something big


1h 47m 1971

Brief Synopsis

Joe Baker has a dream. He wants to do 'something big.' When he needs a Gatling gun to accomplish this, he seeks out a black marketeer. The price he wants for the gun? A woman! So Baker kidnaps a woman off of the stagecoach, only to find that she is the wife of the commandant of the local Cavalry detachment. Things get further complicated when a girl named Dover McBride shows up. She has come to force Baker to marry her and return east, as he promised to do four years earlier.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Nov 1971
Premiere Information
Las Vegas, NV opening: 11 Nov 1971
Production Company
Cinema Center Films; Penbar Productions, Inc.; Stanmore Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
National General Pictures Corporation
Country
Mexico and United States
Location
Durango, Mexico

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 47m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Synopsis

In the 1870s, Fort Dry Well's commander, Colonel Donald Morgan, is scheduled to retire after thirty years in the Cavalry. To ensure that he does not change his mind, Morgan's wife Mary Anna is taking a stagecoach from the East to meet him. When Morgan hears vague rumors that Joe Baker, an amiable renegade with big dreams, is planning "something big," Morgan sends his scout, Jesse Bookbinder, to find out exactly what Joe is up to. Also privy to rumors about Joe's plans is outlaw Johnny Cobb, who is wanted dead or alive in both the U.S. and Mexico, and therefore exiled far from civilization. Cobb and his partner, Angel Moon, approach Joe and offer to sell him a Gatling gun, but, having no use for money, Cobb insists that his price for obtaining the gun is a woman, a luxury rarely found in the Southwest wilderness. Despite having no idea where he can find a woman who will cooperate, Joe agrees to Cobb's offer. Among Joe's cohorts are Mexican Luis Muños, Scotsman Tommy MacBride and a one-legged cook, Joe Pickens. When the gang stops to drink at the Badwater saloon, the bartender gives Joe a letter from Joe's fiancée, Tommy's sister Dover, who has agreed to wait two years for him to make his fortune. Having determined that his time is up, Dover announces in the letter that she is traveling from Pennsylvania to fetch him. With little time left to accomplish his goal, Joe takes his men to the outskirts of a village known to be hiding an enormous cache of treasure stashed by bandits who have plundered all over Mexico. Joe's plan is to steal the treasure, which will make all of them rich and allow Joe to return East with a feeling of accomplishment. Joe reports that one hundred gunmen are said to be guarding the village, and although Joe's gang can see the corpses of men who were shot trying to steal the treasure, Joe believes that his gang can overcome the guards with a Gatling gun. As Joe and his gang confer about the situation, gunmen shoot at them, but they manage to escape. Meanwhile, in Morgan's honor, soldiers gather at the fort to offer their commander a toast. So loyal are they that a fight commences between two of Morgan's closest subordinates over who should present him with a gift of an Indian headdress, and the personal squabble progresses into a saloon-wide brawl. Still looking for a woman for Cobb, Joe has his men ambush a stagecoach and abduct a female passenger, who turns out to be Mary Anna. When Morgan learns of the kidnapping, he and Bookbinder lead a troop to search for her. Although Bookbinder says that Joe has never hurt a woman, Morgan cannot be comforted. At the hideout where he awaits Cobb's delivery of the Gatling gun, Joe explains his plan to Mary Anna, apologizing to her for not being a good man. However, she seems unperturbed, causing Joe to wonder about her calmness and why she spent thirty years living separate from Morgan in the East. Joe tries to explain to her how the raid on the village is his only chance to fulfill his dream of accomplishing "something big," but breaks off, believing that she could not possibly understand. Mary Anna says that she does understand, in the same way she understood why Morgan had to be in the cavalry all those years. Furthermore, she says she does not believe that Joe will trade her for the gun, because they both know she is worth more. Mary Anna's quiet confidence attracts Joe, but instead of taking advantage of her, he goes off alone to have a sexual tryst with man-hungry sisters Polly and Carrie Standall, who are mining Polly's deceased husband's claim. When Dover arrives at Fort Dry Wells and asks for Joe, she is not surprised when Sergeant Fitzsimmons tells her that Joe is wanted for stealing someone's wife. Despite his tryst with the Standall sisters, Joe is still attracted to Mary Anna and admits to Tommy that he is wrong to deliver her to Cobb. Tommy advises him to make a decision about Mary Anna's disposition before Cobb arrives. Meanwhile, Cobb and Angel meet with Malachi Morton, who had promised to procure the Gatling gun for a price. However, when Cobb presents the agreed-upon cash, Malachi gets greedy and insists that Cobb pay more. To solve their dilemma, Angel throws a knife at Malachi, killing him. In search of Joe, Morgan and Bookbinder separate from the rest of the troop and ask for information at Badwater's saloon, where the Mexicans resent Morgan's condescending behavior and refuse to help him. Morgan and Bookbinder continue their search until nightfall, when they reach Polly and Carrie's homestead and ask for permission to sleep in the barn. Unwilling to let an opportunity pass, the sisters hold them at gunpoint and insist that they bed down in the house with them. That night, as Joe's men drink and revel around the campfire, Joe assures Mary Anna that he will not hand her over to Cobb, and admits his interest in her. Not impervious to Joe's charms, Mary Anna answers a question he asked days earlier, saying that she was able to live alone for so long because one month out of every year, Morgan would come home and they would fall in love all over again. She waited all year to be with him, but admits it would not have been as romantic had she shared his life in the hot and dusty West. The next morning, Pickens delivers Joe the news that Dover has arrived at Dry Wells. When Joe and Tommy go to the fort to see Dover, she gives Joe a few days to decide to marry her or free her to marry another man she has lined up in Pittsburgh. Morgan and Bookbinder encounter Cobb and Angel on the road and, suspicious, insist on searching their wagon and find the Gatling gun, which Cobb claims was bought from a man going out of business. Knowing that it was stolen from the El Paso Federal Arsenal, Morgan gives them the choice of leaving without the gun or spending twenty or more years in prison. When they are reluctant to abandon the gun, Morgan guesses that they are looking for Joe. Cobb leads Morgan to Joe's hideout, and when Morgan slugs Joe, Mary Anna breaks up the fight. After Morgan declares he is confiscating the Gatling gun, Mary Anna reminds him that, as he has been officially retired for two days, he is no longer responsible to the Army and urges him to let Joe have it. Angel, unhappy with the turn of events, prepares to throw his knife, but is shot dead by Luis. Taking pity on Cobb, Morgan directs him to the Standall homestead, where, to his delight, Polly and Carrie eagerly force him inside. With Morgan's permission, Joe and his men depart with the gun. When Joe's gang and a group of friendly Indians approach the treasure-laden village, they find it mysteriously quiet. Meeting no resistance, they ride in and ask for the leader of the bandits, Emilio Estevez. Garbed as a priest, Estevez claims that his lawless days are over, then surreptitiously tries to pull out a weapon, which provokes a gunfight. Despite being outnumbered, Joe's men have the advantage of the Gatling gun, which convinces the survivors of the gunfight to flee, leaving the treasure for Joe and his men. Shortly after they divide the loot, Joe and Dover board a stagecoach heading east, which they share with the Morgans.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Nov 1971
Premiere Information
Las Vegas, NV opening: 11 Nov 1971
Production Company
Cinema Center Films; Penbar Productions, Inc.; Stanmore Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
National General Pictures Corporation
Country
Mexico and United States
Location
Durango, Mexico

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 47m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Quotes

Well, I'd say he looks healthier than the last time I saw him.
- Colonel Morgan
How can he look healthier when he's dead?
- Junior Frisbee
It must agree with him.
- Colonel Morgan
What about your friend there? Do you want to bury him?
- Colonel Morgan
No. Maybe something will come out of the hills tonight and drag him off.
- Jonny Cobb

Trivia

Notes

The print viewed was missing approximately ten minutes. The title of the film, as shown onscreen and in reviews and Hollywood Reporter production charts, appears without capitalization. Opening and closing cast credits are listed in the same order, except for Carol White, whose opening credit appears at the end of the list and reads: "and Carol White as Dover." Although his appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed, a March 1971 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Mexican track star Pedro Espinosa had been cast as an Apache runner. A modern source adds Joe Gray to the cast. As noted in a March 1971 Daily Variety article, the film was shot in Durango, Mexico. According to a March 1971 Daily Variety article, film processing for something big was done at Estudios Churubusco in Mexico City.
       Several reviews, among them New York Times, compared the film to those of John Ford with whom director Andrew V. McLaglen had worked as an assistant director. Although generally unfavorable, the New York magazine review noted that the intention of the story was to "spoof" the genre of Western films. A December 1971 Daily Variety news item reported that Justicia, an organization aimed at protecting the image of Chicanos in films and television, boycotted something big because a Mexican servant calls Dean Martin's character "Señor Baker," which organization spokesperson Ray Andrade stated was equivalent to a "black man calling a white man 'Massa Jim.'" The organization also took offense at the fact that the "main antagonists" in the story were Mexicans who were "shot down by one man at a machine gun."

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971