(director: Andrew V. McLagen; screenwriter: James Lee Barrett/story by Stanley Hough; cinematographer: William H. Clothier; editor: Folmer Blangsted; music: Jerry Goldsmith; cast: James Stewart (Mace Bishop), Dean Martin (Dee Bishop), Raquel Welch (Maria Stoner), George Kennedy (Sheriff Johnson), Andrew Prine (Roscoe Bookbinder), Will Geer (Pop Chaney), Guy Raymond (Ossie Grimes), Denver Pyle (Muncie Carter); Runtime: 106; 20th Century Fox; 1968)
“An unpretentious and spirited, but uneven Western.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An unpretentious and spirited, but uneven Western. It’s directed in a workmanlike manner by Andrew V. McLagen and scripted with comedy in mind by James Lee Barrett from a story by Stanley Hough.
It’s set in Val Verde, Texas, in 1867. The Bishop gang arrives in the sleepy border town to rob a bank. Gang leaderDee Bishop (Dean Martin) snaps at the teller: “Never mind the hard stuff. We’ll just take the paper.” Soon things go wrong as a bank patron named Mr. Stoner, the richest man in town, gets killed by one of the robbers and a bank teller gets wounded. Sheriff July Johnson (George Kennedy) and his deputy (Andrew Prine) arrest the five-man gang.
Mace Bishop (James Stewart) arrives in a town nearby to Val Verde looking for work and stops off to bed in the local flophouse. While taking an outdoor bath, Mace overhears loudmouth hangman, Ossie Grimes (Guy Raymond), bragging about coming to Texas from Oklahoma on the invite of the sheriff to hang the Bishop gang. Mace trails the hangman out of town and joins him for coffee-on-the-trail while receiving an in-depth lecture on the secrets of the trade. Mace departs in the hangman’s top hat, frock coat and tools of the trade. Arriving in Val Verde, he compliments the sheriff on the excellent quality of his five-man gallows. It turns out that the condemned gang is led by Mace’s wayward brother, Dee, who sided with Quantrell’s raiders during the Civil War while he rode with Sherman’s Union Army. Mace calmly stages a last-minute escape of the gang and when the sheriff takes a posse after the gang heading for Mexico, Mace calmly robs the bank of $10,000 in the deserted town.
In the chase, the wealthy widow Maria Stoner (Raquel Welch) is kidnapped by the gang. The sheriff has a longtime crush on the sexy Mexican woman, and vows to ride until he rescues her and captures the gang. The chase takes place over mountainous bandolero territory in the Mexican desert. The Mexican bandits aim to kill all gringos, and start picking off the posse one by one. In the meantime, Mace joins his brother’s gang hiding out in a ghost town and tries to talk Dee into quitting the gang and going partners with him in a Montana ranch.
While Raquel is kidnapped by Dee, the two fall in love. Raquel has previously told businessman Carter her shocking bio “I was a whore at 13 and my family of 12 never went hungry.” Her rich gringo hubby bought her from her father for some cattle and pistols. But she later lets on, she never complained because hubby treated me like a lady.
“Bandolero!” is overlong, routine and dull in spots despite a fine cast. By the time the final shootout takes place we are asked to believe that it’s possible for the brothers to go straight, that Raquel Welch can act and this familiar story is fresh.
REVIEWED ON 6/17/2004 GRADE: C+