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BANDOLERO is a fast-moving, rip-snorting, gut-busting, action-packed western thrill ride, as defiantly empty-headed as its mostly numbskull  characters. Indeed, if one is naive enough to analyze the motivations of the morons that populate this fantastic tale, one must come to the conclusion that, to paraphrase the great Fred Allen, you could take the combined intelligence of all the woebegone losers on display here, stick it through the head of a pin, and still have room for a kumquat.

As the film opens, idiot boy Dean Martin leads his surly band of lunkheads in a bank robbery of such a comically amateurish nature that even dunce Sheriff George Kennedy, who would say "D-U-H-H" if he could pronounce it , is able to catch them and throw them in the hoosegow as eventual hanging fodder. A few days later, the hangman, looking suspiciously like top billed Jimmy Stewart, rides into town, seemingly very enthusiastic about the job to be done. But wait a minute!  He's really Martin's brother,  secretly slips him a gun, the prisoners escape, Sheriff Kennedy forms a posse, and they ride out of town leaving our boy Jimmy alone in the completely deserted street. Jimmy notices that the bank is still open and----- what the hey---- decides to help himself. Then the escaped prisoners kidnap the Hispanic widow (Raquel Welch) of a man they killed in the bungled bank robbery who, if anything, is even more of a dim bulb then they are and--------

If it seems I've broken my avowed practice of never revealing spoilers it doesn't really matter in a film like this whose main goal  isn't surprise or credibility, but merely to provide 106 minutes of mindless and slam-bang entertainment. At this BANDOLERO succeeds admirably.

Since I cast a t.v. movie for BANDOLERO director Andrew V. McLaglen, I know for a fact that, amiable gentleman though he was, directing actors was not one of his major concerns. Once the actors were chosen, they were left to their own devices , which, depending on the degree of talent an actor possessed, could be a good or bad thing.

As far as Jimmy Stewart goes , this was a very good thing. Stewart displays here a brilliant level of  whimsical eccentricity that resembles, in some respects , the bizarre inventiveness that Johnny Depp displays in his best performances. Some of Stewart's line readings had me laughing out loud, and he only fumbles, through no fault of his own, when the film awkwardly shifts gears during a ridiculously tragic climax. Dean Martin, too, is very effective at portraying his characters slow-wittedness and (gasp!) girl-shyness, so much so, in fact, that, after seeing him recently in AIRPORT and SOME CAME RUNNING I've come to the belated conclusion that I took him for granted during his lifetime. George Kennedy can be awfully heavy-handed when he plays the bad guy, but he's more than acceptable as the sympathetic simpleton sheriff. Only Raquel Welch is a complete zero here. When she was opposite such numbing no-talents as Jim Brown in films like 100 RIFLES she emerged relatively unscathed, but opposite a rarified talent such as Stewart, all of her considerable deficiencies are glaringly apparent, and she sticks out like a sore thumb. Her big hair, massive makeup, comic opera accent and complete lack of involvement and character motivation are unfortunate, to say the least. To add insult to injury, the only Welch skin that's on display is in the scene where the butt-ugly bandolero chieftain takes a well-needed breather from slaughtering victims and attempts to rape Welch, treating us to a  promising display of bare back and limb. (Welch's, not the butt-ugly bandolero.) The promise goes regrettably unfulfilled as Martin churlishly breaks in and, well, rapus interruptus.

 The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is excellent, calling attention to William Clothier's lustrous and colorful widescreen location photography, and Jerry Goldsmith's atmospheric score benefits considerably from the crisp stereo surround track.

 If you 're in the mood for this type of entertainment, as I  am more often than not, you could do a whole lot worse than BANDOLERO.


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