Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Wonderful Country

Not too long ago, TCM ran the new-to-me western The Wonderful Country. It being available on DVD from MGM/UA's MOD scheme, I decided to record it to do a post on it here.

Robert Mitchum plays Martin Brady, who at the start of the movie is accompanying a wagon of goods north from Mexico across the Rio Grande into the United States. Brady is American, but living in Mexico because a past brush with the law forced him to flee. Unfortunately, his delivery doesn't go well, as he reaches a small town and a tumbleweed spooks his horse, bucking him and leaving him with a broken leg.

The town has a fort where Brady meets the new commander, Maj. Stark Colton (Gary Merrill). Colton has a job for Brady, if Brady is willing to take it, which is to go back into Mexico and convince the Mexican authorities to let the American soldiers come in and help deal with the Apache raiders which are causing more difficulty for the Americans than for the Mexicans. Of course, the local governor, Cipriano Castro (Pedro Armendáriz) is the one who was paying to delivr that wagon full of guns, and Brady knows that Castro is going to be none too pleased that the delivery didn't go off as planned, never mind that it would be perfectly understandable for the Mexicans not to want American soldiers on their territory.

Meanwhile, in Texas, Brady's life is about to get a whole lot more complicated. When visiting the Major, Brady runs into Mrs. Colton (Julie London), who is just getting settled and is not particularly happy with her marriage to the major and starts puting the moves on Brady. Then there's kindly German immigrant Chico, who gets harassed by a drunk man who breaks a bottle and slashes Chico to death. That guy then turns on Brady, who kills the man in self-defense, if anybody in a court of law would believe that. So it's back to Mexico for Brady.

Things aren't any better back in Brady's adopted homeland of Mexico. It turns out that Gov. Castro has been in a dispute with his brother, a general in the Army, and the Governor wants Brady to be a hired gun to kill the General. And the US Army is going after the Apache in Mexico anyway, including bringing in the Texas Rangers, which is an even bigger problem since they're not military.

I had a fairly big problem with The Wonderful Country in that it seems a lot less like a coherent movie than a bunch of episodes that are supposed to be related but really just made it more difficult to follow what was going on. In particular, the synopsis I saw suggested that the relationship between Brady and Mrs. Colton was going to be much bigger than it turned out to be. The dispute between the Castro brothers also seemed to arise out of nowhere. Maybe I just wasn't paying close enough attention.

Those problems aside, Mitchum gives a good performance and Brady, while there's some nice cinematography in the area around Durango, Mexico. But for me that wasn't enough to save the movie from its flaws. Some people may have a different opinion, however, so as always you should judge for yourself.

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