Before The Wild Bunch, there was The Professionals, Richard Brooks's marvelous ode to friendship, loyalty, and disillusionment. It may not have the stylistic bravado or fatalistic doom of the legendary Sam Peckinpah film,... more » but Brooks's storytelling is simple and steady and just as insightful. The difference is Brooks is a lot more optimistic. Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster are buddies who have drifted into oblivion after fighting together in the Mexican Revolution. Marvin, the principled loyalist and munitions expert, lost his wife and his heart. Lancaster, the dynamite expert and unprincipled adventurer, keeps losing his pants. They team up with wrangler Robert Ryan and archer Woody Strode to rescue the beguiling Claudia Cardinale, who has been kidnapped by their old revolutionary buddie Jack Palance. So it's back into bloody Mexico they go on a "mission of mercy" for railroad tycoon Ralph Bellamy, who's paying handsomely for the return of his wife. But nothing is what it seems in this exciting, existential adventure, which was beautifully shot by Conrad Hall. Sarcastic quips, philosophical musings, and heart-rending reversals underlie Brooks's humanistic sentiments. These are tired, world-weary men who somehow find the strength and the will to pull together for the sake of love and commitment. Through it all, Brooks seems to be lamenting a decline in professionalism much deeper than his story. He's decrying Hollywood and the society at large, anticipating Peckinpah's later strategy. --Bill Desowitz« less
"In this desert, nothing's harmless until it's dead."
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 07/12/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Given the credentials of the people involved in bringing The Professionals (1966) to the screen, written and directed by Richard Brooks, who also did The Killers (1946), Key Largo (1948), Elmer Gantry (1967), and In Cold Blood (1967), starring Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, Woody Strode, and Jack Palance (Believe it....or not!), you would have thought I would have heard about it before now, but I didn't, and there you go...Anyway, the film begins with the assemblage of four men by a rich, Texas cattleman named Joe Grant, played by Ralph Bellamy (the old dude who wasn't Don Ameche in the John Landis/Eddie Murphy/Dan Aykroyd movie Trading Places), for the purpose of rescuing his young wife Maria, played by the voluptuous Claudia Cardinale, from the clutches of her kidnapper, a Mexican rebel bandit named Jesus Raza (Palance). Seems Raza has made off with the woman and is now demanding $100,000 for her safe return, an amount Mr. Grant would be willing to pay, except he fears that even after he pays the monies, Raza would still harm his wife. As the men come together with the offer of $10,000 apiece if they're successful, we learn of their particular talents. First there's Henry 'Rico' Fardan (Marvin), a master tactician and someone who actually knows Raza as they served together in the Mexican revolution, followed by Bill Dolworth (Lancaster), who also served with Fardan and Raza, and is an expert with explosives, Hans Ehrengard (Ryan), whose skills involve horse wrangling, and finally Jake Sharp (Strode), an expert with weapons, specifically guns and the bow and arrow, and also an experienced tracker. Given that Raza has a good number of men at his disposal, I'd say maybe close to 200, the task would seem highly unlikely, but the men also must deal with first getting to the camp, which involves trekking through the Mexican desert, where temperatures during the day could fry your face off, while the cold night after the sun drops is nearly enough to freeze your blood, but $10,000 is a lot of money, and the group, being men of honor, did give their word, fully aware of the dangers involved, and the probability of success.While the story may not be highly original, the elements that make it up work very well to make this a highly enjoyable movie. Marvin is great as the brains behind the operation, carefully planning everything, knowing exactly what he has to work with and also having the confidence in the men to perform their tasks, keeping things simple, and avoiding complexities that would normally foul things up. He pulls off his character well, an intelligent man would understands the value in proper preparation especially when the odds are high. Lancaster is also wonderful, presenting a highly likeable character with color, one whose priorities seem simple enough in money and women, but who also exhibits more depth as the film unfolds. Ryan (a highly under-rated actor, in my opinion) and Strode are also quite good, despite the lack of character development given to Marvin and Lancaster, which isn't a negative as we are given just enough to endear the characters to the audience, but not so much to bog the film down, and all four displayed a level of credibility respective to the skills each possessed. Claudia Cardinale was certainly nice to look at, and she was capable, but if I had to choose a weak link in the film, it would probably be her, but given how well all the other elements of the film worked, this was entirely a minor issue. Now when I heard Jack Palance was going to be playing a Mexican, I had my doubts as I just couldn't see it, but he pulled it off. We didn't see much of him in the first half, but in the last half his character really came to life, giving us more than just a character motivated by greed, but one driven by his ideology, in doing what he has to to survive and further his cause. The expansive desert scenes throughout the film are really beautiful, giving a wonderful backdrop to the story, providing a realism you just can't get shooting on a studio backlot. There were a number of twists and turns within the story, as very little is as it seems, and while some of it was predictable, this did little to take away from the film. I also enjoyed the study of the motivations of the various characters, their questioning of the moralism in past and present actions. The film could have gotten mired within this element, but, as with other elements of the movie, there was just enough present to keep things interesting and add a bit of welcome diversity while not taking away from the overall story. The movie does run just under 2 hours, but rarely slows down, as the excellent direction by Brooks keeps things fairly balanced and moving along at a good pace.The digitally remastered picture here looks amazing, available in both wide screen and full screen formats, and I thought the audio was also very good, being very crisp and clear. With regards to special features, there is any number of subtitles (including English) available, along with an original theatrical trailer and somewhat comprehensive, yet concise, biographies of the talent, including selected filmographies. Also included on the insert in the DVD case are production notes which detail the people involved, the locations the film was shot, along with information about the original release date and the various awards nominations the film received. All in all an excellent film, maybe not the quintessential western of Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969), but certainly required viewing for fans of western films and certainly worth looking into for anyone just interested in a good film in general.Cookieman108"
A Good Film Compromised
L. Moore | Glen Oaks, NY United States | 07/15/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I thoroughly enjoyed viewing The Professionals on DVD, with one exception...during a seduction scene between Lancaster and Cardinale, a black band is artificially placed across Cardinale's chest so that the viewer cannot see her in her topless glory. Wait a second, didn't I buy this disc? Why is this film being censored in this fashion? Viewers should be notified of this travesty before deciding whether to purchase an otherwise worthwhile film."
The Magnificent Four
C. A. Luster | Burke, VA USA | 02/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fans of great westerns will love this movie. I consider it one of the best ever made. Being a fan of movies like "The Magnificent Seven", "The Wild Bunch", "Once Upon a Time in the West", "Hombre", "Valdez is Coming", and "El Dorado", I think this one is a keeper too.
By far one of Lee Marvin's and Burt Lancester's best movies. Fine performances are turned in by Robert Ryan, Woody Strode, Jack Palance, and Ralph Bellamy too. Claudia Cardinale is decent but nothing to write home about. She is much better in "Once Upon A Time in the West".
The action is excellently paced and the direction is masterful. Add in beautiful scenery and good music and you have a winner. The story of men rescueing someone from overwhelming odds is not new, but this is a magnificent rendition of it. This DVD is well priced and I highly recommend it."
One Of The Greats
T O'Brien | 03/04/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Can there be any better actors than Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Woody Strode and Jack Palance. And then you throw in Ralph Bellamy and Claudia Cardinale and you have one of the great movies of all time. All these personalities create individual characters that work together as well as against each other in a rousing tale of intrigue, love, and deception. Keeps you interested from beginning to end as the characters and story unfold to a surprise ending. Some of the best one liners I've heard in a long time. A must for anyone who enjoys good acting, a tight script, and action -- all in one movie."
Exciting western with all-star cast
T O'Brien | Chicago, Il United States | 06/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Professionals is a very entertaining western that does not receive the same hype as many other westerns made during the same time period. It is an excellent story with an even better cast. The story is about the efforts of four men to rescue a railroad tycoon's wife from the Mexican revolutionaries she was kidnapped by. They must travel deep into Mexico to rescue her battling bandits, the weather, and themselves all the way. The film is very good at dealing with the friendships between the men as the time and the land changes much as the Wild Bunch or Butch Cassidy/Sundance Kid did. How can these men change their lives as the world around them changes? The movie blends plenty of great dialogue with a ton of quotable lines, a lively score from Maurice Jarre, and great acting all-around. Can't miss western and highly recommended.
Burt Lancaster gives another excellent performance as Bill Dolworth, the explosives expert, Lee Marvin stars as Rico Fardan, the leader of the men and also a munitions expert, Robert Ryan plays Hans Ehrengard, the horse wrangler who cares so much for his horses, and Woody Strode gives an excellent supporting performance as Jacob Sharp, the adept tracker who dispatches his enemy with bow and arrow. All four give great performances. How could you go wrong with such a cast? Jack Palance is very good as Raza, the leader of the revolutionaries/bandits who has a past with . Ralph Bellamy plays the husband who desperately wants his wife back, played by Claudia Cardinale who looks beautiful. The new Special Edition DVD includes three excellent featurettes, "The Professionals: A Classic," "Burt Lancaster: A Portrait," and "Memories from the Professionals" which includes interviews with Claudia Cardinale, widescreen presentation, and a theatrical trailer. Check out this western if you haven't seen it before! The Professionals is an excellent, action-packed western with a perfect twist at the end, quick snappy dialogue, and a great cast. Do not miss!
Also, if you like the movie check out the novel by Frank O'Rourke, also called a Mule for the Marquesa."