El Condor (1970)

Written by John Chard on April 15, 2014

The Condor.

El Condor is directed by John Guillermin and written by Larry Cohen and Steve Carabatsos. It stars Jim Brown, Lee Van Cleef, Patrick O'Neal, Marianna Hill and Iron Eyes Cody. Music is by Maurice Jarre and cinematography by Henri Persin.

Luke (Brown), an escaped chain-gang fugitive, and Jaroo (Cleef), a gold prospector, decide to join forces in an assault on a Mexican fort that is thought to house the gold reserves of Emperor Maximilian. Backed by a band of Apache Indians, the mission is on, but the fort is heavily armed and General Chavez (O'Neal) is a shrewd and ruthless leader of the Mexican defenders.

Ebert didn't like it, it's most divisive amongst genre aficionados, while the charge of it being a mindless action film carries some substance, but oh what raucous - riotous - rambunctious fun it is!

It would be folly to argue about the acting being great here, it simply isn't, with both Cleef and Brown getting by on charisma, screen presence and light airy by-play. Yet Guillerman and producer Andre De Toth knew how to make an action film, and how to make the action impact with as much force as possible. The spectacle on show here is quite something, from the Technicolor photography that brings Andalusia vividly to life, to the magnificent adobe fort - and to the incredibly large cast members indulging in brutal and bloody battles, El Condor knows exactly what it needs to do to entertain the viewers.

There's also the sizzle factor, brought about by some nude scenes that ensured the picture would get the highest classification upon its original release. Yet regardless of these scenes being tame by today's standards, they surely are not in the film for gratification sake anyway, there's a simmering sexuality in the movie from the off. What with its wrought machismo and breaking down of racial boundaries, it makes up for what it lacks in subtlety with high temperature atmospherics. Anyway, in spite of what you might have heard about Hill's "full monty" scene, it is beautifully erotic and it's no stretch to believe that she could, in that moment in time, stop an army in its tracks! Attagirl.

Maurice Jarre has a grand old time scoring the picture, blending stirring boom time with japery laced tinkles, it's a most appropriate musical accompaniment. So with that comes the observation that El Condor is not successful in making any deep meaningful observations on either the human condition or politico posturing. What it does do is have a bloody good time, with its bloody brutal action sequences, a body count via gun-play that would fill out a war movie and the sexually charged atmosphere, El Condor is mindless but pure unadulterated entertainment. So Amen to that! 8/10