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They Came To Cordura

3.8 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Called "an impressive and important film" by Variety, THEY CAME TO CORDURA was hailed by critics as"the most disturbing war picture since The Bridge on the River Kwai." A Timeless story of courage and cowardice set against the backdrop of the 1916 war against Pancho Villa. The film stars Gary Cooper as Thomas Thorn, a career Army officer given the humiliating task of leading five Medal of Honor candidates to the military base of Cordura, Texas. Branded a coward during the battle, Thorn hopes to learn what these men, each of whom performed heroically under fire, possess which he lacks. But as the grueling journey through the desert progresses, the "heroes" panic, attempting murder, mutiny and rape as the quest for survival reveals their true characters. Rita Hayworth, in a dramatic departure from her glamour-girl roles, co-stars as the seventh member of the group, an American expatriate accused of aiding the Mexicans. At first contemptuous of Thorn, she gradually comes to apprecia


Gary Cooper's forte--the searching, lone figure beleaguered by conflicts over conscience, truth, and ethics--followed him all the way to the ambitious They Came to Cordura, his third-to-last feature. Cooper plays Thomas Thorn, a career officer in America's fading horse Army of the early 20th century. Thorn's alleged cowardice in battle has been papered over by superiors: He is to identify acts of bravery during an attack on Pancho Villa's troops and lead those designated heroes to a Medal of Honor ceremony in Cordura, Texas. Though Thorn tries to extract the secret behind courage from each man, he discovers a battle-hardened, bestial side to them as well. The Cordura journey becomes fraught with mutiny and near-assaults on a Yankee expatriate (Rita Hayworth). Thorn, reputation aside, redefines courage on his own terms. This widescreen drama (the DVD offers full-screen format as well) is suspenseful, morally complex, and visually rich, but Cooper's performance carries the day. --Tom Keogh

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Michael Callan, Gary Cooper, Van Heflin, Tab Hunter, Richard Conte
  • Directors: Robert Rossen
  • Producers: William Goetz
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Japanese
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Columbia Pictures
  • DVD Release Date: July 27, 2004
  • Run Time: 123 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000274TKI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,881 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "They Came To Cordura" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
THEY CAME TO CORDURA was originally 148 minutes. It was hailed by critics who saw this version, including the NY Times, which gave it a rave. But Columbia grew nervous, it was dark, grim, downbeat. The army looked like it was filled with cowards, rapists, murderers. Columbia took the film away from director Robert Rossen and lopped off 35 minutes, then added back in several minutes of exposition. The resulting film is maddening. At times brilliant, at times clumsy; it's pacing is awkward, the editing downright amateurish. The minions at Comubia hadn't a clue what they were doing whgen they butchered and re-editied the film. Even so, it is still a fine, fine film. The writing is spot-on, some of the dialogue scalding; the acting is flawless, and many of the sequences take your breath away. An extraordinary score. And Cooper is heart-breaking in his depiction of the coward. The scene between him and Rita Hayworth, in which he tells of cowering in the ditch, is screen acting of the highest order. Rossen was in the process of buying the film back from Columbia to return it to his original vision when he died. Perhaps it will yet happen. But not by Columbia, which has dropped this DVD onto the market with no extras and no attempt to restore it. Even so, CORDURA is well worth the purchase. Truly, a butchered masterpiece.
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Format: DVD
Due to showing cowardice in battle, Major Thomas Thorn (Gary Cooper) has been assigned the degrading task of "Awards Officer" to the Mexican expedition of 1916 against Pancho Villa...

Thorn witnesses the U.S. Army attack on a ranch house which results in an American victory, and selects five men as candidates for the Congressional Medal of Honor...

Since Washington wants heroes in a hurry, for a World War I recruiting campaign, Thorn has to guide these men through the perilous border country to the 'out of danger' base at Cordura...

Since Villa's men were given shelter in the ranch house of the beautiful Adelaide Geary (Rita Hayworth), she is accused of treason and is forced to accompany the men on their difficult journey...

Before the seven get to the Texas border town, the five heroes are given ample time to show their true colors (cheats, thieves, rapists and murderers) and Cooper (always under great danger) discovers, far from crossfire, their true characters... Thorn also discovers that he has respect and affection for his prisoner...

Rita Hayworth seems, on screen, to be a woman who has seen too much, lived too hard... There are circles under her eyes now, and an indefinable sadness about her presence... But she remains more delicious than ever... She had been the greatest girl of them all, a living summary of all our sexy, dreamy ideals... Now she is a reminder, for an aging generation, of the generous visions of youth... In "They Came to Cordura," Rita gives the best performance of her career as the shady lady surrounded by six men, substituting acting for sex and glamor...
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Format: DVD
Is "They Came to Codura" (1959) as ill conceived and poorly executed as it appears to be or is an ambitious and well-intentioned western that falls short because it over-reaches? The problem is that so few films are ambitious that our brains go into a stall when a rare effort like this comes along and we don't know quite how to evaluate it.

Compounding this is the extensive trimming that the film received prior to its release; this cutting may not have hurt anything (what was taken out wouldn't have made things clearer or transformed the performances into believable characterizations) but it no doubt accounts for the overall disjointed feel of the story.

Finally there is Glendon Swarthout's source novel of the same title, an allegorical story of human redemption that does not translate well to the screen as must of it takes place inside the tortured mind of the protagonist. The screen play follows the novel almost too closely, keeping Swarthout's weakest elements while replacing his devastatingly ironic ending with a tame "Flight of the Phoenix" finale.

So if (for whatever reason) you are thinking about viewing "They Came to Codura" don't expect a typical viewing experience. And don't expect a masterpiece because the mixed description in the first paragraph is a pretty accurate assessment of the film.

That doesn't mean don't watch. The surface story is reasonably entertaining and the themes are extremely interesting even if they are so poorly articulated that they lose much of the power that they should have had.

Like the novel, the film is set in 1916 Mexico with the U.S. Cavalry dashing about in pursuit of Pancho Villa.
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Format: DVD
(3.5 stars) Directed by Robert Rossen in 1959, this exploration of the nature of courage has limited appeal in the present day. Maj. Thomas Thorn (Gary Cooper) is assigned to find five men who deserve the Congressional Medal of Honor and accompany them back from Mexico, where they are fighting Pancho Villa in 1916. The objective of the army is to make heroes of these men so they can serve as examples to other soldiers during the expected US involvement in World War I. Thorn's selection as the man to accompany these five soldiers is ironic--he is regarded as a coward for his behavior when Villa's men attacked US troops in Columbus, New Mexico.

On the long trek back from Mexico to Cordura, the true nature of each of the "heroes" is revealed. Thorn has been interviewing each of these men for the citations he plans to write for them, and he is especially interested in what the men were thinking when they performed so bravely, hoping to discover what is the secret of their courage. Adelaide Geary (Rita Hayworth), an American living on a ranch in Mexico, has had her ranch occupied by Villa's troops, and she is arrested by Thorn to be returned to the US, along with the medal winners. The life-threatening journey tests each hero once again, and Thorn once again agonizes over the nature of courage.

With an all-star cast, including Gary Cooper, Van Heflin, Tab Hunter, Richard Conte, Michael Callan, Dick York, and Rita Hayworth, the film offers a close-up look at many stars from the past, but acting styles and viewer expectations have changed, and Cooper, who won a Laurel Award as Best Actor for his role here, is so expressionless that he sounds, in places, as if he is haltingly reading the script, not acting.
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