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Professionals, The (1966, Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin)

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Richard Brooks directed and wrote thrilling western adventure The Professionals, which fills the screen with an explosion of dramatic excitement photographed by Conrad Hall, who was nominated for an Oscar for his work.

Millionaire American rancher Ralph Bellamy hires soldiers of fortune Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode, each an expert in a particular discipline, at $10,000 apiece. Their mission? To rescue Bellamy’s wife Claudia Cardinale, who has been kidnapped and taken over the border by Mexican bandit Jack Palance. The four fight their way through desert and mountain, survive encounters with Palance’s marauding bands, and reach Palance’s hideout, only to discover there has been no abduction. Cardinale is no victim, but has escaped from her ruthless, unloving husband to be with her lover Palance. Lancaster is all for backing out of their contract with Bellamy, but Marvin insists upon seeing it through, with highly unexpected results…

While in outline the story conforms to the classic ‘chase’ formula, Brooks brilliantly avoids stereotyping in characterisation, treatment and narrative development. His success with his actors was mirrored by a fine choice of locations in Death Valley; the Valley of Fire near Lake Mead, Nevada; and by a railway spur line east of Indio, California. Added to this was the expertise of Hall, who photographed every scene in the film with his unique style of gritty cinematography.

production details
USA | 117 minutes | 1966

Writer and Director: Richard Brooks, from the novel A Mule for Marquesa by Frank O’Rourke

cast
Robert Ryan as Hans Ehrengard
Burt Lancaster as Bill Dolworth
Lee Marvin as Henry ‘Rico’ Fardan
Jack Palance as Jesus Raza
Claudia Cardinale as Mrs. Maria Grant
Ralph Bellamy as Joe Grant
Woody Strode as Jake Sharp
Joe De Santis as Ortega
Rafael Bertrand as Fierro
Jorge Martínez de Hoyos as Eduardo Padilla – Goatkeeper
Marie Gomez as Chiquita
José Chávez as Revolutionary
Vaughn Taylor as Grant’s Banker
Carlos Romero as Revolutionary

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