Vera Cruz is a 1954 American Western theatrical film starring Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster, and featuring Denise Darcel, Sara Montiel, Cesar Romero, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson and Jack Elam. The movie was directed by Robert Aldrich from a story by Borden Chase. The picture's amoral characters and cynical attitude toward violence (including a scene where Lancaster's character threatens to murder child hostages) were considered shocking at the time and influenced future Westerns such as The Magnificent Seven, The Professionals, Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, and the films of Sergio Leone, which often featured supporting cast members from Vera Cruz in similar roles.
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Shot entirely in Mexico, VERA CRUZ takes place just after the Civil War and the start of the Mexican Revolution. Lancaster and Cooper decide to escort a Countess and her sums of gold to the port of Vera Cruz.
This seems to be the most fun Burt Lancaster has had in any film. He's ill-mannered, full of greed and lust, and he'll take the worst that can be handed to him with a huge smile on his face. Cooper plays his role more straight, respectful Southern gentleman. How the two come to meet and work with (or against) each other is part of this fun story that moves along briskly for its 94 minute length.
What makes this film a captivating watch is that at any time, the game seems to change. Nobody can be trusted when it comes to dealing with a large cache of gold. Some great character actors in this film, too, including Ernest Borgnine, Caesar Romero and Jack Elam (who I wish had a bigger part).
My favorite scene takes place in the palace courtyard where Cooper, Lancaster and the King all take part in target practice.
The Blu-ray is a disappointment. For a movie filmed in technicolor, it comes across as dull and drab. It's not very sharp, though I do give credit for there being a substantial amount of film grain still intact. Some splotches here and there, and short quick sequences that are dark and blurry.
Otherwise, a terrific western. For the price of $13, which I paid, I would highly recommend this as a blind purchase.
First, cowboys that look like men, rather than California boys with good agents or New Yorkers playing against type. Cooper is at his "Cooperish" best, i.e. a man of few words but impeccable integrity. Lancaster does his bad guy schtick: acrobatic stunts, quick pistol tricks, a piano-key smile like a shark sizing you up; in short, the perfect antagonist to Cooper because he's a LIKABLE character of few scruples and no ethics.
Second, the distrustful friendship dynamic between the two men is worth watching. A former husband told me he was raised not to trust his male contemporaries because, in the end, they were competitors.
Third, the theme song has haunted me for years. It's the quintessential western score.
The females in this movie are incidental. This is a man's movie about men relating to men.
You can keep all your New Age Westerns. This is the real meal deal.
An earlier reviewer complained about the quality of her print. My Blu-ray edition was startlingly clear, down to an acne scar on Lancaster's right cheek. It's thrilling to see these great acting treasures in such remarkable detail. It's like being in the same room, holding the camera, instead of at arms-length as in earlier formats. Being captured on film and translated to Blu-ray has made these men immortal.
A sterling supporting cast including Ernest Borgnine, Cesar Romero, Jack Elam and a young Charles Bronson then going by his birth name of Buchinsky. Beautiful Technicolor photography by Ernest Laszlo. The second of 3 classic western scores by Hugo Friedhofer (The others being HONDO and ONE EYED JACKS). Superior film editing by Alan Crosland JR ( The Juarista attack on the caravan halfway through is a masterpiece of action film cutting.
I don't think any of the later Cooper films showed him having
as good a time than in this picture. A triumph for all concerned especially the scene stealing Burt Lancaster as Joe Erin. The villain you can't take your eyes off of.
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Blu-ray print looks great.