Posing as a hangman, Mace Bishop arrives in town with the intention of freeing a gang of outlaws, including his brother, from the gallows. Mace urges his younger brother to give up crime. The sheriff chases the brothers to Mexico. They join forces, however, against a group of Mexican bandits.
James Stewart ... Mace Bishop
Dean Martin ... Dee Bishop
Raquel Welch ... Maria Stoner
George Kennedy ... Sheriff January Johnson
Andrew Prine ... Deputy Sheriff Roscoe Bookbinder
Will Geer ... Pop Chaney
Clint Ritchie ... Babe Jenkins
Denver Pyle ... Muncie Carter
Tom Heaton ... Joe Chaney
Rudy Diaz ... Angel
Sean McClory ... Robbie O\'Hare
Harry Carey Jr. ... Cort Hayjack (as Harry Carey)
Bandolero starts out as an amiable western. Former Quantrill raider Dean Martin gets caught robbing a bank where Raquel Welch\'s husband was killed. He and his gang are sentenced to hang and the town of Valverde Texas even sends for a professional hangman to do it right. Of course Dean\'s brother James Stewart hears about it and waylays the hangman and takes his place.
Stewart helps effect an escape for the outlaws minutes before the hanging. And after Dean and his gang get away, Stewart goes and robs the bank that they were unsuccessful in robbing in the first place.
Up to this point Bandolero is one of the funniest westerns I\'ve ever seen and had the film stopped right there and been a television special it would have gotten rave reviews.
But Bandolero changes and becomes deadly serious as a posse led by Sheriff George Kennedy and Deputy Andrew Prine chase them across the border and into Bandolero (bandit) country. Mexican bandits who have no use for Americans. These are probably the ancestors of Alfonso Bedoya\'s bunch from Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Along the way Stewart and Martin connect and Martin takes Raquel Welch as a hostage.
Bandolero is a good film, but it\'s far better in the beginning when it is played for laughs than when it becomes serious. Still I would recommend it to western fans.
A patchy western which has rather ambivalent attitudes towards it\'s two main characters,the Bishop brothers,oddly played by Jimmy Stewart and Dean Martin! It\'s most improbable to accept the above as siblings,never mind Western badmen.The film itself seems to wearily accept this as all throughout the two are treated as sympathetic ne\'er-do-well\'s trapped by unfavourable circumstance,whereas the rest of Martin\'s gang are portrayed as ruthless villains.
The best scenes are certainly in the first 30 minutes of the film,with Martin and his gang waiting to be hanged after a failed bank robbery;Cowboy drifter Stewart accidentally finds out about the impending execution of his brother,and overpowers the hangman involved so he can arrange an elaborate escape.All these early scenes work very well,continually laced with effective black humour,and an enjoyable concentration on Stewart and witty duologue\'s with such familiar Western character actors such as Ray Barcroft,Dub Taylor and Guy Raymond.
After the escape,things oddly turn flat.Stewart robs a bank(non-violently)afterwards,Martin and gang gently abduct Raquel Welch,and are relentlessly pursued by Sheriff George Kennedy and deputies.There\'s good chemistry between Stewart and Martin,and one or two effective scenes thereafter,but BANDOLERO! tends to get bogged down in dullish conversation and not enough action.A sub-plot of Ms Welch falling in love with Martin(after his gang ruthlessly murdered her husband Jock Mahoney) is even more improbable than Dino and Jimmy being members of the same family,and her attempt at a Latin-American accent(she is of Bolivian descent)is adequate but that doesn\'t automatically mean a good performance.Another sub-plot involving murderous bandits gives the film a surprisingly brutal and violent edge,aspects which were creeping into US film at this time in the late 60\'s,which as far as Western films were concerned reached a near zenith in the following year\'s THE WILD BUNCH.The film should\'ve been shorter with better pacing,but isn\'t too bad thanks to Messers Stewart and Martin,despite their obvious miscasting.
Having paid my debt to the library, I was once again able to rent DVDs from them, and I got right back into the swing of things with this western from 1968. I like westerns as much as the next guy, but honestly, I checked it out because it was a Raquel Welch film, and like most of her oeuvre, it\'s basically harmless but hardly ever aspires to be anything other than mildly satisfying.
There\'s some odd casting in Bandolero; Dean Martin (!!) plays Dee Bishop, a ne\'er do well, and Jimmy Stewart (!!) plays his brother Mace (what is this, Star Wars?), a slightly more noble ne\'er do well. Will Geer – best known as Grandpa on the Waltons – is along for the ride as a cantankerous old outlaw named Pops, and George Kennedy rounds out the cast as the simple but good-hearted sheriff with a name far better than the rest of the film, July Johnson. Lastly of course, we have Welch (note how I avoided using the \'rounding out\' joke on her?), who plays Maria Stoner, a Mexican ex-whore who has married a rich man and is his trophy wife (shades of Anna Nicole Smith). When Dee kills Stoner in the first reel, Maria is left all alone, and is taken hostage by Dee after his narrow escape from the gallows.
The plot is fairly straightforward; the sheriff loves the woman who will have nothing to do with him, and he tracks her all over God\'s brown earth (i.e., Mexico) to get her back. Inexplicably she falls in love with her husband\'s murderer (Raquel falling for Dean Martin? That\'s like Natalie Portman falling for Patrick Dempsey. Come on) as they travel deeper into bandito country. As we get to know the characters we find that pretty much everyone other than Dee and his brother in the outlaw gang is a rotten apple (which is such a shock, seeing as how they are bank robbers), and only Mace really has any couth at all.
Martin, ostensibly the star, is okay here. I never considered him much of an actor, but he\'s serviceable here. Welch is okay; mostly she has to look good, which isn\'t hard for her (her hair and nails are always impeccable). I liked Will Geer\'s world-weary sarcasm and venality, mostly because it was such a change from Grandpa. And Kennedy tries his best to be a likable simpleton, playing everything straight and honest; July\'s a good guy, but there\'s not enough to him to tug much at our sympathies. The big surprise is Stewart, who doesn\'t really seem right for the role of an aging desperado; but his insistence on playing it just less than serious is terrific, and most of his scenes right up until the end are highly amusing. In fact he and Martin have surprising comedic chemistry, and several of their scenes play as asides, everyone stopping what they are doing to listen to the two brothers riff. Stewart imbues the film with some much-needed humor, and steals the show at the same time.
Bandolero isn\'t remembered as a classic, with good reason, but it isn\'t a bad film. It would be forgettable if not for Stewart, but with his comedic licks it rises to be a moderately engaging comedy. There are scores of better westerns, and even better Welch films (and many better Stewart films), but overall, for an evening\'s diversion, you could do much, much worse.
* Raquel Welch was signing autographs on the set for fans, when James Stewart heard her complain that she didn\'t like doing it. Stewart told her \"You better sign those, they\'re the ones paying your salary.\" Welch thought about this and from then on willingly signed autographs.