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BULLFIGHTER AND THE LADY (director/writer: Budd Boetticher; screenwriter: story by Ray Nazarro and Boetticher/James Edward Grant; cinematographer: Jack Draper; editor: Richard L. Van Enger; music: Victor Young; cast: Robert Stack (Johnny Regan), Joy Page (Anita de la Vega), Gilbert Roland (Manolo Estrada), Virginia Grey (Lisbeth Flood), John Hubbard (Barney Flood), Katy Jurado (Chelo Estrada), Antonio Gómez (Antonio Gómez); Runtime: 124; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John Wayne; Republic; 1951)
“This one is for bullfight lovers only.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Budd Boetticher’s ‘love of bullfighting’ film extols the virtues of being a bullfighter, but resorts to using an insipid formulaic plot line to dish out didactic lessons on becoming a real man. It’s his most personal film but, unfortunately, not one of his better ones–perhaps he was too close to his subject to be objective. The acting is wooden and the melodramatic narrative is tedious. John Wayne produced it and John Ford edited the 124 minute original version down to 87 minutes so it could get a theater release. I saw the restored longer version (supposedly the better one). Boetticher spent ten years (1958-1968) in Mexico working on a documentary about the great matador Carlos Arruza, only to witness the bullfighter’s death and his Hollywood career come to a halt. It was in the Western genre where Boetticher (“Ride Lonesome”/”Comanche Station”) excelled as a filmmaker.

Robert Stack plays the arrogant American filmmaker Johnny Regan, who travels to Mexico for a vacation and falls in love with the classy Mexican Anita de la Vega (Joy Page). She’s been promised from childhood in an arranged marriage to bullfighter Antonio Gómez. In order to impress her with his prowess, Johnny convinces the greatest matador in the country Manolo Estrada (Gilbert Roland) to mentor him in the art of bullfighting. After watching one bullfighting lesson too many, we get to see Johnny get a chance to impress Anita in practice before a hooting crowd. As expected, later on the cocky and immature Johnny causes the accidental death of the aging toreador. Before Johnny matures and learns his life lessons, we still have to sit through some more fawning over the beauty of the sport and what courage and grace it takes to kill the bull.

This one is for bullfight lovers only.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”