Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Wrath of God (1972)

          Not to be confused with the amazing German film Aguirre: The Wrath of God, which was also released in 1972, this American production is a routine action picture starring the venerable Robert Mitchum as a gun-toting con man wreaking havoc in South America during the 1920s. Notwithstanding Mitchum’s top billing, the lead character is actually portrayed by workaday Scottish actor Ken Hutchison. He plays Emmet, a ne’er-do-well European stranded in a dingy Latin American nation. Emmet reluctantly accepts a job from corpulent gringo crook Jennings (Victor Buono) to drive a truck filled with illegal liquor to the U.S. Along the way, Emmet meets an amiable priest named Father Van Horne (Mitchum). Next, Emmet gets into a hassle while preventing banditos from raping a native woman, Chela (Paula Pritchett). Unexpectedly, Van Horne comes to his new friend’s aid—by unleashing the machine gun hidden in his luggage. Yet somehow, the storyline gets even more random after that turn of events.
          A powerful military official, Colonel Santila (John Colicos), recruits Emmet, Jennings, and Van Horne for a suicide mission to depose Thomas De La Plata (Frank Langella), the crazed aristocrat controlling a small town, so the movie’s climax involves a violent showdown between the “heroes” and De La Plata’s ruthless gang. Featuring all of these disparate elements plus other incidental flourishes, like Rita Hayworth’s tiny role as De La Plata’s mother, The Wrath of God is diffuse in the extreme. Produced and directed by the proficient Ralph Nelson, the movie can’t decide on a consistent tone or a main character: The picture vacillates between black comedy and bloody action while the Emmet and Van Horne characters compete for prominence. Nonetheless, some of what happens is mildly exciting, and some of the actors deliver enjoyably florid performances. Buono’s sardonic volatility complements Langella’s over-the-top intensity, for instance, although Mitchum is Mitchum, to the degree that he sometimes seems as if he wandered in from another movie. Poor Hutchison gets lost in the shuffle, particularly since his character’s motivation seems to change with every scene. (Available at

The Wrath of God: FUNKY

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