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February 01, 2008

The Burt Reynolds Blog-a-thon: 100 Rifles

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Tom Gries - 1969
20th Century-Fox Region 1 DVD

Blog-a-thon host, Larry Aydlette, had a poll regarding the favorite actress to star opposite Burt Reynolds. As good as these leading ladies may be, none of them have the pure sex appeal of Soledad Miranda. It is those few minutes of Burt and Soledad that provide the high point of 100 Rifles. Even the presence of Raquel Welch is less charged than that of the woman whose character is named "girl in the hotel". In her only English language film, Miranda was probably seen by more people than in any other film before, or after. 100 Rifles was released the year before Miranda became the muse for Jesus Franco, a productive period that ended prematurely with Miranda's death in an auto accident in August 1970.

But this blog-a-thon is dedicated to Burt Reynolds, after all. 100 Rifles is notable for being the third billed Reynold's first appearance in a film produced by a major studio. Prior to this film, Reynolds was primarily known for almost a decades worth of television appearances, notably a supporting role in "Gunsmoke", as well as his short-lived detective series, "Hawk". Reynold's previous film role was starring in Sergio Corbucci's Navajo Joe as the title character, two years earlier. Now Reynolds was back playing another part Indian character, Yaqui Joe.

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Yaqui Joe describes himself as the son of a Yaqui Indian mother and a father from Alabama. Reynolds plays him for most of the film as the good ol' boy he would perfect in such films as Gator, White Lightning and Smokey and the Bandit. This is classic Burt, with the infectious laugh and the self-effacing humor. 100 Rifles may be considered significant in providing the origin of one of Reynolds' more enduring relationships, with stunt man Hal Needham, who eventually directed Reynolds almost ten years later in some of their best (Hooper and worst Cannonball Run II) films as a team.

Yaqui Joe is wanted for robbing a bank in Arizona. The money was used to buy the 100 rifles on behalf of rebelling Yaqui Indians. Joe is being chased in Mexico by a part-time sheriff named Lyedecker, played by Jim Brown. The Indians are being oppressed by an evil Mexican general portrayed by Fernando Lamas. The audience is set up to hate Lamas and his army because in the first scene of 100 Rifles, they hang Raquel Welch's father. In case anyone misses the point on how evil Lamas is, his German military advisor suggests genocide for dealing with the Indians, giving the audience a proto-Nazi to hiss at as well. Lamas steals the cache of rifles. Reynolds, Brown and Welch steal them back. There is also some back and forth business with railroad magnate Dan O'Herlihy who is willing to do business with almost everyone.

Considering some of the talent involved, it's a wonder that 100 Rifles wasn't a better movie. Having no familiarity with the source novel by Robert MacLeod, I can only observe that the character of Yaqui Joe and the concern about Indians rights thematically fits with the other works of co-screenwriter Clair Huffaker. Co-writer and director, Tom Gries had previously made that critically acclaimed, but little seen Will Penny the previous year. Huffaker also wrote Rio Conchos, the film that served as Jim Brown's film debut. It should be noted that the DVD release is a PG version of a film originally rated R. As I haven't seen the film in over thirty years, I can not say exactly what all the alterations are, although there is some obvious doodling with inaudible or muffled dialogue. One can see Reynolds lips move while uttering a bon mot after a priest is killed. 100 Rifles will never be considered a classic, but Fox's tampering of the film is questionable, disallowing this curio to speak for itself.

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Posted by peter at February 1, 2008 12:18 AM

Comments

Peter, I had completely forgotten about her, because I never cared much for the movie. But you're right: She makes an impression!

Posted by: larry aydlette at February 1, 2008 08:39 AM

What a nice writeup about Soledad! I run SoledadMiranda.com, I encourage everyone to stop by.

Posted by: Amy at February 2, 2008 05:25 PM

what great a sexy woman ever be with grace and respect than the one and opnly,mrs. soledad miranda. she's my best choice on every film mostly women directors love to have her star in. it's very strange when i saw her on vamppyros lesbos on ifc last summer on my then brandly new,digital cable i was amazed how she swing her body in a great seductive dancing at every libson club she knows how. none of her creative prifessional dancing aren't slutty. you cant even let poor,sorry halle berry ever play a lesbian vampire,although, it's against my religion to portray one also,and i operate my own record company and written songs for gospel local talent. but when i missed the real erotoeuro culture of the early 70's and late 60's; it's hard to find a better director and actress would ever have REAL film creativity. not like franco and miranda-there's not another like them anymore.but i want the best ability to create films over in pathe color or eastman kodak,the offical clorfilm for indian movies. vive viviar senora soledad, your son is still living and i really like to see him what he looks like now? bye,now.

Posted by: nicoledenise at December 2, 2008 05:17 PM

thanks for showing the body of a great goddess of real artistry. when i saw soledad on the creature from askava, i love the moorish-sitar struning music that takes me to a different journey, as i only saw her on 100 rifles,she has a marvelous body and a great specail sense of humor not even diand ross wont have. i assume young actors and actress to learn from the great master of REAL aspects of filmmaking,corutesy,and style and class. mrs. soledad has many more than just beauty but senesual class. yes, she was a ballerina and flameco dancer as a child. where are many eight or six years olds ever study in the united states?....not in a long,long time. and i love her films and her flimsy spanish accent. may her legendary carrear will pAss TO ANY YOUNG GIRL OUIT THERE! Black, WHite,hispanic(like soledad, cameron diaz, penelope cruz)poor, middle class. she is the star we must follow.

Posted by: nicoledenise at December 2, 2008 05:26 PM

After doing the movie Smokey and the Bandit Burt was promised a new Trans Am frmo Pontiac They did,nt deliver one but Burt should have gotten one

Posted by: thomasmichael at July 29, 2009 03:33 PM