The Professionals (1966 film)

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The Professionals
Movie poster for "The Professionals".jpg
Directed byRichard Brooks
Produced byRichard Brooks
Written byRichard Brooks
Based onA Mule for the Marquesa
by Frank O'Rourke
Starring
Music byMaurice Jarre
CinematographyConrad L. Hall
Edited byPeter Zinner
Color processTechnicolor
Production
company
Pax Enterprises
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • November 2, 1966 (1966-11-02)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$19.5 million[1]

The Professionals is a 1966 American Western film written, produced, and directed by Richard Brooks and starring Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, and Claudia Cardinale, with Jack Palance, Ralph Bellamy, and Woody Strode in supporting roles. The script was adapted from the 1964 novel A Mule for the Marquesa by Frank O'Rourke.

The film received three Oscar nominations and an enthusiastic critical reception.

Plot[edit]

In the later years of the Mexican Revolution, wealthy rancher J.W. Grant hires four men, all experts in their respective fields, to rescue his kidnapped wife, Maria, from Jesus Raza, a former revolutionary leader-turned-bandit.

Henry "Rico" Fardan is a weapons specialist, Hans Ehrengard is a horse wrangler, Jake Sharp is a scout skilled with a bow and arrow and Bill Dolworth (hired on Fardan's request) is an explosives expert. Fardan and Dolworth both fought in the early days of the revolution, under the command of Pancho Villa alongside Raza and some of his band. They have a high regard for Raza as a soldier, but as cynical professionals, they have no qualms about facing him as adversaries now.

The team cross the Mexican border getting into a couple of skirmishes with local bandits. They find a narrow gorge in the process, Dolworth rigs explosives to block it as an escape route as the small canyon is perfectly formed to slow down pursuers. The team comes across Raza's gang attacking a government supply train carrying soldiers and munitions, the professionals watch as Raza executes all the remaining survivors in cold blood. Dolworth explains to Ehrengard that the men on the train were a troop of vicious torturers and killers, known as the Colorados. He describes how they destroyed a town and brutally tortured Fardan's wife to death. The professionals follow the trains tracks to Raza's base, where they scout the location to plan the rescue, spotting a goat farmer delivering milk they enlist his help at his goat farm, which is on a side cutting of the railway line and where the captured government train has been abandoned by the bandits. The professionals put their plan into action as night falls. Ehrengard stays with the train, which will be their means of escape. Dolworth uses dynamite to blow up the water tower in the camp. Sharp launches dynamite sticks strapped to his arrows to make it appear the camp is being shelled by a much larger force. Fardan knocks out the machine gun sentry on the roof of the quarters where Maria is being held. Dolworth and Fardan sneak into Maria's quarters in a side door seconds before Raza enters through another door to the warm embrace of Maria, Dolworth realises that they have been mislead about the situation and moves to leave quickly but instead Fardan knocks out Raza and takes Maria as commanded and orders Dolworth not to kill Raza.

Ehrengard is overwhelmed at the train by a bandit force who are assisted by the goat farmer who has betrayed them; they lie in wait to ambush Fardan, Dolworth and Sharp as they return. The professionals use Maria as a human shield to get into the train and escape. Using the train and horseback the professionals and Maria retreat into the mountains, as Raza and his men eagerly pursue them. The professionals evade capture by lighting the fuse placed earlier, bring down the walls of the narrow pass, blocking the bandits' path and delaying their pursuit. Maria confirms that they have not rescued Grant's kidnapped wife but Raza's willing lover, the two have been lovers since their youth. Maria's father wanted prestige that a marriage to Grant would bring. Maria's kidnapping was actually her escape to Mexico with her true love.

Raza and his bandits pursue the retreating professionals and Dolworth stays behind to fight a rearguard action in a narrow canyon allow the other men to make it to the border in time. All of the bandits are killed save for Raza and Chiquita, a liberated yet indomitable female bandit whom Dolworth used to fraternize with. Dolworth reluctantly shoots Chiquita and captures Raza.

Fardan, Ehrengard and Jake with Maria reach the US border, and are soon joined by Dolworth and Raza to Fardan's surprise. Grant and his men arrive and tells Fardan that their contract has been satisfactorily concluded. Grant sees that Raza is present being tended to by Maria and orders his man to kill him. The professionals step in to protect Maria and Raza as Fardan comments that the contract to save a kidnapped woman is now complete as he puts the wounded Raza and Maria onto a wagon sending them both back to Mexico. The professionals follow the wagon.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The remains of the set for the film (Mexican hacienda), Valley of Fire State Park

Writing[edit]

The film was adapted for the screen by its director Richard Brooks, who based the screenplay on the novel A Mule for the Marquesa by Frank O'Rourke.

Filming[edit]

The movie, which was shot in Technicolor, was filmed in Death Valley, Valley of Fire and around Coachella Valley in California.[2] The rail scenes were filmed on Kaiser Steel's Eagle Mountain Railroad. The steam locomotive seen in the movie currently resides on the Heber Valley Railroad.

During filming, the cast and crew stayed in Las Vegas. Actor Woody Strode wrote in his memoirs that he and Marvin got into a lot of pranks, on one occasion shooting an arrow into Vegas Vic, the famous smiling cowboy neon sign outside The Pioneer Club.

Soundtrack[edit]

The musical score was composed by Maurice Jarre.

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

By 1976, it was estimated the film had earned $8.8 million in rentals in North America.[3]

It was the ninth most popular movie at the French box office in 1966, after La Grande Vadrouille, Doctor Zhivago, Is Paris Burning?, A Fistful of Dollars, Lost Command, A Man and a Woman, For a Few Dollars More and The Big Restaurant.[4]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 88% based on reviews from 16 critics.[5]

Award and nominations[edit]

The film received three nominations at the 1967 Academy Awards. Writer and director Richard Brooks, for Best Director and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) and cinematographer Conrad Hall, for Best Cinematography. It lost all three to A Man for All Seasons.

The film won two Motion Picture Magazine Laurel Awards in 1967, for Best Action Drama and Best Action Performance for Lee Marvin. In Germany, it was one of only four movies to receive a Golden Screen Award (the others were Doctor Zhivago, Marvelous Angelique and You Only Live Twice) in 1967.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Professionals, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
  2. ^ Palm Springs Visitors Center. "Coachella Valley Feature Film Production 1920–2011". Filming in Palm Springs. Palm Springs, CA. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved October 1, 2012.Download[permanent dead link] (Downloadable PDF file)
  3. ^ "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976 p 44
  4. ^ "French Box Office 1966". Box Office Story.
  5. ^ "The Professionals (1966)". Rotten Tomatoes.

External links[edit]