director: Don Siegel; screenwriters: Albert Maltz/Budd Boetticher; cinematographer: Gabriel Figueroa; editors: Juan Jose Marino/Robert F. Shugrue; cast: Shirley MacLaine (Sister Sara), Clint Eastwood (Hogan), Manolo Fabregas (Col. Beltran), Alberto Morin (Gen. LeClaire); Runtime: 116; Universal/Malpaso; 1969)

“It’s all predictable and formulaic; it could have used a big time rewrite.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Siegel misfired with this mild Western comedy. The film was hampered by a dull story and an uninteresting performance by Shirley MacLaine, playing a nun hiding the fact that she’s a prostitute. The film tries to get by solely on the unique relationship of Sister Sara (Shirley) and a wanderer in the desert, Hogan (Eastwood). They meet when she’s about to get robbed of her valuable silver cross and is almost raped by three drunken bandits, as Hogan comes by and rescues her — killing the three of them in the process. His only shock, after seeing her semi-nude, is when she gets dressed and finds out that she’s a nun. A typical Eastwood cowboy scene unfolds, played in Clint’s graceful languid style, as he puffs on his cigar, quietly snarls, and does what the filmmaker hopes most in the audience would love to do in real-life if they didn’t feel restrained by convention.

The two end up going in the same direction across the unsafe desert, when they both realize they have a common interest. Hogan’s a soldier of fortune willing to sell himself to the highest bidder, which in this case is the Spanish guerrillas fighting the Mexican Revolution against the French cavalry. He is promised gold if he reaches the guerrilla headquarters in Santa Maria and helps them in their fight. Sister Sara, riding on her mule in her sister’s habit, claims to be helping the guerrillas for idealistic reasons, and that she is wanted by the French for aiding the guerrilla cause.

Hogan kills a rattlesnake, fights the temptation of sex with the beautiful nun by remembering that she’s a nun, and helps her elude the French cavalry who are on her trail. Sara tells him in minute detail about the French garrison, saying she used to give the soldiers Spanish lessons there and knows every square inch of it.

When they meet the guerrilla leader, Col. Beltran (Fabregas), they stock up on dynamite and plan for the attack on the French fort on their Independence Day. Meanwhile they go to meet a train with a shipment of arms for the French, but Hogan gets an arrow in him as the Yaqui Indians attack. Sara takes 15-minutes of film time to take it out, and since Hogan’s shoulder is weak she must climb the trestle to plant the dynamite that they will use to blow up the train.

The climax is an advertisement for mindless violence, as Hogan and the guerrillas infiltrate the fort with a Mexican Trojan Horse and dynamite the place to gain entry. Once inside they machete the soldiers, make them into human torches, or just shoot them. At last, Hogan finds out Sara’s true calling in the oldest profession and plunges into her bubble bath with his hat on. It’s all predictable and formulaic; it could have used a big time rewrite.