• Bandolero! (Twilight Time) Blu-Ray Review

    Released By: Twilight Time
    Released On: May 21, 2019.
    Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
    Cast: James Stewart, Dean Martin, Raquel Welch, George Kennedy, Andrew Prine, Will Geer, Clint Ritchie, Denver Pyle
    Year: 1968
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    Bandolero! - Movie Review:

    When the Bishop Gang come riding into Val Verde, Texas, you can safely bet that they're not there to clean up crime and help the elderly. As a matter of fact, the only helping that the gang, led by Dee Bishop (Dean Martin) engage in is helping a local man named Stoner to shuffle off of this mortal coil when they attempt a daring, daylight robbery of the town's financial institution. Caught in the act by Sheriff July Johnston (George Kennedy) and his deputy Roscoe (Andrew Prine), Bishop and his gang are quickly sentenced to hang by the neck until dead; a sentence that the late Stoner's Mexican wife, Maria (Raquel Welch), finds too good for them.

    The townspeople, however, are pleased that they're going to witness a multiple hanging, and Sheriff July is secretly tickled that Stoner's death may give him access to Maria's boudoir, a long-held fantasy for the lawman. The day before the execution signals the arrival of the hangman (James Stewart), who wastes no time in sizing the condemned up for their rope neckties, advising them to just go with the proceedings to avoid a drawn-out strangulation.

    Unknown to everyone aside from Dee Bishop and the hangman is that the executioner is actually Mace Bishop, Dee's brother; and he's got a plan to get his kin and company off of the gallows and safely to freedom in Mexico. The daylight bank robbery may have been daring, but the departure of the Bishop Gang is even more daring, a tension-filled escape from a crowd of folks desperate for the sound of trapdoors and breaking necks. Taking Maria as a hostage, Dee and his cohorts head for the border, with Mace taking advantage of the confusion to successfully alleviate the bank of it's funds, but they haven't taken into account the fury of Sheriff Johnson, who feels he's been robbed of the woman that he has claim to.

    What follows is a struggle between the two brothers; Mace, a retired Civil War soldier who wants Dee to give up his life of crime and settle down in Montana; and Dee, who can't help but love life on the edge with a group of loyal followers and the promise of sunshine and tequila in a safe Mexican town, with Maria potentially at his side. But the two brothers will have to put their familial squabbles aside to focus on the problem of the angry posse that's pursued them into South America, and the fact that they're in Bandolero country; a violent region where Mexican gunfighters pride themselves on their ability to turn American visitors into dead gringos.

    Fairly formulaic, Bandolero! isn't going to blow anyone's minds with originality, but noted Western Director Andrew V. McLaglen nonetheless has a pretty sweet film on his hands, largely due to his prowess in the genre behind the camera, and a fantastic cast. Dean Martin and George Kennedy are the show-stealing hard men, but Raquel Welch's sympathetic Maria provides an exceptional counterpoint to all of that testosterone, while still managing to get out the claws when required. Likewise, long-in-the-tooth Stewart offers a softer side of gunfighter to balance out the viciousness and provide a more human element to the film.

    Also worth noting is Jerry Goldsmith's excellent score, and the cinematography of William H. Clothier, who's experience in Westerns brings out the best in the Utah scenery. At 106 minutes, Bandolero! sticks around just long enough to get the most out of the story without dragging it's feet, with a pacing that matches the frantic nature of the pursuit.

    Bandolero! - Blu-Ray Review:

    Twilight Time brings Bandolero! to Blu-ray with an AVC-encoded 2.35:1 transfer that looks pretty great. Grain is visible while the picture is clear of dirt, debris, and other ailments. Blacks are decent, and the western swatch of colour comes through nicely. Audio options for the film are provided courtesy of a DTS-HD MA 4.0 English track, and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. Flipping back and forth between the tracks reveals the stereo track to be the winner, here; it's plenty punch for 2-channel, with no distortion or issues, while the 4.0 track sounds muddy with an annoying level of hiss. Being a Twilight Time release, an Isolated Music track is also available, and English subs for the main feature are provided.

    Twilight Time's Interactive Catalogue and liner essay by Julie Kirgo are available, as are Spanish and English Trailers for the film.

    An Audio Commentary with Film Historians Tony Latino, Lee Pfeiffer, and Paul Scrabo rounds out the supplements, and it's a great panel for this film. The three enthusiastic contributors talk about the state of the Western in the late 60's, the different characters and the actors who play them, the film's score and composer, and even Dean Martin's musical career. There's a lot of chatter on this one, not many gaps in the conversation, and fans of the film should enjoy it.

    Bandolero! - The Final Word:

    A decent entry into the Western genre, Bandolero! throws a great cast into the pot with an above-average plot, to crank out an enjoyable, er, stew. Twilight Time's release presents the film with a solid transfer (excepting that 4.0 track) and an enthusiastic commentary.

    Click on the images below for full sized Bandolero! Blu-ray screen caps!