Pancho Villa

A sprawling comic invention on the theme of Villa’s raid against a small town in New Mexico called Columbus. The U.S. cavalry is away at a horse show, fabulously vain Villa wreaks his vengeance on the gringos and does his part in the reconquista.

Col. Wilcox and the fly in the mess hall come from Webb’s The DI and the sand flea.

Twice Fuller’s image of firing behind the screen comes into play. Russell’s waiter a Soviet colonel in Billion Dollar Brain serves for the penultimate image.

A perfectly-rendered film on its subject, exhaustively comical, persistently true, entirely observant.

With comedians like Anne Francis as the piano-playing grass widow of Scotty (Clint Walker), Villa’s right-hand man, Chuck Connors as Wilcox, and Telly Savalas as the General.


Horror Express

The secret of the screenplay is its constant modulation of the theme (an origin of the Red Chinese species) through every horror motif in the repertoire with continually evolving skill and virtuosity.

Charters & Caldicott are now an English scientist at the head of an expedition for the Royal Geographic Society and a medical man who happen to be on the Transsiberian Express in 1906. The expedition has obtained a hominid fossil two million years old, it comes to life aboard the train, its red eyes pass from person to person as it absorbs brains and changes bodies.

The Dalinian audacity in the writing is kept at one remove by Martin’s careful attention to atmosphere in a warm golden luster aboard the train, and some highly treated acting steeped in proficiency. The reserves of articulation yield extraordinary satire as the half-ape half-man transmigrates into a police inspector and then a priest, the fossil’s eye retains an image of the inspector killing it, and also of dinosaurs and the earth seen from space. Its knowledge grows with each new death, an engineer who studied with Tsiolkovsky, a Polish count transporting steel in a new formula.


A Candle for the Devil

The great houses are paradores nacionales, some of them, Las Dos Hermanas was once a convent.

Flamenco and Inquisition, or better still “a little Spanish town” and tourists.

The secure basis of all this is Hitchcock’s Psycho, with an admixture of something like Genet’s The Maids, among other things.

That is the secret of the astonishing technique, more Buñuelian than Buñuel, and very close to Renoir in its structural divisions. An impious candle lights the devil’s way, Martin makes sure it’s a candle anyway.

In a straightforward line with no dallying he observes every note of the score or screenplay, those that pertain to the village and those of modern girls, a sunbather, a Dutch model, a woman traveling alone with her baby on her back “like the Incas”. The thousand observations he makes add up to the sanctity of the place and the Lorca tragedy within, while from a distance come messengers of a careless life.

Martin sees the two and puts them on the screen in a sublime arrangement.

It seems that nothing of its virtues found a sympathetic eye at all anywhere, although some connoisseurs admire it for various reasons, no doubt.