The Professionals (1966)
Not wanting to speak on behalf of everyone else who has seen this Richard Brooks classic, I think it’s one of those unheralded movies that doesn’t get enough love. I rarely see it mentioned on lists of great westerns or adventures other than maybe the best films of 1966. I’m not going to sit here and compare it to Ford, Peckinpah, Boetticher, Hathaway or Leone triumphs. My list of the top 10 westerns is just too damned hard to come up with. I’d wind up with 50 titles in my top ten. Not to mention there’s a world of difference between “great” movies and “enjoyable” ones.
This one for me fits the bill on both counts. It’s an all out action adventure for it’s day but it’s the lines that Brooks has penned and how they’re delivered and exchanged by the all star roster that makes this a tough guy movie for us guys who like to think we’re tough. Hell, even the stunning Miss Claudia Cardinale proves a worthy adversary to the likes of Burt Lancaster in this must see turn of the century western.
The plot is a simple one. Ralph Bellamy hires a group of aging specialists to retrieve his young trophy wife, Claudia from the clutches of a Pancho Villa like bandit just across the Mexican border. The bandit is none other than a low key Jack Palance while the “professionals” are led by Lee Marvin. Assembled along with him are Woody Strode, Robert Ryan and serving as the comedy relief when called for, Burt Lancaster grinning all the way and in his movie star glory.
I’d rather not get into a synopsis of Brooks’ wonderful script but rather shine the light on some of the dialogue for this Professionals “love-in.”
Burt Lancaster as Bill Dolworth.
“Maybe there’s only one revolution, since the beginning, the good guys against the bad guys. Question is, who are the good guys? “
“Nothing’s harmless in this desert unless it’s dead. “
“Nothing is for always. Except death. Ask Fierro. Ask Francisco. Ask those in the cemetery of nameless men. “
“$100,000 for a wife? She must be a lot of woman! “
” That’s a lot of woman there. Beautiful, classy, and guts. Hard enough to kill ya and soft enough to change ya. “
Lee Marvin as Rico Fardan.
” Certain women have a way of changing boys into men and some men back into boys. “
“You won’t lose your pants. Your life maybe but, what’s that? “ to which Burt replies “Hardly anything at all.”
“So what else is on your mind besides hundred-proof women, ‘n’ ninety-proof whiskey, ‘n’ fourteen-carat gold? ” Burt – “Amigo, you just wrote my epitaph! ”
Robert Ryan as Ehrengard.
“God almighty, I’ve known heat before, but this is… I hate the desert. It’s got no… pity. “
“Dynamite in the hands of a fool means death. “
Woody Strode as Jake.
“Right now, I don’t know if it’s me or the dynamite that doin’ all that sweatin’.”
Jack Palance as Jesus Raza.
“La RevoluciÛn is not a goddess but a whore. She was never pure, never saintly, never perfect. And we run away, find another lover, another cause. Quick, sordid affairs. Lust, but no love. Passion, but no compassion. Without love, without a cause, we are… *nothing*! We stay because we believe. We leave because we are disillusioned. We come back because we are lost. We die because we are committed. “
“You know, of course, one of us must die. “ ….. Burt – “Maybe both of us. “ ….. Jack – “To die for money… is foolish. “ ….. Burt – “To die for a woman is *more* foolish. Any woman. Even her. ”
“How do you come to this dirty business. “ ….. Burt – “The usual. Money. ”
“Where did the bullet bite you? “….. Burt – “In the ass. You? ” ….. Jack after being hit in the thigh responds, “Oh, another two inches, mamacita! “
Claudia Cardinale as Mrs. Grant.
“Yes?” ….. Burt -“Just wondering… what makes you worth a hundred thousand dollars. “….. Claudia – “Go to hell!”….. Burt – “Yes ma’am. I’m on my way. ”
“Do you want me? “…… Burt – ” I might say yes now, and no later. ” …… Claudia – “My price is high. “ …… Burt – “What’s the price? ” …… Claudia – “Freedom.”
Ralph Bellamy as J.W. Grant.
“Captain Jesus Raza. Jesus, what a name for the bloodiest cutthroat in Mexico! “
“You Bastard!”….. Lee- “Yes, Sir. In my case an accident of birth. But you, Sir, you’re a self-made man. ”
I think my favorite exchange in the film speaks volumes as to the kind of men these cinema icons are portraying and the honorable code they live by. When Lancaster has second thoughts and wants to pull out of the job he points out to Lee that he never gave his word to Bellamy. Marvin politely reminds Lancaster, “No. you gave your word to me.”
That carries a whole lot of weight when delivered by Lee Marvin.
I’ve seen this film countless times over the years and thankfully, number two son Kirk obliged me when I recommended he give it a go. Of course I sat in as well. It also gave me the opportunity to go digging around the vault and unearth this classic one sheet I purchased over twenty years ago. Not one I’d easily part with so there’s no sense in asking.