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Wonderful Country, The (UA 1959, Robert Mitchum, Julie London)

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‘The Wonderful Country is a wonderful western,’ Variety wrote after Robert Mitchum starred in the second of two westerns for director Robert Parrish. ‘The colour photography is beautiful, the casting is accurate, the writing is tasteful and realistic and the characterisations are unusual.’ Yet the trade magazine feared for the film’s box office potential, because it was ‘moody’. Now, that moodiness is what elevates The Wonderful Country into a semi-classic, with Mitchum’s character containing several shades of Alan Ladd in Shane.

Mitchum stars as Martin Brady, an American who’s been forced to live in Mexico for many years after killing the man who murdered his father. He’s working for a provincial dictator, Cipriano Castro (Pedro Armendariz), and it’s while on a gun-running mission for his boss that he crosses the Rio Grande back into America. But he breaks his leg in a Texas border town and is forced to stay there for two months. During this time he forges friendships with a Texas Ranger (Albert Dekkler), a naive immigrant, Ludwig (Max Slaten), and an army officer (Gary Merrill) and his wife (Julie London). While pondering an invitation to set up a joint US-Mexican force against the Apaches, Brady is forced to flee back to Mexico after shooting a drunken troublemaker who shot Ludwig. Back in Mexico, he finds things have changed considerably and he’s fallen out of favour with his old boss, Castro. Now a fugitive on both sides of the Rio Grande, Brady has to decide where his future lies, and with whom.

Robert Mitchum is often castigated for his seemingly emotionless performances, but David Thomson defends the Night of the Hunter star passionately, calling him one of the best actors in the movies: ‘Since the Second World War,’ Thomson argues, ‘no American actor has made more first-class films, in so many different moods.’

production details
USA | UA – DRM | 98 minutes | 1959

Director: Robert Parrish
Producer: Chester Erskine
Directors of Photography: Floyd Crosby, Alex Phillips
Editor: Michael Luciano
Composer: Alex North
Screenwriter: Robert Ardrey
Art Director: Harry Horner

cast
Albert Dekker as Cap. Rucker (Texas Ranger)
Robert Mitchum as Martin Brady
Jay Novello as Diego Casas
Anthony Caruso as Santiago Santos
John Banner as Ben Sterner
Julie London as Helen Colton
Gary Merrill as Major Colton
Jack Oakie as Travis Hyle
Charles McGraw as Dr. Stovall
Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige as Sgt. Sutton
Mike Kellin as Pancho Gill
Víctor Manuel Mendoza as General Marcos Castro

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