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Savage Pampas
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Savage Pampas

Samuel Bronston's production company had been all but financially ruined by the failure of his 1964 Sophia Loren/Alec Guinness epic The Fall of the Roman Empire. To turn around the fortunes of the company, he partnered with two South American entrepreneurs to produce Savage Pampas (1967), a remake of a 1946 Argentinean epic, Pampas bárbara, which was based on the novel of the same name by Homero Manzi and Ulises Petit De Murat. For his star, Bronston hired Robert Taylor, who had begun his film career more than thirty years before at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, become a star, and was in the twilight of his career by this point. Savage Pampas was filmed on location in Spain with a very unusual premise. In 1800's Argentina, a bandit is able to pay off the soldiers who try to take him prisoner by giving each of them a woman he has captured. As deserters decimate the ranks of the army, Captain Martin (Taylor) is persuaded by his superiors of the need to 'fight fire with fire': the men need female companionship at the fort to boost morale. Prostitutes are released from prison and make the long and dangerous journey to the fort, escorted by soldiers ordered not to touch them until they reach their destination. Their appearance has the desired effect, with deserters returning to their post and ready to capture the bandit.

Lawrence J. Quirk wrote that director Hugo Fregonese (who also adapted the screenplay), "tried to inject as much excitement and action as possible. While the result was not superior filmmaking by any means, the film is not without its moments of tension and high drama. Fregonese also strove for depth and dimension in the characterizations. Taylor is far from the standard action hero in this; he is unshaven, rumpled, and treats his women with sexual directness. Yet his character is redeemed by a realistic compassion for the plight of some of his men, and the role as written and played does not depart essentially from the Taylor image of his later years – the rough, direct man of action whose instincts are right and who proves a stout fighter when fighting is called for."

The soundtrack for the film was composed by Waldo de los Ríos, who would go on to create unique and evocative music for such cult films as The House That Screamed (1969) and Would You Kill a Child? (1976). According to the liner notes of the Savage Pampas CD released by the Singular label, the film "gave Waldo de los Ríos the chance to research and experiment with the origins of the "música criolla" and the folklore of Argentina, composing a great symphonic score with choral pieces and a special percussion section with strange instruments created by himself. The score had 63 tracks, but they had a poor sound, and were partly shortened. Fortunately, the composer prepared a brilliant album with 6 suites from the original recording, 47 minutes of music released on Hispavox only in Spain and Argentina."

Savage Pampas could not have been seen by Taylor as anything more than a paycheck and a trip to Spain. It was neither a big budget film nor a release by a major studio, and it was one of his final films. Always a heavy smoker, Taylor was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1968 and passed away a year later.

Producer: Jaime Prades; Samuel Bronston (uncredited)
Director: Hugo Fregonese
Screenplay: Hugo Fregonese, John Melson; Homero Manzi, Ulises Petit de Murat (novel)
Cinematography: Manuel Berenguer
Music: Waldo de los Rios
Film Editing: Juan Serra
Cast: Robert Taylor (Captain Martin), Ron Randell (Padron), Marc Lawrence (Sargent Barril), Ty Hardin (Miguel Carreras), Rosenda Monteros (Rucu), Del Pozo (Lt. Del Rio), Felicia Roc (Camila Ometio), Charles Fawcett (El Gato - Private), Henry Avila (Petizo), Jose Jaspe (Luis - Private), Julio Pena (Chicha - Private), Laya Raki (Mimi), Laura Granados (Carmen), Ingrid Ohlenschlager (The Old Woman), Jose Nieto (Gen. Chavez), Willie Ellie (Chief Winkon).

by Lorraine LoBianco

Erickson, Hal The All Movie Guide
Quirk, Lawrence J. The Films of Robert Taylor



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