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A bootlegger and a defrocked priest join forces during a bloody Central American revolution.
In the 1920s in a Latin American republic torn apart by a revolution, impoverished Irishman Emmet Keogh is coerced by unscrupulous Englishman Mr. Jennings into driving a truck carrying bootlegged whiskey into the country. On the road, Keogh runs into American priest Oliver Van Horne, whose fancy Jaguar car has sustained a flat tire. Van Horne gratefully accepts Keogh's assistance and informs him he is on a fund-raising tour for the Church. Later that afternoon, Keogh arrives at his destination where Luis Delgado who, unknown to Keogh, is a cohort of the head of the revolutionary forces, Colonel Santilla, meets him at a bar. After Delgado shows Keogh the dead body of his contact, his men drag a native woman into the bar. Outraged by their rough treatment of the woman, Keogh comes to her defense but is quickly overcome by Delgado's drunken men who attempt to hang him. The men are startled by the abrupt arrival of Van Horne who pulls out a machine-gun from his large travel bag and turns it on Delgado and his men. After the native woman cuts Keogh down, the bartender explains that she is Chela, a mute Aymara native who has not spoken since witnessing the brutal murder of her parents when she was a child. Reluctantly agreeing to take Chela with them as a guide, Van Horne and Keogh flee, but are soon pursued and captured by Santilla's troops. At the army garrison Chela is released to her people and the men are immediately imprisoned. Keogh is stunned to find Jennings in their cell, and the sergeant reveals that his truck was not loaded with whiskey, but rifles, pistols and grenades destined for the counter-revolutionary local dictator, Tomas De La Plata. The next morning the men are taken to a bullfighting ring to be executed, but instead are presented to Santilla, who informs them that he knows about each of them: Jennings is only one alias used by the con-artist Englishman who has pulled scams in numerous countries; Keogh is a former hit man for an Irish political assassination group called The Squad and Van Horne has stolen more than $50,000 claimed in the name of the Catholic Church. Santilla concludes that the men are a perfect team to assassinate the notorious De La Plata and has arranged for Jennings and Keogh to impersonate representatives from a mining firm and visit De La Plata at his ranch near the town of Mojada. Van Horne will accompany them as a much-needed priest in the religion-repressed region. Faced with accepting the assignment or execution, the men agree. Later, Keogh runs into Chela and the Aymara tribal chief, Nacho, who thanks Keogh for her rescue. The next day, when the three men arrive at the Mojada hotel, proprietor Carlos Moreno is shocked to see Van Horne and, declaring that priests and their supporters are killed on sight, refuses him a room. Undaunted, Van Horne goes to the long abandoned church that houses several farm animals. That evening, De La Plata's henchmen escort Jennings and Keogh to meet De La Plata at a cockfight. Later, over dinner at his home they meet De La Plata's pious mother and discuss reopening a long-abandoned silver mine to shore up their finances. Upon learning that the men have brought a priest to Mojada, De La Plata is incensed and declares that he will not be allowed to stay. When Keogh and Jennings meet with Van Horne that evening, he suggests accompanying them to the mine in order to bless it. The following morning at the mine, De La Plata's top henchman, Jurado, threatens Van Horne, but Señora De La Plata intervenes, claiming that she asked the priest to bless the mine. Soon after the mine is examined, there is a cave-in and Van Horne risks his life to remain with a trapped, dying villager. After Jennings pulls Van Horne from the debris, the priest announces a mass for the next morning, knowing that this action will bring De La Plata to him. Van Horne and Keogh arrange to lure De La Plata inside the church where they will each have a firearm. The next morning before the mass, De La Plata rides his horse directly into the church, but just as Van Horne reaches for his gun, Señora De La Plata arrives and demands that her son spare the priest. Frustrated, De La Plata complies, but relates to Van Horne that he loathes priests because two years earlier, the corrupt village padre did not intervene when his father was tortured and murdered and his sister assaulted. After De La Plata orders Van Horne to leave Mojada by the next morning, Señora De La Plata asks Van Horne to hear her confession. Afterward, in another attempt to lure De La Plata to him, Van Horne announces that he will conduct a processional to pray for the village. Later that day, after Moreno reveals that the villagers live in sin as no one has baptized their children or blessed marriages in two years, Van Horne wearily agrees to conduct communion and baptisms throughout the night. At dawn, Keogh is startled to awaken in Chela's hut with his hands and feet bound, in her attempt to keep him from helping Van Horne. Keogh insists he must go and despite Chela's cry of "No," she allows him to depart. At the church, a drunken, armed Jennings takes up his position in the bell tower while Keogh hides beside a nearby well. When De La Plata and his men arrive, a shootout ensues, killing numerous of De La Plata's men. Although wounded, De La Plata is able to escape. A little later, a beaten Nacho arrives to inform Van Horne that De La Plata has taken Chela and several others hostage to force Van Horne's surrender. When Van Horne begins packing to flee, Keogh wonders if he is a real priest and insists that he not let down the recently blessed villagers. Van Horne explains that upon finishing seminary, he quickly discovered that the church did not want their representatives to aggravate wealthy supporters, and his increasing defiance eventually brought about his excommunication. Keogh demands Van Horne remain a priest, but the men's argument is interrupted by the arrival of Jurado with Pablito, a little boy who has grown attached to Van Horne while assisting him during the all-night service. Vowing that De La Plata will kill one hostage each hour until Van Horne surrenders, Jurado shoots Pablito and promises Chela will be next. After praying over Pablito's body, Van Horne goes to De La Plata's ranch carrying a pistol in his hollowed-out bible and a knife in the base of a crucifix. At the ranch, De La Plata lets all the hostages but Chela depart, then fools Van Horne into thinking that he has killed him, after which he orders the priest, wounded by Jurado, tied to a large stone crucifix in the middle of the courtyard. Meanwhile, Keogh and Jennings attach a long tree trunk to the Jaguar to turn it into a battering ram. When Chela does not return with the villagers, Keogh rushes to the ranch and Jennings reluctantly joins him. While the distraught Señora De La Plata prays near Van Horne, Keogh and several Aymara men, including Nacho, sneak onto the ranch and free Chela as Jennings and the villagers break down the ranch gates. A fierce gun battle develops during which Keogh is wounded, and Jennings blows himself and Jurado up with a hand grenade. De La Plata chases Keogh into the chapel to kill him, but is stunned when his mother shoots him. Staggering into the courtyard, De La Plata collapses at the base of Van Horne's stone cross that the priest then topples over onto him. After Keogh, Chela and Nacho free the bleeding Van Horne, the priest marvels at his fortune as the bells of Mojada ring out in celebration of their new freedom.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||PG||Premiere Info:||not available|
|Release Date:||1972||Production Date:||
A film by Ralph Nelson
|Color/B&W:||Color (Metrocolor)||Distributions Co:||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Rainbow Productions, Inc., Cineman Films, Ltd.|
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