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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA (1970)

This, the second of five pics shared by no-nonsense helmer Don Siegel and no-nonsense actor Clint Eastwood, should be better known. A very tall tale from Budd Boetticher, with a sharp, funny script from Albert Maltz, it spots Shirley MacLaine as a nun-on the-run in the middle of Revolutionary Mexico. She ‘meets-cute’ with Clint when he saves her from a trio of rapists, then gloms on to him for protection & retribution against the French Occupying forces hunting her down. He’s less interested in honor & nation-building than in a loot-filled strongbox he hopes to find at the finish line. The pic has the inappropriate grisly humor, sturdy narrative drive and clean, readable action you expect from Siegel, joined to stylish color lensing from the great b&w stylist Gabriel Figueroa and an exceptional score from Ennio Morricone. It all gives the film a plush feel & a lux finish Siegel rarely bothered with. But don’t worry, when the big fort attack comes, Siegel puts up a fugue of wartime destruction, a battle in counterpoint with every moving part showing.

READ ALL ABOUT IT/SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: MacLaine and Siegel made a tough match. But when he’d had enough and walked off the pic, she started making nice to get him back on set. Look for their ‘before-and-after’ moment about an hour into the film. The ‘tell’ is when she stops using mascara. Suddenly, Shirl pulls back a bit, relaxes, and turns in a much improved perf. Lots more in A SIEGEL FILM, Siegel’s no-nonsense working auto-bio.

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