Random Film Generator: 100 Rifles (1969)
I finally sat through this late-night TV fodder — and was pleasantly surprised at how cool and exciting it was. Coming on the tail end of the dying Western genre, this New Cinema hybrid written and directed by Tom Gries stars Jim Brown, Raquel Welch and Burt Reynolds as an odd trio who end up involved in Mexican action and adventure. There’s also Fernando Lamas as the wicked General, familiar British 70’s actor Eric Braedan as a German officer, Dan O’Herlihy as a sly businessman, VAMPYROS LESBOS star Soledad Miranda in the nude, and a big steam train. At the time Brown was riding high off the success of THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967) and became a stiff, appealing leading man. Welch was bopping between films like ONE MILLION YEARS, B.C., BEDAZZLED, FATHOM, BANDOLERO (also well worth a view) and others without establishing a screen persona outside of her stunning beauty and natural talent. Ditto Reynolds at his career drift betwixt TV shows like DAN AUGUST, along with disparate films such as NAVAJO JOE, FADE-IN and SKULLDUGGERY. The plot of 100 RIFLES is not vital, but Gries elevates the basic Western tropes into an exciting, humorous and violent spectacle. Raquel Welch, in particular, is always surprising in these films; her Mexican accent is convincing enough and she’s a strong, aggressive character – whether taking a shower under a water tower or blowing the bad guys apart with a rifle. More risque, her and Brown end up the romantic couple (with controversial sex scene for the era) while Reynolds steals every scene as Yaqui Joe, Renegade Half-breed (Navajo’s brother?). It’s clear that Reynolds is itching for stardom and there’s a lot of his 70’s persona in this fun characterization, replete with kick-ass stunts the camera makes sure you note is Burt. There’s no heavy thematics, but Tom Gries directs with a definite point of view: all the characters have something to say and by the bloody climax, I was roped and rustled into caring. 100 RIFLES has a surprisingly large scope (with rousing Jerry Goldsmith score) and is well worth a gander for Dirty Western completists.