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Two escaped convicts (Robert Shaw and Malcolm McDowell) are on the run in an unnamed Latin American country. But everywhere they go, they are followed and hounded by a menacing black helicopter.
At dawn one morning, two fugitives with bound hands, MacConnachie, a middle-aged man and Ansell, a younger man, flee across a beach. In the distance, a helicopter carrying a pilot and armed co-pilot search for the men, who hasten to the cover of nearby foothills. Climbing a rocky area with some difficulty, the men spot an old man tending a herd of goats. Mac demands that Ansell help him attack the goatherd, but Ansell refuses and listens with horror as Mac brutally kills the man. Disgusted to discover the goatherd has no weapon of any sort to cut the binding ropes, Mac lashes out angrily at Ansell, blaming him in part for the senseless murder. As the men climb higher into the steep terrain to evade the droning helicopter, Mac demands to know why Ansell fled with him if he did not realize the difficulties before them. Reaching the hilltop, the men gaze down upon an open section of farmland, which Mac declares they cannot safely cross without exposing themselves. With no other option, however, Mac and Ansell proceed across the expanse and soon the helicopter has spotted the pair. The men split up, but the helicopter follows Mac, flying dangerously low and close, nearly knocking him down. Ansell finds refuge in some low, dense shrubbery and Mac eventually joins him, cursing the helicopter pilot. As darkness falls and the helicopter disappears into the sunset, Mac and Ansell walk toward the sound of a church bell in the distance. Arriving at the outskirts of a small village, the men wander cautiously through the streets where down a narrow alley, Mac spots an unlocked door. Peering through a small window by the door, Mac sees a dead man on a table next to a pair of lit candles, his belongings nearby. Mac and Ansell hurry into the room, and Mac retrieves a switchblade from the man's possesions. After the men's hands are freed, they notice a woman sitting silently in the dark keeping vigil over the body. While the woman remains silent, the men hurry about, collecting clothes, a gun, ammunition and tins of food. As they are preparing to leave, Mac spots a loaf of bread near the man, but when he steps forward to take it, the woman begins screaming. The men bolt from the room and into the nearby church as the screams rouse the villagers. Ansell chides Mac for upsetting the woman just for the bread, which the men then share before creeping out of the village. Mac suggests they split up as he no longer has need of Ansell, and offers him half of the food. When an offended Ansell walks away, however, Mac follows. The next morning, Mac and Ansell use the switchblade to shave and wash in a creek. Fingering the rifle, Mac observes that any armed person can start a war, then agrees they can continue together if Ansell obeys orders. Later, however, Mac grows impatient with Ansell's slowness and orders him away, but the younger man pleads to stay with him, confessing that he would be lonely without companionship. As the duo head off for a distant mountain range that Mac believes marks the country's border, they talk about themselves. Mac reveals he is married and grows vaguely annoyed when Ansell describes a cavalier life of romancing numerous women. As the sun rises in the sky, the men hear the helicopter in the distance and as it nears, Ansell proposes that he serve as a decoy to lure the chopper into an open area where Mac can then shoot out the gas tank. Mac agrees and when the chopper swoops upon them, Ansell runs out from the shelter of a boulder. Mac fires at the helicopter, but to Ansell's shock, rather than shoot the gas tank he shoots the co-pilot, who tumbles from the helicopter. Stunned to realize the men are now armed, the pilot ascends several hundred feet, moving the chopper to safety. Mac celebrates by pilfering the body, taking cigarettes, a wristwatch and bullets. Presenting Ansell with the man's machine gun, Mac declares that shooting the gas tank was too dangerous as the helicopter might have crashed on Ansell. After smoking cigarettes, the men drink some tinned milk. Continuing on toward the mountain range, Ansell wonders if border patrols might stop them. When Ansell is abruptly overcome by an attack of diarrhea from the tinned milk, Mac laughs until he, too, is affected. As the men squat in the brush, they are stunned to see several soldiers fanned out in the distance, searching for them. After recovering, Mac and Ansell hurry into the underbrush where they come within a few feet of the soldiers, but remain unseen. As the pair crawl into an area of towering crops, the soldiers continue searching. Spotting the fugitives, the soldiers fire, drawing the helicopter, which drops smoke bombs near where Mac and Ansell have hidden. Small fires begin around them, panicking the farmhands in the field. Mac shoots several soldiers before the farmhands turn on a large water valve to douse the flames. In the powerful rush of water streaming through the field, Mac and Ansell are able to escape. At dusk they come upon a group of buildings across a narrow river that Mac recognizes as the soldiers' base. Mac urges Ansell to attack a lone guard in the furnace building, after which the men then take his rifle, ammunition and a bottle of liquor. As they are sneaking away, however, an alarm sounds and after a wild shootout with startled soldiers, Mac and Ansell flee into the darkness. At dawn in pouring rain, Mac urges the weary Ansell onward as they reach the base of the mountain range and begin climbing. When Ansell collapses in exhaustion and fear, Mac assures him they are near the border. Resting in a cave, Mac begins drinking and rambles nostalgically to Ansell about his wife. The following morning the rain stops and the men resume their trek up the mountain. Seeing the soldiers and helicopter in the distance, Mac and Ansell climb all day, finally reaching a dense snow bank. Near the peak the men stop in amazement to see a border checkpoint building. As Ansell hurries forward excitedly, Mac resumes talking about his wife. Curious soldiers come from the building and when Ansell crosses the border markers, he throws down his gun to assure them of his intentions. As Mac approaches the crest, however, he hears the rumble of the helicopter and, stunned, turns to see it rising up the cliff toward them. To Ansell's horror, Mac runs back across the borderline and, shouting wildly at the helicopter, begins shooting at it. The helicopter makes several passes at Mac, then opens fire at him. As Mac lies dying in the snow, the helicopter flies off and Ansell sadly turns and walks to the checkpoint alone.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||GP||Premiere Info:||World premiere at San Sebastian Film Festival, Spain: 14 Jul 1970|
|Release Date:||1971||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Color (Technicolor)||Distributions Co:||National General Pictures Corporation|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Cinecrest Film Ltd., Cinema Center Films|
|Duration(mins):||95, 109, 111 or 118||Country:||Great Britain, Spain, and United States|
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