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The Treasure of Pancho Villa

The Treasure of Pancho Villa

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The Treasure of Pancho Villa  Mexico, 1915. US bank robber Tom Bryan hopes to retire to Mexico, where the ever popular ex-revolutionary dictator, Pancho Villa, has been deposed and driven to his home province by another tyrant. Colonel Castro’s band of loyal Villa-supporters hope to get him back in power so rob a gold train. Aboard is Bryan, who was secretly paid to help. Delivering the gold to Pancho by Yaqui country proves harder, as the Indians help with the federales (government troops) in pursuit. More dangers lurk.

Western noir

The Treasure of Pancho Villa  In 1955 or perhaps ’56 I was taken to the cinema by my Mother to see “The Treasure of Pancho Villa”. Having not seen this movie again until today (my thanks to the Turner Classic Movie channel!) I really have to wonder about my Mother. As a ten year old I was impressed by the machine gun, by Rory Calhoun and cannot remember much else. Now, all these decades later, I am surprised, shocked even, to realize what a dark and thoughtful film this is, with a very high body count. It has more in common with the later “The Wild Bunch” than with the cheerful Roy Rogers, Cisco Kid, and Lone Ranger of my childhood. Calhoun is very good as the “gringo” mercenary and shows an unexpected complexity and range; Shelley Winters is fine as the borderline insane teacher; and the supporting cast of Latin actors is very good. But the standout is the heroic and monomaniacal character played by Gilbert Rowland. I almost expected a plot twist in which Juan Castro was really Pancho Villa! This did not happen, and the movie is all the better for avoiding that clichéd twist. Rowland is amazing, wearing the complex character like a well-cut trench coat. This turned out to be a much better motion picture than I had remembered. Well worth a look. And with firearms appropriate ot the period, always a pleasant surprise.

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