Seven for Pancho Villa Review

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A Spanish western set in revolutionary Mexico. It's an average achievement, but noteworthy for its antipathetic depiction of Pancho Villa and the Villagistas. The story, partly based on fact, is set in 1916, shortly after Pancho Villa's historical attack on the town of Columbus, New Mexico. The raid was successful, but Villa was shot in the leg and forced to leave the loot behind in a small border town. Villa therefore asks an adventurer, Diego Avalardo, who can pass for an American - his knick-name is the 'Gringo' - to retrieve the gold and selects six of his most loyal soldiers to keep an eye on him. Alavarado has accepted the job because he holds the army responsible for the death of his wife, but in reality she was killed by the Villagistas, during a murderous frenzy in which many aristocratic families were slaughtered. When Diego finds out the truth the events lead to a bloody climax ...

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The movie is well-shot, with a good use of locations and sets, and the score is a pleasant mix of familiar Spanish/Mexican tunes, but the script is a grab bag of ideas that aren't developed properly. There are too many scenes with the traveling companions chatting, quarreling and laughing out loud, often for no reason at all. They make an occasional stop in a Mexican village, where the señoritas are beautiful and the wine flows freely, but it all feels a little aimless until Don Diego is told the truth, by a widow whose husband was killed by Villagistas as well. The action picks up in the final third and the finale is not bad at all (if not particularly exciting either).

This is an odd movie. Spanish critics often expressed their dismay at the way Mexicans (after all brother people) were portrayed in spaghetti westerns, but this Spanish oater suffers the same defects: the Mexicans harass women, are loud and abusive, and the only person who knows how to behave, is the Gringo in their midst (*1). But the most striking detail, is the depiction of Villa and his men as greedy cutthroats. Few scholars would uphold the idea that Villa was some kind of Robin Hood, but he's still considered by many as a man with a mission who truly believed in his cause. The movie was co-financed by American producer Sidney W. Pink and maybe he insisted upon a unfavourable depiction of the famous revolutionary leader. After all the Raid on Columbus was a violation of the territorial integrity of another state and cost many innocent people's lives (*2)

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  • (1) There's some confusion about his identity; it's first said that he can pass for an American and that he is therefore referred to as the 'gringo', but when talking to the widow who informs him about the death of his wife, he calls himself Diego Owens (or Ewans), which would suggest a mixed descent (anyway, he doesn't even look 10% Mexican)
  • (2) The raid took place on March 9, 1916. The raid was called a punitive expedition by Villagistas because the US government had recognized president Carranza, but Villa also needed money, horses and military supplies to continue his campaign. He captured over 300 rifles and about 80 horses and mules, and proclaimed the raid a success, but he suffered terrible losses because he had underestimated the number of soldiers garrisoned in the city; more than 100 of the attackers were killed.

Director: José Maria Elorrieta - Cast: John Ericson (Diego 'Owen' Alvarado), Nuria Torray (Maria), Gustavo Rojo (General Urbina), Mara Cruz (Mara Stevens), Ricardo Palacios (Pancho Villa), James Philbrook (Sheriff) - Music: Federico Contreras

Miscellaneous: '

  • The film was released in its home country Spain as Los 7 de Pancho Villa. It was only released a decade later in Italy (as Ti paghero col piombo - I'll pay you in lead) and Germany (as Die Rache von Pancho Villa - The vengeance of Pancho Villa). The vengeance of Pancho Villa is also the alternative English language title, but seems to make little sense (unless it refers to Villa's 'punitive expedition', which is by the way not shown in the movie). In France it was not released theatrically, but in 1969 a photomagazine was published under the title Une balle c'est ton prix (You're worth a bullet)

Simon Gelten
Simon Gelten is a long time contributor to the SWDb. "I'm not as old as Tom B. but I'm working on it. I hope to catch up with him by the end of the next decade.", he says. Simon saw all movies by Sergio Leone and several by Sergio Corbucci in cinema, most of the time in Eindhoven, the city where he was born. Currently, Simon is living in Turnhout, Belgium. Simon is active within the database as both Scherpschutter and his alter ego Tiratore Scelto.