Unusual American-made, filmed-in-Spain melodrama that for intents and purposes can be considered a “Spaghetti Western”, bearing many notes common to that genre.
Pernell Roberts is a Marshal hunting a wanted Mexican man. Leslie Nielsen is a bounty hunter of sorts after the same man. Sue Lyon is the wanted man’s white girlfriend. These three disparate characters head out to the desert where the wanted man is hiding. After his capture, the four must make their way back to town, all the while battling the elements and each other.
The setup of the film reminded me of JAWS, with an initial setup followed by a long, protracted, isolated showdown. Not much happens after the first 20 or so minutes (the fugitive is captured rather quickly), so the drama of the pic comes out of the various tensions and shifting allegiances between the four people.
Pernell is solid as an honest-to-a-fault lawman. Despite a lack of charm, he is a good foundation to lay the picture on. Julian Mateos has the least to do here, but brings a Tomas Milian-style empathy to his bandit. I wish we had heard more from his character, rather than him being somewhat of a device to move the story along. As Myra the girlfriend, Sue Lyon is appropriately lovestruck, defiant, and impetuous, leaning toward shrill overacting at times.
By far the standout among the cast is the handsome, devilish Leslie Nielsen, whose Mr. Brown turns more and more creepy and craven as the story moves along. Early on, he is merely a callous and smug bounty killer; later in the show we are given reason to question his true allegiance.
I might have found a way to trim 10 minutes of desert walking out of this; at times the film does drag its feet. However, these instances are contrasted by sequences of intense drama as the cast fight over water, hidden weapons, saddlebags of cash, etc.
Not a hidden gem by any stretch but a solid C+, with special mention again of Nielsen’s fine performance.
Also of note is the title music performed in 1970s folksinger fashion by Janis Ian. A very unusual choice, adds to the unique character of the film.