The Wonderful Country (1959)
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A rich western that admirably crams in a lot of genre based themes and boasts a lead protagonist of high complex value. Tightly directed by Parrish (Saddle The Wind), who is aware that this needs no action overkill, it's really with Mitchum and Robert Ardrey's script that the film owes its success. Give or take a couple of missteps with the accent (he is playing a gringo pistolero) Mitchum dominates with his stature and laconic form of acting. He's playing Martin Brady, a man who finds himself being pulled emotionally on both sides of the Mexican/American border, the contrast between both lands, and Brady's persona too (he's effectively a man without a country), is very interesting. There's a number of well drawn characters who file in and out of Brady's life, all serving purpose to the plot, with Julie London's love interest thankfully having a more darker edge than others that were often seen in the genre. There's even an appearance of Baseball Hall Of Fame inductee Leroy 'Satchel' Paige as part of an all black army regiment. Yet another strand in this multi angled movie.
Very sedate in tone but with deep character drama at its core, Parrish's film is a thinking persons movie. Some critics have called it routine, while others have said it's complicated! I just think it's a film that needs to be watched more than once to fully digest its themes. It's not one for the action fan as such, but it is excellently written and performed by the principals. It's also a truly gorgeous movie visually and aurally. A fine film that rewards further on repeat viewings, especially for fans of the great Robert Mitchum. 7/10
The film's major flaw is the narrative...it's a bit jumpy in spots but may have fallen victim studio intervention. Some characters seem to enter briefly, to be seen no more or are underdeveloped. Julie London's Helen Colton seems to fall victim to that. She's an ex dance hall girl (I believe), now a 'respected' wife of Major Colton (Gary Merrill) who engages in an affair with Brady out of pure lust.
But Brady...who's growing older and wearier it seems before our eyes, sees her as his redemption. His guns have cost him heavily, he has no family or lover or even respect. All he has is Mexico and that has betrayed him too. If you're expecting an action packed, shoot them up...this is not for you.
There are elements here we see in later films...we get a taste of Mexican culture, which Brady identifies more with than America, that we see in The Magnificent Seven and The Wild Bunch. And Paul Newman's John Russell in Hombre, mirrors Brady here. All are men without countries, men who cling to a culture or code American society shuns.
The locations, photography and music (Alex North) all help create an atmosphere of majestic isolation. And the inclusion of black Buffalo soldiers is all too rare in westerns, even today.
As one reviewer stated earlier, it could have been more. But there's still a lot here.
With a few exceptions, I have never been a Robert Mitchum fan, but this role brings out those qualities in him that have always attracted the fans. When commenting on his acting ability, he once said, "I only know two ways to act. With or without a horse." This is a great example of how to act with a horse. As a matter of fact, one of his co-stars in this movie IS his horse.
The story somewhat routine. Mitchum flees across the Rio Grande as a youngster after killing the man who killed his father. There he becomes a pistolero in the employ of a couple of corrupt brothers who control that part of Mexico. On a gun buying trip north across the border, he is thrown by his horse and is unable to return to Mexico. While in Texas he meets and falls for the wife of the military governor played by Julie London, in probably her only significant role. As he recovers, he is involved in another shooting and finally escapes back to Mexico, where he is falls out of favor with his patrons for losing the guns.
It isn't the story that makes this movie. It's the photography. It's the musical score and Mariachi orchestration. It's the touching performances of all the principal players. It is a BIG movie. The dusty majesty and corruption of Old Mexico along with the personal imagery of everyday life is riviting. In my opinion, this movie rates right up there with other Western giants like: Shane, The Searchers, Stagecoach, and a half dozen others. This is a movie that would be best seen on the big screen. Do it - if you ever get the chance.
After killing the murderer who killed his dad, Martin Brady has been living in exile in Mexico. Crossing paths with the Castro brothers,Brady is hired to go undercover and get weapons in the US. Traveling undercover,Brady is stopped in his tracks by a broken leg. Treated by the weapons sellers,Brady is introduced to Major Colton,who wants to set a deal that will cross boarders that will have the Castro brothers on the same front.
View on the film:
Looking surprisingly fresh faced, Mitchum gives a charming performance as Brady,whose exiled state allows Mitchum to give Brady rugged heroics, which is lassoed with a troubling sense of doubt over Brady ever getting the chance to return to the wonderful country. Riding into the sunset with Mitchum, Gary Merrill gives a great performance as Colton,who is given by Merrill a striking feeling of being unable to find light in the dark clouds above.
Traveling the country from Tom Lea's (who has a cameo) novel,the screenplay by Robert Ardrey & Walter Bernstein leaves the barroom fights to draw a thoughtful Folk tale Western. Running from the US after getting revenge for the killing of his dad,the writers do very well at making each of the separate groups Brady becomes entangled in ones that drive his desire to walk back into the country of his family. Gathering the bullets for Brady,director Robert Parrish gives Brady's exiled state an elegant sun dried appearance,burning with dry reds hit by Apaches,as Brady tries to get back to the wonderful country.
Despite that Mitchum is sent across the border on a gun buying trip. Unfortunately he takes a bad fall from a horse and winds up with a broken leg. While on the mend in that bordertown and after, Mitchum finds himself in a series of situations that call him to question what he's been doing and just where he can call home.
One of those situations is Julie London, wife of army major Gary Merrill who's got a bit of a past herself. She throws quite a few complications in Mitchum's past.
The Wonderful Country is a nicely put together western shot on location in Durango. It was one of the first westerns to use that town in Mexico, a whole lot more in the sixties would follow.
Besides those already mentioned the performances to watch for in this film are those of Charles McGraw as the frontier doctor and that of Satchel Paige as the cavalry sergeant. A year later John Ford would come out with Sergeant Rutledge about a black cavalry sergeant and the men around him, but I do believe that baseball immortal Satchel Paige was the first in Hollywood to portray a black cavalry man in a major motion picture.
McGraw is something else. He's the doctor who tends to Mitchum's broken leg and befriends him, but then gets one big pang of jealousy about Julie London that leads to tragedy. In real life McGraw was as much the hellraiser as he is in the film.
The Wonderful Country had the good fortune to be partially scripted by Tom Lea so his vision of the characters in his own novel remained pretty much intact. This was the only one of two novels by that writer/artist to be filmed.
That's as good a reason as any to see a very fine western.
The script brings the characters to life and reveals themes of self-loathing battling the ego in an extraordinary but low-key manner. The character performances are all convincing with the exception of a slight case of oversincerity on London's part. Gorgeous location filming in the deserts and in a Mexican town shot from a hilltop. The action scenes are pretty routine, but they and pretty much everything else is handled in a fairly realistic style, which adds greatly to the film's appeal.
Mitchum finds a perfect role for his laconic style, seemingly tossing in with one side that's no better than the other, always keeping within him the hope of returning to his home. It's also probably the best thing Julie London ever did on screen. But it's the story and how the country and the conflict are presented that make the movie.
Almost ten years later, in the WILD BUNCH, Peckinpah has his actors say about Mexico:"Ah, Mexico lindo (lovely)!" and "Don't look "lindo" to me; just looks like more of Texas." That's the other side and another story. THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY makes Mexico look very "lindo" and the story of unrequited love and loss of country hold up after all these years have passed.
THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY isn't available on a UA/MGM DVD but you can do a Google search and find a fair copy from a couple of wildcat sites.
not a particular Mitchum fan, but here he is gives a wonderful world weary performance as the "outside man" gradually learning kindness and companionship and friendship against the odds of his upbringing and circumstances and the hand that fate has dealt him.
Not a particular shoot em up type western but a film about belonging and extricating yourself from a bad lot when down a blind alley. Just watch as he reacts to the little kindnesses as he recovers from his injury or the final scene with his beloved horse, lovely low key acting.
Beautiful photography too. Passes a lazy afternoon very nicely.
Maybe I'm just a old corn ball from the pass. But some movies and the words in them get inside of me. I like that. They will always be apart of me and my life.
A Western drama with noisy action , shootouts , thrills , crossfire , crosses , and doublé crosses . Bursting with attractive characters, thought-provoking themes , sub-plots , symbols , and with very decent filmmaking and interpretation . Along the way Michum/Brady becomes involved with interesting roles , such as a German immigrant , an unhappy spouse , a wounded officer and a troop of black cavalry . Photographically with portentous images and musically , it's a continuous treat , being based on the homonymous novel by Tom Lea . The picture centers on Mitchum , a gringo mercenary operating South of Border in a gun-running mission , as he finds out the blessings and the distresses of the Mexican territory . This flick bears a certain resemblance to ¨Bandido¨1956 by Richard Fleischer with Robert Mitchum , Ursula Thies , Gilbert Roland ,Zachary Scott , Douglas Fowley , and Henry Brandon . Here Robert Mitchum grapples rather unsteadly with his role as a gunrrunner who ends with his heart in the right place . Robert gives a lively as well as easy acting as an extremely ambitious dealer to get his objectives . The gorgeous eye-candy Julie London is pretty good as the unlucky wife with a thunderous life . His husband is finely performed by Gary Merrill who takes advantage from a good character . Satisfying support cast plenty of prestigious secondaries such as : Albert Dekker, Charles McGraw , Pedro Armendariz , Jack Oakie , Anthony Caruso ,Mike Kellin ,Jay Novello , John Banner , Chuck Robertson , including a lot of Mexican extras . Interesting and well structured screenplay by Robert Ardrey , based on a successful story from a novel by the artist Tom Lea , who has a cameo as a barber . It contains a colorful cinematography in Cinemascope , Color De Luxe by cameraman Floyd Crosby , Roger Corman's ordinary , and the Mexican Alex Phillips . Portentous outdoors filmed in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico , Barranca del Cobre, Chihuahua, Mexico La Punta, Durango, Bavispe River, Sonora , Mexico . And a sensitive and rousing musical score by the classy composer Alex North, adding marvelous Mexican sounds and songs .
Produced by DRM Production , Robert Mitchum ownership , along with Chester Erskine . This modest drama/action/Western picture was professionally and firmly directed by Robert Parrish , though it has some flaws and gaps .It premiered on October 8 ,1959 and exhibited by United Artists . Parrish initiated the movie by buying the novel copyright and he hired the notorious screenwriter Robert Ardrey and subsequently Robert Mitchum and Chester Erskine were interested in it . Robert Parrish was an Academy Award-winning film editor who also realized and acted in movies . As an editor he won an Academy Award for Body and soul (1947), the 1947 Robert Rossen film that starred John Garfield as a money-grubbing, two-timing boxer on the make. Parrish also worked on All the King's Men (1949), an account of the rise and fall of a Louisiana politician that won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Parrish then moved on to direct films during the 1950s and 1960s . Among his best received works was the brooding western ¨Saddle the Wind¨ (1958) , a Noir film titled ¨Cry danger¨, a Sci-Fi picture titled ¨Journey to the far side of the sun¨, the wartime movie ¨Purple plain¨ that resulted to be one of the best films and other strange Western called ¨A town called Bastard¨ . And his final film was the exciting thriller titled ¨The Marseille Contract¨ .
As the 1950s drew to a close, the traditional Western was about to be eclipsed: the genre was full of these low-key, elegiac tributes to the traditional Western hero, the pioneer forever blocked by his murderous past from entering the community he helped forge; 'The Searchers' is only the most famous example.
Brady's case is even more troubled than Ethan's, trebly exiled from comforting notions of home. He is an American raised in Mexico, with a pronounced Hispanic accent, claimed by both countries, but for selfish, ulterior, practical reasons (he is an excellent tracker and gunman); both despise him for his rootlessness. The film takes place around the Rio Grande, the legendary border between the US and Mexico, and this is the border Brady must frequently cross, the dividing line in his identity.
Significantly, this split was occasioned by the need to flee after the vengeful adolescent killing of his father's slayer - this personal dislocation is linked, generically, to a wider instability, a rueful recognition of the lack of continuity between a nation and its past. Typically, this instability is inscribed in the body, the dirty, aging, sagging, smelly, hairy body of Brady, self-encrusting like a Beckett character, which only has to tumble in the wind to break.
This bodily failure is linked to sexual potency, or lack thereof - just as his own relationship with his father is cut short by death, so sexual relations become an impossibility, Brady's potency replaced by his gun-prowess. The latter gives him a sterile sense of wholeness - all those mocking, non-reflecting mirrors - that prevents him enjoying any union with a woman. It is ironic, therefore, that the failure of his Western-hero body allows Brady to fumble towards growth as a man.
As I say, the 1950s was full of films like this, 'The Gunfighter' and the like. But whereas those films sounded the end of an era, 'Wonderful Country' seems to usher one in. Mitchum's character on paper is an old loser, but has a wary, romantic charisma, an ambiguity that would be exploited by Sam Peckinpah, in particular Pike Bishop in 'The Wild Bunch', played by another aging Hollywood icon, William Holden. The Mexican setting and atmosphere, and the murderous general also prefigure this film, while 'Country''s best scene, when Brady shoots his friend's murderer (a scene containing, incidentally, some of Mitchum's best acting) is full of the startling, new violence.
Further, the gorgeous, heightened, 'unrealistic' colour, the bizarrely 'unWestern' compositions (e.g. the Whartonesque framing of Brady and Helen in a Mexican drawing room) and the irruption of the carnivalesque all point towards Leone. this last reveals the brilliance of this film (which features a harikari as moving as 'Le Samourai', a renunciation as shocking as 'Dirty Harry') - the festival of the Saint serves two cancelling functions: in the narrative it is a legitimising expression of fascist power to foreign dignitaries; in terms of the film, the Western, Hollywood, it is an explosion of an alien visual register that is subversive and exciting.
The story is mildly interesting...but there is A LOT of plot...probably too much for one film. Mitchum plays a man who's lived in Mexico a long time and works with one of the 'generals' who fought over Mexican territory in the late 19th century. He's sent on a mission to retrieve guns for the general...but ends up breaking his leg in the States. It's a compound fracture and his mission is a loss. Then, while in the States you learn his backstory--most importantly why he ran off to Mexico in the first place. Now there IS a lot more plot...including an unlikely and poorly fleshed out romance, an angry Mexican general, a plot to kill Mitchum's character, marauding Apache Indians in Mexico and more. None of it seemed especially compelling.
Overall, a mildly interesting tale...at best. Not bad but the writing sure could have been better.
By the way, watch carefully if you watch it. Late in the film, one of the greatest pitchers in history is in a small role. Larry 'Satchel' Paige plays a Cavalry sergeant...and it's nice that the film acknowledges the contribution of black soldiers/cavalry....as in real life, about a third of them were black Americans...though you rarely see them represented in films.
Mitchum himself plays his usual rugged, sleep-eyed self who seems able to casually sweep women into his laconic vortex. However, Julie London is miscast as the leading lady. Her angular features, while similar to those of Ursula Theiss (Mitchum's leading lady in Bandido), are never attractively portrayed on the big screen, ad the sparks just don't fly between her and Mitchum. She does have a screen presence, but it was better suited for the small screen dramas.
All in all, it's a decent movie I can recommend, maybe slightly better than Bandido. It deserves at least one viewing.
The overblown soundtrack is about as bad as it gets. It makes me think Alex North was dying for attention and wanted his music to be heard over the action. The music has little to do with the mood of what is happening on screen. Music should enhance the drama... here the music fights for attention. Some of the worst arrangements I've heard. At times the music sounds festive and celebratory in scenes which are supposed to be ominous and frightening. Quite odd and a bit irritating. A remake should be considered because the story is worth telling.... but not this way.
The plot is in itself quite interesting. The Wonderful Country (1959) is a drama, an action drama set in a western dimension. The director obviously didn't find the fittest approach; while the film's name tells nothing about its content, though it's probably meant to be acidly ironic and disillusioned. For once at the westerns, I was interested in seeing a love story; but not much happens this way. The movie looks like an interesting exerciselike something much better could of been made with this content. But then again, most westerns may give this impression. The directing is, as I said, _uninventive, yet competent on its level. I mean, it keeps the film from looking ridiculous, involuntarily funny or something.
Mitchum's part is certainly very likable, very well performed, and eminently enjoyable. It's almost like a study of Mitchum's aptitudes.
A certain very virile and mysterious (i.e., rich in intuitive content and cognition) aspect of Mitchum's role reminded me of the Rourke of the '80s. In this western, Mitchum is as interesting, in the same way I mean, as was Rourke in the '80s.
What the film needed were action and a pace.But, notwithstanding, interesting western.
The story is a little too sprawling. From Mexico to America and from the Castros to the Buffalo soldiers, the story is doing a lot and has a lot to do. This could be a simpler story. It could be the fight between the Castro brothers. It could be the Buffalo soldiers who don't take over until the midway point. It could be the love triangle with Ellen. It shouldn't be everything and everywhere while being a simple western. My biggest difficulty with the story is his return to the Castros without the guns. I would think that he would search far and wide for the guns, and not return to the Castros without them. I am surprised that he wasn't tortured but the fight between the brothers is a good surprise. Overall, the story meanders a little too much but compelling enough. The look of it is terrific. The cinematography is to be congratulated. On top of everything, Brady should be dead or dying at the end of the movie. It's the type of movie which requires a dark finish.