The Revengers (1972)
William Holden and Ernest Borgnine return to Mexico three years after their iconic turns in The Wild Bunch to film this poorly constructed, yet never dull western from director Daniel Mann.
If you know you’re westerns then you’ll easily see that this script borrows plot points from both Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch and Major Dundee as well as The Searchers with a whole lot of The Dirty Dozen for good measure.
Rancher Holden’s family is slaughtered by Comancheros leaving him to pursue them long after the posse has turned back. Following the renegades into Mexico, Holden pulls up to a local prison and buys the freedom of six inmates and frees them under the assumption that they will swear allegiance to his thirst for vengeance.
Included in this unsavory group is the backstabbing Borgnine, Jorge Luke and strongman Woody Strode. After initially deserting Holden, the group sees that a debt is owed and ride alongside for the duration.
It’s a year long journey with plenty of bloodshed along the way. One must assume that Maureen O’Hara wasn’t available or had begun her twenty year retirement because another fiery redhead Susan Hayward turns up sporting an Irish accent as a love interest for Holden. She nurses him back to health after a close call with a chest wound. This is where I couldn’t help but recall Senta Berger nursing Major Dundee back to health at the mid point of Peckinpah’s western. Que the Charlton Heston cameo.
So follow the Major. Back to Holden……
With his health restored, Holden resumes his quest for vengeance despite coming to realize that he has become no better than the gang he rides with or perhaps even the man that he hunts.
While this western has plenty of action, the sum of it’s parts don’t mix well together. It’s bloody when it needs to be yet strives for laughs that don’t belong at others. I will admit though to a good chuckle when a prostitute takes one look at filthy Ernie Borgnine and turns him down.
On the plus side there’s some great scenery here as a backdrop for this tale of revenge. It’s just too bad that the soundtrack didn’t match it very well. It’s too jaunty and bright for the subject material.
Sadly this was the final theatrical release for Susan Hayward who died far too young. She had appeared opposite Holden way back in 1943’s Young and Willing.
She had also worked with director Mann in one of her strongest roles, I’ll Cry Tomorrow. Mann had directed Borgnine the year previous to this in the rat classic Willard and did some fine films starting out in the early fifties like Come Back Little Sheba and The Rose Tattoo.
For more on William Holden, check out a live take I filmed earlier this year.
No Wild Bunch here but lesser Holden and Borgnine is better than not at all. A quick appearance from Arthur Hunnicutt doesn’t hurt either.