This is the third installment of BEAVER’S LODGE, a series of video essays narrated by actor Jim Beaver which will offer critical takes on some of Beaver’s favorite films. Jim Beaver is an actor, playwright, and film historian. Best known as Ellsworth on HBO’s Emmy-award winning series DEADWOOD and as Bobby Singer on SUPERNATURAL, he has also starred in such series as HARPER’S ISLAND, JOHN FROM CINCINNATI, and THUNDER ALLEY and appeared in nearly forty motion pictures. You can follow Jim on Twitter.
There was a time when a certain kind of adventure film was popular. The 1960s were its heyday. Sometimes they were realistic, or even drawn from real life. Sometimes they were fanciful. But almost always they were intelligent and enormously entertaining. I haven’t seen a new example of that kind of film in 30 or 40 years. Maybe they exist, maybe I’ve simply forgotten them or never knew of them. But I don’t think they make that kind of movie anymore (though I suspect Hollywood thinks it still makes them). I’m thinking of movies like The Dirty Dozen, Von Ryan’s Express, The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Guns of Navarone, and this one, The Professionals.
The Professionals is about four rugged experts in various fields, hired by a rich man to rescue his wife, abducted by a Mexican revolutionary near the Texas border around 1917. Lee Marvin, Woody Strode, Robert Ryan, and Burt Lancaster are the charismatic title figures, each particularly well-equipped for one aspect of the mission. Ralph Bellamy is their wealthy employer, Claudia Cardinale his buxom Latina wife, and Jack Palance is the revolutionary, Raza, with whom Marvin and Lancaster once rode. And Marie Gomez is Chiquita, a delectable tough girl, *really* tough, in a way that suggests it’s her way of life, not something the script called for her to do.
Accompanied by a jaunty, rousing score by Maurice Jarre, the film by Richard Brooks is delirious masculine fun, an adventure filled with derring-do, witty quips, and just enough pseudo-depth to make it seem like it means something beyond the fun. I can’t speak for women, but it’s the kind of movie no guy can pass up, no matter how many times he’s seen it. They don’t make ’em like this anymore. And it’s a shame.