Before he can take his profits, Hutchison saves the life of Pritchett, a mute Indian maiden, when bandits are about to have their way with her. For his efforts, Hutchison is about to be killed, when Mitchum, who is apparently a defrocked priest,
saves his life. Mitchum, satirizing his own laconic persona, carries a knife in his crucifix and a shooting iron in his New Testament. Buono is captured by the local revolutionary leader, Colicos, and the same fate befalls Mitchum and Hutchison. Colicos makes the trio an offer. If they are willing
to kill Langella, who governs the area, Colicos will give them freedom and safe passage to the US. Langella is supposedly nuts and, even worse, a confirmed atheist! He lost his faith because some of Colicos' men murdered Langella's father, raped his mother, and played sexual games with his sister
until she finally went mad and took her own life. Posing as engineers, Mitchum and Buono go to the village where Langella rules. Mitchum shifts his collar around and arrives in the village as a man of the cloth. Despite Langella's turning away from God, the villagers still retain their piety and
are immediately at Mitchum's side when he reopens the local church. Operating undercover, Buono, Hutchison, and Mitchum try their best to undermine Langella, but it's no go, even with the help of several locals and Pritchett's Indian tribe. Langella is angered by Mitchum's interference and has the
man arrested and put up on a stone cross, held there by rusting barbed wire. Langella's mother is Hayworth, who has been watching the increasing madness of her boy. Just before Langella goes hurtling off the deep end, Hayworth shoots him and he lands at the feet of Mitchum, who is struggling on
the cross. Mitchum causes himself to fall on top of Langella, killing the despot and himself. A great battle takes place, in which Buono dies, and it looks as though Hutchison will go the way of his pal's flesh when Pritchett, miraculously recovering her power of speech, shouts a warning to the
Irishman, and he avoids a bullet.
Nelson's script and direction are full of movie cliches. (Nelson got a solo credit on the screenplay, but two other writers had been announced for the job shortly before, and one never knows if they had a hand in it.) Anyone who took this seriously was making an error, as it was made with tongue
firmly planted in cheek. All the actors were playing parts that had originally been played by other actors. Langella was doing Caligula from THE ROBE, Buono was Kasper Gutman in THE MALTESE FALCON, and Mitchum was having a ball poking fun at himself. It has his third time around as a cleric,
having donned the cloth in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER and FIVE CARD STUD. Bloody, but lots of fun.
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