Viva Carrancho! Review
An early Spanish oater starring Luis Davila and Fernando Sancho as two escaped prisoners, one from Texas, the other from across the border; they’re still shackled to one another when they decide to cross the Rio Grande, in order to reach Mexico, the most beautiful country in the world, where everybody can lead a quiet and happy life. That is: according to Carrancho (Fernando, who else). The two will come down with a bump: they are hired by a mine owner (Carrancho as a cook, the other for being quick on the draw) and discover that Morton treats the local peones like slaves. Carrancho proclaims himself general and starts a people’s revolution ... Viva Carrancho!
While watching the opening scene, some of us will think of The Defiant Ones, starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier as two men who are chained together and must therefore co-operate in order to survive, but Viva Carrancho is not a buddy movie by any stretch of the imagination and the social comment (there is some) is rather muddled. Sancho and Davila do not really act as a duo, they have their own scenes and only cross paths to save each others lives on a few occasions. Thanks to the success of Los Pistoleros de Arizona ($5000 on an Ace), Sancho had quickly become a star in his home country (and would soon become one in Italy) and it’s my idea that he was promoted from side-kick to lead actor in the course of the production. Davila - probably the intended protagonist, eventually becomes a supporting actor in Sancho’s movie.
Viva Carrancho must be one of the first Euro westerns featuring exploited Mexican peones. It could be interpreted as a precursor of the Zapata western, notably those by Sergio Corbucci. Robert Woods - for once playing the bad guy - is a New World capitalist exploiting third world laborers and the film offers a mix of violent action and burlesque comedy; there’s even a pacifist in the style of professor Xantos, who warns the rebels that things are getting out of hand. But the director (*1) is no Corbucci: the comedy is often more laughable than funny and some of the violence (Sancho shooting four men that come from the toilet one by one) is rather tasteless. A couple of jokes work: Sancho has a coin with heads on both sides, so he wins every coin toss and there’s at least one very wry joke that seems to come out of Corbucci’s comedy book: when the murderers of three peones are captured, Carrancho sentences them to death and asks the three victims if they have any objections. Nobody? Case closed.
Viva Carrancho is far more violent than Los Pistoleros de Arizona. Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars had obviously done its work: one scene - Davila crawling to safety after being tortured by Morton’s men - is almost a copy of a key scene in Leone’s movie, with a heavily wounded Clint Eastwood escaping from the Rojos. Robert Woods seems to enjoy himself as the baddie; he almost has his own mini-movie, co-starring Loredana Nusciak as the maltreated wife who does the revolution a favor by turning against her evil husband.
Dir: Alfonso Balcazar - Cast: Fernando Sancho, Luis Davila, Robert Woods, Loredana Nusciak, Gérard Tichy, Renato Baldini, Ely Drago, Antonio Molino Rojo, Francisco Sanz, José Manuel Martin - Music: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino
- 1) The film is officially credited to Alfonso Balcazar, but Robert Woods seems to remember that is was actually his brother Jesus who directed it