Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Vera Cruz

If the word “frenemy” had been around in the late 1860s, it would have certainly described the relationship between Joe Erin (Burt Lancaster), an outlaw, and Ben Trane (Gary Cooper), an ex-Confederate Army colonel.  When they first meet each other in Mexico at the beginning of the movie, Erin and Trane engage in some horse trading but, unlike the scene in Wrong Train to Brimstone, the outcome in Vera Cruz is rather different and it nicely sets the tone for the rest of the film.  Erin has a gang of men working for him, one of whom, Tex, is played by Jack Elam (Boot Coby in Bad Night in Big Butte).

In Vera Cruz, Cooper and Lancaster play two Americans who take sides during Benito Juarez's uprising against Emperor Maximilian—and note the use of the plural "sides."  Caesar Romero (Senor Armendariz in The McCreedy Bust, The McCreedy Bust: Going, Going, Gone, and The McCreedy Feud) plays a noble in the service of Emperor Maximilian and it was very interesting to see him portray a Frenchman. 

He is all dolled up in military finery; his wife, a countess, wants to return to Paris so, naturally, he hires a group of misfit Americans who have demonstrated their prowess with rifles to accompany her and her large retinue to the coast, where she will embark on a ship at the port of Vera Cruz.  Of course, all sorts of twists and turns and treachery occur before they reach their goal.

Filmed completely in Mexico, including, amazingly, a scene at Teotihuacan, this 1954 movie is jam-packed with action, which I occasionally found difficult to follow as it did not always make sense to me.  The DVD I watched was grainy but that did not detract significantly from my enjoyment of the movie. 

The central plot of Vera Cruz can be likened to the main plot of The Girl in Boxcar #3, although the outcome is not exactly the same.  Be sure to watch the melodramatic theatrical trailer after watching the film as it is quite amusing.