Dragón rapide  (1986)




Director:     Jaime Camino.

Starring:     Juan Diego (General Franco), Manuel de Blas (General Mola), Saturno Cerra (General Kindelan), Eduardo MacGregor (General Fanjul), Ramón Durán (General Cabanelles), Carlos Lucena (General Batet), Alberto Fernández (General Orgaz), Jorge Bosso (Coronel Solans), Luis Lasala (General Romerales), José María Escuer (Coronel Sáez de Buruaga), Antonio Canal (Coronel de Estado Mayor), Conrado San Martín (Coronel Monóculo), Pedro Díez del Corral (Tte. Coronel Salgado Araujo), Francisco Casares (Tte. Coronel Martínez Fuset), Teófilo Calle (Tte. Coronel Galarza).

 two weeks before the start of the Spanish Civil War in 1936



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

A woman opens her office to a journalist named Paco and they have sex (very brief nudity; brief nudity). 

July 4, 1936.  Madrid, Spain.  The couple fell asleep on the living room  floor. In the morning, the man gets up and puts on his boxer shorts.  He overhears a conversation between two men and comes closer to the windowed door to listen.  They talk about airplanes, bombs and the Canary Islands.  They are going to send a plane to Las Palmas in the Canary island on July 11.  The two men are generals and are plotting the overthrow of the the government of the Spanish Republic, set for July 18.  The plane will pick-up Gen. Franco and transport him to Spanish Morocco.  Gen. Molina, one of the organizers of the plot, pretends to use Gen. Sanjurjo as the front man of the military junta. 

At a dance, a group of four men sit and talk outside. 

Biarritz, France.  Juan March speaks with Ignacio Luca de Tena

July 5.  London, England. 

Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands.   Franco is out playing golf and is trying to get out of a sand trap.  His wife, Carmen Polo, calls for him.  Franco had supported the Republican government, but this started to change once the generals told him about the coming coup.  He also makes sure that in case of failure he, his wife and daughter can go into exile in London. 

Madrid, Spain.  Men are watching a Jai-alai game.  The president of Spain seems to pay no attention to the news in the press about a possible coup d'etat.  He is more afraid of a worker revolution. 

July 6.  London.  An Englishman shows Luis Bolin the airplane known as DH 89 De Havilland Dragon Rapide.  Mr. Bolin tells the Englishman that he and some others are going on a hunting adventure in Morocco.  The Englishman wants to know what they are hunting?  Lions in the Atlas Mountains.  The Englishman says there are no lions in the Atlas Mountains.  Bolin replies:  "That's what you say."  The Englishman decides not to push the subject.  He says Bolin can have the plane for 2,000 English pounds.  This will cover the cost until July 31.  In addition, there is a deposit of 10,000 English pounds.

To report that the plane is ready, the password phrase is  "Galicia salutes France."

July 9.  Pamplona, Spain. 

Soldiers take down the flag of the Spanish Republic.

Barcelona, Spain.  Alone in a concert room a musical conductor checks over his notes. 

Madrid.  A woman paces back and forth across a room.  It's the woman we first met bringing the journalist up to her office. 

Two men are reading a letter to Juan dated July 5. 

A young man comes to the apartment and says hello to the woman.  Then the fellow goes into the back room to talk with the two men reading the letter.   One of the men is a general. 

Two men watch as a car pulls up to the building.  The young man comes out of the apartment building, turns right and starts walking down the sidewalk. 

Now the young woman comes out of the apartment building.  She gets into the back seat of the black car waiting for her. 

July 10.  Santa Cruz de Tenerife.  The next morning some soldiers are washing off some big lettering on the apartment building:  "Franco out!"  A black car stops and Franco gets out.  He goes into the building and to his office where he sits.  An aide has a message for him, but he says he can only make out two words:  Dragon rapide.

Franco sits down to a meal with his wife and daughter. 

July 11.  The Dragon Rapide is brought out of the hangar.   Two Spaniards watch from their car.  Two women and two men get into the airplane.  The pilot is Englishman Captain Bebb.  Also in the cockpit area is Kenneth, the mechanic.  On the side of the plane the sign says:  Olley Air Service Limited.  The plane takes off. 

Two generals talk with each other.  One general tells Gen. Mola that he is playing with fire. 

Barcelona. The orchestra plays their instruments. 

Llano Amarillo.  Morocco. The pilot says that they will land in Bordeaux to pick-up their friend. 

Franco and his wife are in the bedroom.  The wife asks him about the plane that will pick him up.  She complains that he doesn't tell her anything.  He does things but the consequences of his actions often fall on her. 

The plane is going to land at Oporto. 

July 12.  Llano Amarillo.  Morocco. The officers have a party going on. 

Franco asks one of his aides, what did Coronel Monóculo say? 

The soldiers are taking rifle practice down by the ocean.  Franco arrives.  He and the officer in charge of the soldiers talk while they ride their horses along the beach. 

The plane lands.  A sign on a building says this is the Casaelanca Airport.

Navarra.  A car blinks its headlights at an approaching car.  The people talk together.  Meanwhile a car filled with men with automatic weapons waits. 

Madrid.  Women are burning some papers.

July 13.  The police, the Guardia Civil, picks up a man.  His wife begs him not to go because the police are going to kill him. 

July 14.  A woman brings a general a message sewn inside her belt. 

At a burial, a speakers shouts out that they must save Spain!  Many in the crowd give the fascist salute.  The newspaperman takes shots of those at the burial. 

July 15.  The flight of the Dragon Rapide begins.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.  The plane finally lands in the Canary Islands. 

July 16.  A magician performs at a birthday party for Franco's daughter.  Franco gets a forged passport.

July 17.  Morocco.  The revolt begins one day before planned.  The Republican army general is threatened with death.  The Moroccan army takes over the military outpost. 

July 18.   Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.  A message about the take-over is sent to a Colonel.  He is told of the uprising.  Franco is told of the uprising.  He says:  "Cajones!"  (Balls!)

Franco is driven away in a limousine.  He is dressed in civilian clothes.  He is driven to his office where he changes into his military uniform.  He sticks a pistol in his pants. 

Franco meets with his staff to plan out events. 

At the newspaper office of the editor.  An announcement is to be read from Franco. 

The Minister of War calls Franco.  Franco's aide takes the call.  He says Franco is inspecting the troops.  The Minister wants to know what is going on there in Morocco?  The aide answers that nothing is going on here on the Islands.   

The Dragon Rapide revs up its engines.  Soldiers surround the airplane.  Gen. Franco reaches Las Palmas de Gran Canaria by boat.  He walks over to the plane and Captain Bebb welcomes him.  Just before Franco gets into the plane, he tells his officers that what is needed now is discipline and faith.  He goes into the plane.  In the plane Franco changes to civilian clothes. 

Paco the newspaper man who had sex at the start of the film investigates the office where he had his little tryst.  He sees the woman in the office and rushes over to her.  He slaps her face.  She spits in his face.  He shouts the question:  Who am I?  She kisses him on the lips.  He pushes her away.  A blond man comes in and shoots the newspaper man in the chest.

Casablanca.  Morocco.  The Dragon Rapide lands.  Franco is the third man to get off the plane.  Bolin is there to greet him. 

At a hotel in Casablanca, Franco takes a bath.  Bolin stays with him in the apartment.  Later Franco shaves off his mustache. 

Barcelona.  The orchestra and the choir are ready for a dress rehearsal.  Mr. Cassals, the conductor, calls for quiet.  He says that what he has to tell them is somewhat unfortunate and sad.  A large part of the Spanish army has revolted against the government, against the Republic.  Tomorrow's concert is canceled.  As a sort of goodbye, he wants the orchestra to play and sing the song of Beethoven dedicated to fraternity.

July 19.  Tetuan.  Morocco.  The Dragon Rapide lands on a large plain of grass.

And so begins the Spanish Civil War that lasted around three years.  The whole country ended in ruins and with a million dead. 


Interesting look at the machinations of the plot to overthrow the Spanish Republic.  Franco remains fairly calm throughout the last two weeks of the plotting.  His wife, however, gets angry about not being informed about what's going on.  Franco is presented as a father very much attached to his daughter.  The plot is partly held together by the planning of the purchase of, and the comings and goings of the plane known as the Dragon rapide.  This is an unusual approach to the portrayal of the military plot.  The above summary is a rough one of what happened.   The film is only in Spanish (no English options) and I had a hard time understanding the Spanish of Spain.  This is more of an ensemble film, because even the role of Franco was rather small in the film.  More time was spend on following the Dragon rapide.  The film doesn't really deal with the grievances that drove the Spanish military to revolt.  It just jumps in on an on-going plot to overthrow the Spanish Republic.  One thing for sure.  This film is different from all the other films about the Spanish Civil War that I have watched.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



Historical Background:





February 16  --   the left wins the national elections by a narrow margin.  The days after the election were marked by near-chaotic circumstances.  The right claimed that left was pushing for a Communist dictatorship and so it was the duty of the right to oppose the left by any means necessary.

February 23  -- Franco is sent to the distant Canary Islands to serve as the islands' military commander.  There he has a few troops under his command.

Emilio Mola leads a conspiracy against the government. 

June  --  The conspirators contact Franco.  A secret meeting is held in Tenerife's La Esperanza Forest to discuss a military coup.

until July  --  publicly Franco has an ambiguous attitude to the coup. 

June 23  --  Franco offers to quell the discontent in the army.  No answer. 

José Sanjurjo is the honorary leader of the plan for the military uprising.

July 11  --  a privately owned DH 89 De Havilland Dragon Rapide, flown by two British MI6 agents, is chartered in England July to take Franco to Africa.

July 17  --  the uprising occurs one day early.  The African Army rebels, detaining their commanders.  The assassination of the right-wing opposition leader José Calvo Sotelo by government police troops, possibly acting on their own in retaliation for the murder of José Castillo, precipitated the uprising.

July 18  --  Mola tells Franco that  he has to choose a side. So he chooses to go with the rebels.  He becomes the commander of the Army of Africa.  Franco publishes a manifesto and leaves for Africa.

July 19  --  Franco arrives in Africa to take command.  This leads to to the summary execution of some 200 senior officers loyal to the Republic (one of them his own cousin).  Hitler gives a small air force to Franco and with it he starts transporting his 30,000 troops onto the Iberian Peninsula. 

July 20  -- designated leader of the uprising, Gen. José Sanjurjo dies in an airplane crash. For the fascists, "political life ceased."

Military command is divided into regional commands:

Emilio Mola in the North;

Gonzalo Queipo de Llano in Seville commanding Andalusia;

Franco with an independent command;

Miguel Cabanellas in Zaragoza commanding Aragon;

General Juan Yagüe commands one of the two columns of the Spanish Army of Morocco;

Colonel José Varela commands one of the two columns of the Spanish Army of Morocco.

July 24   --  establishment of a coordinating junta based at Burgos and nominally led by Cabanellas, as the most senior general.

early August  --  Franco is added to the coordinating junta.

by July 26  --  the right-wing Nationalists now control a third of Spain. But the Republicans control most navy units.  So the coup fails.  The Spanish Civil War begins.

August 11  --  Nationalists take Mérida.

August 15  --  Nationalists take Badajoz.  With the two recent victories the fascists could join together both nationalist-controlled areas.

September 21  --  the junta picks Franco as commander-in-chief and head of government. This pick was influenced by Hitler's decision that all of Germany's aid would go to Franco.  In addition, Franco's previous aloofness from politics meant that he had few active enemies in any of the factions that needed to be placated and he had the approval of both Hitler and Mussolini.

Mola considered Franco as unfit and not part of the initial rebel group. But Mola is discredited as he was the main planner of the attempted coup that had degenerated into a civil war and was strongly identified with the Carlists monarchists and not at all with the Falange, a party with Fascist leanings and connections ("phalanx", a far-right Spanish political party founded by José Antonio Primo de Rivera).

Franco orders a detour to free the besieged garrison at the Alcázar of Toledo.

September 27  --  the siege of Toledo is lifted. 

October 1  -- in Burgos, Franco was publicly proclaimed as Generalísimo of the National army and Jefe del Estado (Head of State).



June 2  --  Mola dies in an airplane accident that many believed was an assassination.  No military leaders who organized the conspiracy against the Republic between 1933 and 1935 are now around. 




Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)