From 1954, VERA CRUZ was directed by Robert Altman and starred Gary Cooper as Ben Trane and Burt Lancaster as Joe Erin. Some of the actors with significant roles were Denise Darcel, Cesar Romero, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam, and a very young Charles Bronson(billed as Charles Buchinsky).
Set after the Civil War, a number of displaced Americans had went into Mexico where another war was going on: the fight against Emperor Maximillian.
Trane(Cooper) is riding alone when his horse comes up lame. Checking he finds a broken leg and leads the hopping animal to a nearby building where two horses are tied, one saddled. There he meets Joe Erin(Lancaster) who’s perfectly willing to sell him the unsaddled horse for one hundred in gold. a little steep, but a man walking…
As he’s riding away, a troop of Maximillian’s troops come charging up, Erin racing past him. Trane’s just trying to mind his own business until one starts shooting. “Why are they shooting at me?” he asks as the pair take off. “You are riding his horse!” Erin laughs. Lancaster’s character has the weirdest smile, showing a lot of teeth, which he employs often.
They elude the patrol, but Trane’s horse stumbles as they jump a gap and falls. He comes to to find Erin frisking his pockets, catching him by surprise. He takes Erin’s horse and gives him the admonition, “We hang horse thieves in the States.”
A hell of a way for a partnership to start right. But a partnership it becomes when they hook up again. With the rest of Erin’s men, they sell their services to Maximillain via the Marquis(Romero). Their first assignment is to accompany the Duchess(Darcel) to Vera Cruz where she is to catch a ship to Spain, “Wanting to see Spain one more time.” The Mrquis and a troop will be along and they are special guards to help safeguard the Duchess.
On the trip, Trane and Erin sniff out what’s really going on: six chest in the carriage with the Duchess, each holing half a million in gold set to be spirited out of the country for the Emperor. A plan is hatched with the Duchess, she’d already started early, to get the gold onto a different ship and a three way split. They would have to ditch the Marquis and his troop, not to mention Erin’s band before loading aboard the ship.
Of course, the Duchess has her own separate plan. No big deal. Both Trane and Erin also have their own plans. Not to mention the Marquis. And we mustn’t forget the Juaristas. Cross, double-cross, triple-cross, I’m not sure how you would characterize it.
I liked this one.