The Professionals, 1966


You believed in the Revolution once...

... says Claudia Cardinale aka Mrs Maria Grant because she is Mexican and hence very concerned with the
 Mexican Revolution of 1910.

The movie starts with a visit to each one of the four Professionals at work, or should we say, whatever they're best at:

Henry "Rico" Fardan (Lee Marvin) earns 40 bucks per week showing army people how to use machine guns.

Hans Ehrengard (Robert Ryan), ex-cavalry and cattle baron, is expressing his disagreement (punch in face) with the way a

hired hand tries to break one of his horses.

Jacob "Jake" Sharp (Woody Strode), specialist with rifle, rope, and longbow, hands over a prisoner to a U.S. Marshal's office.

Bill Dolworth (Burt Lancaster) is caught fornicating away when his girls' husband comes home prematurely.

Here we go, here are the first 2.30 minutes of the movie:


Via telegram, the three first-mentioned Professionals are requested to meet wealthy Joseph W. Grant (Ralph Bellamy) aboard one of his trains. Pronto. What's the urgency? Claudia Cardinale is missing. Which is bad, because she's young and pretty and Joe's wife of four years.

Jesus Raza (Jack Palance) had taken the girl in exchange for a ransom note. And that's why Grant also brought 100,000 Dollars in gold coins onto the train.

There's a St Louis Herald newspaper copy pinned at the wall of the train compartment. The headline reads

Villa and Zapata enter Mexico City

and underneath is a huge group picture. On the photograph, Joe W. Grant had circled one man's head, Jesus Raza's. Standing not far from Jesus in the photograph is Rico Fardan, who was running with Pancho Villa at the time.

Joe W. Grant: Your hair was darker then.

Rico Fardan: My heart was lighter then.

Joe W. Grant explains to the three men that

Your mission is a mission of mercy

and tells them the whereabouts of his kidnapped wife as well as his dilemma, that it would take a battalion at least a month to get a rescue mission going, but a few daring specialists, led by Rico, would be able to do it in one bold swift stroke. The fact that Rico knows Raza from previous interactions could be only helpful.

Rico hesitates, says what they really need to get the job done is a dynamiter

A man with a delicate touch to blow out a candle
without putting a dent in the candle holder

and points to another head on that newspaper photograph, Rico's old buddy Bill Dolworth. Slight problem, Grant would need to bail Bill out of jail, 700 bucks would do it. And so it happened.

Rico explains the idea to Bill: Back to Mexico, this time strictly for cash, 10,000 dollars per man for 9 days of work, which is to bring back Mrs Grant. Bill expresses his surprise. He thinks it's out of character for Raza to kidnap.

Bill: Well, I'll be damned.

Rico: Most of us are.

Off they ride, all four of them, crossing the border to Mexico, traveling by night because it's safer. Pretty soon they are having their first encounter with Mexican bandidos.

Rico: Same setup as in Durango? Bill: Yeah, why not.
The Professionals, 1966
Columbia Pictures

Ten bandidos taken care off.

Bill: Nothing is harmless in this desert unless it's dead.

Hans passes out from the heat and Rico gives Bill a heads-up on tomorrow's schedule.

Bill: Coyote Canyon. The cemetery of nameless men.
We buried some fine friends there.

Rico: And some fine enemies.

Heatstroke victim Hans freezes his bum off while the posse continues traveling at night.

Hans: How in the name of God does anybody
live here long enough to get used to it?

Rico: Men tempered like steel. Tough breed.
Men who learn how to endure.

Bill scouts ahead and gets caught by another small party of Mexicans, who let him dangle from a rope upside down for a while. This incident brings the Professionals to a small pass that provides strategic advantages.

Our heroes position some dynamite and themselves, see picture at the top of the page. They observe how Jesus Raza and his outfit attack a government supply train, stop the train, and shoot all federales who surrendered.

Too brutal for Hans, he is appalled. Bill gives Hans some background info. The murdered federal troops were Coloradoes, expert marksmen. Also expert at torture.

A couple of years ago they had burned and looted a town of 3,000 people. When they had finished, 40 revolutionaries were left. Rico Fardan's late wife was one of the 40. The Coloradoes did nasty stuff to her, which effectively made Rico a widower.

Hans: What are Americans doing in a Mexican revolution anyway?

Bill: Maybe there's only one revolution. The good guys against the bad guys. The question is, Who are the good guys.

Jesus Raza and his men take off with the train and the Professionals are following them to their headquarters. First they have to find out where exactly Raza keeps the woman.

From a hiding place and equipped with spyglasses, the Professionals spot a goat keeper delivering milk to the camp. They remember the fact that Senora Grant loves herself a good glass of milk, and decide to grill the goat guy regarding the whereabouts of the woman.

The milkman points out the exact building in which the woman is residing at present.

The four men plus the milk guy re-group in a nearby empty train wagon, which is coincidentally located right in the goat man's front yard. Time for a cunning plan. And here it is all drawn out:

Rico: We gotta make him think that we are the Mexican Army.
The Professionals, 1966
Columbia Pictures

They can't fight their way in. Diversion is their only chance. Raza needs to think that they are the federales. Jake, bow specialist, starts strapping dynamite sticks onto his arrows.

Raza and some of his men arrive and quiz the goat guy if he has seen any gringos. The goat guy doesn't flinch and the outfit rides along and the Professionals are getting ready to strike.

While sneaking up on Raza's camp at night, they discover Grant's wife being genuinely friendly with Raza. Surprise. The dynamite goes off and they're taking the chick anyway, direction back to the goat guy's house where Hans was waiting with the horses.

Ambush. The goat guy blew the whistle on our heroes and Raza's men were waiting for them together with Hans, who got a bullet through his shoulder in the process.

With the girl as their shield our heroes make it to the train and head out. Train chase. Raza's bunch catch up with the train, bring it to a halt, and ... find it empty. Our heroes managed, God knows how, to sneak away on horseback via that small pass they had found earlier.

Here is the scene:


As they shuffle along, conversation matures.

Bill: Just wondering, what makes you worth a 100,000 dollars?

Maria: Go to hell.

Bill: I'm on my way.

And Maria enlightens the gang with another little tidbit. She grew up with Raza. Raza was her father's stable boy. They were lovers long before Mr Grant entered the picture. She only married Mr Grant because that was her father's deathbed wish.

And here, a wish is a command.

And one more. Fearless Maria offers the Professionals a better bargain than they got

Four lives, yours, if you let me go.

Jake reports that Raza approaches. As promised, Dynamite Bill moves that mountain into that pass. Our heroes can get away yet again.

Desert sand storm. Camp fire conversation. Maria turns analyst and tells Rico the reason why he didn't kill Raza back at the Raza headquarters when he had the chance.

No man was more loyal to the revolution than you.

Rico puts it into perspective.

Raza is a thieve and you are a whore.

Maria is unimpressed and cuts down to the chase.

My husband stole millions from our country. If we can keep the Revolution alive with that money for even one more day, then I'll steal and cheat and whore and anything else that must be done.

Bill adds his two cents. It happened in El Paso, Texas, in May 1911 when Bill had gotten inspired by the Mexican Revolution. Across the Rio Grande shooting and yelling broke out. From the top of the freight cars he could see across the river. The Maderistas had taken Juarez. Next thing he knew he was yelling Viva Mexico! with the rest of the crowd. A little later he was blowing up trains for Pancho Villa.

Rico gives signal to leave. Maria finds a moment alone with Bill and offers him a quickie for her freedom. Bill is positively inclined but Maria fishes for Bill's gun and the moment is lost.

Later, Bill tells Rico

That's a lot of woman there. Beautiful , classy and guts.
Hard enough to kill you and soft enough to change you.

Still three hours away from the border. Raza and his men are coming closer fast. Our heroes decide to split. Bill hangs back to take care of things, the rest moves on to deliver the girl and collect the cash.

Bill is doing well. He kills pretty much Raza's complete outfit but spares the man and sits down to chat with him for a bit. Raza had a philosopher for breakfast and analyses revolution, life, universe, and everything.

We stay because we believe. We leave because we are disillusioned. We come back because we are lost. We die because we are committed.

Bill wraps it up by shooting Chiquita, who was was Bill's ex-girlfriend who rode with Raza. Chiquita is in real life Marie Gomez, who got a Golden Globe nomination for this performance as most promising female newcomer.

Bill catches up with his team at the border.

Bill catching up with his fellow Professionals
The Professionals, 1966
Columbia Pictures

Surprise. Bill also brings severely wounded Raza. For him, it all makes sense now and Bill tells Rico that he has figured out what makes a woman worth a 100,000 dollars.

J.W. Grant and his men arrive. He declares the job well done, orders his people to pay up, and dismisses the Professionals. But not so hasty.

Rico: We've made a contract to save a lady from a nasty old kidnapper,
who turns out to be you.

Grant: You bastard.

Rico: Yes, Sir. In my case an accident of birth.
But you, Sir, you are a self-made man.

And off they go, back into Mexico, Maria in front driving the wagon with injured Raza as payload, followed by our heroes who lost 10,000 dollars each.

Still poor but having done the right thing - The Finale
The Professionals, 1966
Columbia Pictures


What's true, What ain't?

Well, let's see...  it really did go downhill with Pancho Villa in 1915.

Rico left Villa's forces June 1915. Check here for the entry in the timeline of the Mexican Revolution to see what really happened in June 1915.

Although all characters are fictional, many foreigners fought in the  Mexican Revolution and dynamiters like Bill did exist. See  Oscar Merrit Wheelock aka the Dynamite Devil.

If you are working for the St Louis Herald, please tell us how close to fact the newspaper copy was that J.W.Grant had hanging on his wall in the train.

The Professionals - Film Music

Get ready for Maurice Jarre's original soundtrack. That's right, the French guy who is the father of Jean-Michel Jarre, and the one who won an Oscar for the Lawrence of Arabia soundtrack, the Doctor Zhivago soundtrack, and many more awards. Let's crank her up!

What else?

The movie is based on the novel A Mule for the Marquesa. Frank O'Rourke wrote the piece. The screenplay was prepared by the man who also directed this picture, Richard Brooks.



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