"Disneyland" The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca (1958)
Director: Christian Nyby.
Starring: Robert Loggia (Elfego Baca), Lynn Bari (Mrs. Simmons), Jay C. Flippen, Annette Funicello (Chiquita), Patric Knowles.
a Mexican-American becomes a hero law officer in Socorro, New Mexico and later becomes a lawyer
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
Episode 1. The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca.
Frisco, New Mexico. A guy is shooting up the town with his pistol. Elfego Baca asks why the justice of the peace doesn't stop this. The store owner, Zangana Martinez, and the justice both say if they intervene, the man will just come back with his men and shoot up the town even worse. A buddy sees Mack being arrested and he goes and tells everybody in the outfit. Five guys show-up to take Mack with them. Elfego Baca won't let them. He gives them to the count of three to clear out. One. Two. Three. Baca pulls his two pistols and starts firing. One guy falls face first into the ground, while the four others hightail it out of there. Baca forces the justice of the peace to hear the case.
A crowd waits outside the make-shift hearing. Other men arrives and the cowboys say someone killed their foreman and wounded another fellow. A fellow comes outside from the hearing and says the verdict was drunk and disorderly conduct, $5 dollars fine. The men outside all laugh. But they still want to get Elfego Baca. Baca has to retreat for his own safety because he is facing a mob. He climbs to the top of an adobe building. The men keep chasing him until he takes shelter in a small adobe house.
Three men got to the front door to get in, but it is locked. One of the men starts to knock the door down and Elfego shoots through the door, wounding the man. The other men open up with all their fire power. Elfego shoots back and hits a man in the forehead. The mob keeps shooting but they still haven't got the man. So they decide to come at Elfego from the four different sides of the house. Elfego, however, had made portals through each of the walls and he shoots two men down on one side, three men down on another, one man on still another side.
The mob decides now to wait until dark. One of the guy has gone for dynamite. Two other men lights brushes on fire and throw them onto the house. Elfego shoots down both men as they run back from the house. The roof won't burn because it's covered with sod. The guy arrives with the dynamite. He lights and throws it into the house. He's a hero to the mob when he returns. Now all the men come walking up to the house. Elfego open up on them, but only grazes one man on his left cheek.
Now the mob sends in the justice of the peace to get Elfego to surrender. The justice speaks to Elfego, while one of the men tries to sneak up behind a stove door. Elfego hits the door and the buy runs back to the mob. Baca is staying put.
The deputy sheriff and Baca's friend Martinez arrive. They send in the friend to speak with Elfego. Elfego tells his friend that he will only come out if the others go away. The friend goes back and tells the cowboys. The cowboys pretend they are leaving but are just around the corners. When the sheriff, the friend and Elfego starts walking out, they step out from their hiding places and confront the three men. Elfego will only go if the three of them can ride in the buggy and men ride in front of them as an escort to the next town.
The trial begins. Elfego killed four, one man died from his horse falling on him and wounded 13. The prosecutor puts Elfego on the stand. And, yes, he knew Billy the Kid, but only when they were both boys. The defense lawyers tells the jury that Elfego Baca held off 80 men of a lynch mob for 33 hours. By actual count it was determined that 4,000 bullets were fired at the house. The jury is all white. They return with a verdict: not guilty.
Elfego returns to meet with the owner of the now very damaged house. She is living with relatives in a nice home. Her name is Anita Chavez. Elfego gives her some money and says this is partial payment for the start of a new house for her. He also tells her he wants to study law to be able to help the Mexican-Americans in New Mexico. Martinez comes over to Elfego to tell him that the guy who led the mob, Dice Smith, is planning retribution on him.
Elfego arrives and asks for the man who wants to kill him. Dice, however, is hiding in a back room. Elfego gets on his horse to ride out. Dice comes out and fires a shot at Elfego, who in turn shoots and wound Dice. Elfego show his big belt buckle where the bullet hit but did not go through.
Elfego now has a place in Socorro where he is busy studying law. His relative Arturo Baca comes to see him and tell him about the men who were shooting up his store in Plata Villa. Elfego goes over to the store and serves as bartender. The miners, with dirty faces, are busy drinking. An Irishman comes up to Baca and starts talking to him. One of the Hispanic miners recognizes Baca and tells everyone that this is the man that stood off the lynch mob. Now all the miners rush up to the bar to speak with Baca. The guys have another round and pay for the drinks. Baca says they gave him too much, but the men tell him that's the price of the drinks in this store, the only one they can get to. Elfego says that's not right. He invites the men back with their wives at 9 a.m. with a promise of a special sale.
The next morning Arturo comes out to examine his store. A woman comes up to him thanking him so much for his generosity. Everything today is free! Arturo can't believe it and rushes into his place. He tells Elfego that he is ruining him. Elfego says Arturo has made a lot of money off these people and he can afford to be generous at least for one day.
Somebody is shooting from the second floor of the Grand Central Hotel. He kills a man on the street below. Elefego is almost hit by a bullet. He gets off his horse to see what's going on. He sees the sheriff on the other side of the street and runs across the street to him. The sheriff says the man is Lee Bartlett. The man knifed the hotel clerk and shot the sheriff dead. Elfego tells the sheriff to swear him in and then it will be all legal. He is sworn in and Elfego starts running so eventually he can across over to the Grand Central Hotel. He gets into the hotel and goes up to the second floor. Bartlett tries to shoot Elfego through the door but doesn't hit him. Elfego shoots the lock and pushes the door open. The two men get into a struggle and Elfego wins.
Elfego Baca runs for and is elected to be the sheriff of Socorro. Carter Wingate from Santa Fe comes from the governor's office because they heard there was trouble at the Socorro jail. He asks Elfego how many men are there in the jail and Elfego says thee are none. He chased them all out. Wingate is shocked at this news.
Baca is supposed to pick up a number of hardened criminals. He decides first to right each of them a letter telling them to turn themselves in. If they don't, the sheriff will consider them to be resisting arrest and will feel free to shoot them on sight.
Elfego is going to pay a visit to Anita Chavez.
Episode 2. Four Down and Five Lives to Go.
Three men come into town and the town residents move out of their way. The three bust into the sheriff's office. They, however, have not come to cause trouble but to turn themselves in. The leaders is Squeaky and the two other are the Baker boys. They have had others to turn themselves in. But one of the guys, a prospector named Grubstake Charlie, writes back saying if the sheriff wants him, he can come and get him. Elfego comes up and captures the fellow. He lets him go when he promises not to shoot anyone unless they are shooting at him. He agrees.
Carter Wingate show up again. They are looking for a robber/murderer. They say he is headed for Frisco, New Mexico. His name is Sin Verquenza (without shame). He has seven notches on his pistol.
Elfego arrives in Frisco. He goes over to the festival where everyone is dancing. He sees Anita dancing with a white fellow named Jim Spears. Elfego asks for the next dance. The two dance together. Elfego tells Anita to dance with the odd looking man if he asks. He thinks the man has a pistol in his shoulder holster and he wants Anita to find out. He does have a pistol with him. Elfego stops the dance by asking the band to play a different tune. This makes the man angry and soon Elfego and he are fighting. Elfego wins, but then learns that this is not the man. (His gun has no notches at all.) Elfego apologizes to the man.
Elfego hears that a robber has stole a horse and forced a woman to ride with him. He goes after him. He meets various people who have had bad run-ins with the man. Some white men say he was headed for the mountains where the Indians are. Elfego goes into the mountains. He suddenly is surrounded by Indians. He asks to be taken to their leader and they do so. Elfego is told that the man he describes has already passed through their lands. The braves then show Elfego the path that he took and the sheriff heads after his man.
Elfego finds a campfire that is still warm, so he knows he's close. He finds another campfire along with a horse. Elfego starts to sneak up on the camp, when a man gets the drop on him. It turns out the fellow is just a soldier with the cavalry. He talks to Elfego until he is who he says he is, the sheriff of Socorro County, New Mexico. The soldiers tells the sheriff that the man he is after is gone now. The border is just a mile away from where they are now. Elfego says he will cross the border and go after his man. He tells the soldier not to worry, for he will only arrest the man when he has gotten him back across the border.
Elfego rides into the town of Las Animas. He see the huge horse that the eyewitnesses said Sin Verquenza has been riding. The stable boy says the man who owns the horse is in the cantina. Soon after Elfego comes into the cantina, one of the guys leaves. Elfego follows him. But he gets on a different horse. A white guy comes out and says the buckskin is his horse. He bought him just now in the cantina. The fellow was in a hurry and took off. Elfego sees the man riding away. He follows him. When the guy spots a man following him he takes off at a full gallop. He even shoots his pistol at Elfego.
He gets off his horse to bushwhack Elfego. The two men shoot it out amidst the rocks. Elfego grabs a rattlesnake and throws it at Sin Verquenza. The guy panics and Elfego captures his man. They are riding back to the border when the Federales (federal troops) come their way. Elfego says they are going to beat the Federales to the border. They cross the river into the United States. A member of the Safety Committee (vigilantes) says they may be coming for Sin Verquenza. Elfego warns him not to, because he won't let a prisoner of his be taken from him. Meanwhile, a killer in the cell with Sin Verquenza tells him that they can overpower the guard and escape. He has some men ready to help him.
Elfego confronts a mob of his own people. He talks the men out of trying to take the prisoner by force and they leave. The white man knocks on the jailor, gets the keys and lets himself and Sin Verquenza out. The white guy also shoots the deputy sheriff. Elfego hears the shot and goes to check it out. Meanwhile, the white escapee runs to his friends who have a horse waiting for him. Sin Verquenza will have to steal himself a horse. They find the deputy sheriff and the jailor dead.
An unsanctioned posse takes off after the escapees. Sin Verquenza gets behind the sheriff and shoots at him, but somehow misses. The murderer finds a hiding place and stays quiet. A town resident volunteers to help the sheriff. He goes one way and the sheriff the other. When the citizen runs past him, Sin Verquenza runs to his horse. At the same time Elfego comes back, both men shoot at each other and both are hit. Sin Verquenza tries to get on the horse, but dies in the process. Elfego is still alive.
The Safety Committee fellow comes to see Elfego. He says they chased the white escapee into a valley. He was just about to shoot at the escapee, when someone shot the prisoner right in the forehead. Elfego says that it was undoubtedly Grubstake Charlie. Elfego is really cheered up when Anita comes to visit him in his bed. But his heart is crushed when she tells him that she has fallen in love with Jim Spears. He agrees to see Jim and congratulates him. He pretends to his friend Martinez that he is not upset by the loss of Anita.
Baca resigns his position as sheriff. He gets on the stage to go to take his bar exam. He tells his well-wishers after he passes the bar, he will come back and open a little law office.
Episode 3. Attorney at Law.
Four bank robbers descend on the town. They shoot at people to get them off the streets. Elfego is coming in on a buggy and has to get off the buggy quickly to evade being shot. But Elfego then jumps into action. He jumps into a store that carries pistols and ammunition. He grabs a pistol, loads it, fires at a fleeing bandit, which kills the man.
A posse is formed and they go after a man named Fernando Bernal. He is at his farm. The posse approaches him and Deputy Sheriff Joe Monroe says one of the witnesses identified him as one of the bank robbers. The man refuses to go in with the deputy sheriff. Elfego arrives and convinces Bernal to hand his rifle over to him. He does so. The posse now find a buckskin horse that was reported stolen and a weather coat that is the same type worn by the bank robbers. Bernal explains that someone stole his pinto horse and left this one.
The man's two daughters have to stay behind. Elfego tells Fernando that he will watch out for them. The younger daughter says she saw the thief come and steal their horse. He gives them a rifle and ammunition and tells them to bolt the door at night. Elfego tells them he will be back tomorrow after he finds a new, temporary home for them.
Elfego's law partner isn't keen on taking the Bernal case, but Baca certainly is. He convinces his partner to let him take the case.
Elfego knocks down a drunk named Red Daniels who is shooting wildly and disarms him at the same time. When the guy gets up Joe Monroe gets behind him and knocks him out by hitting him on the back of his head with his pistol. Elfego learns that Red just got back a buckskin horse that he reported as stolen.
Elfego rides out to see the Bernal sisters. Mr. Siimmons is trying to take the girls into his home, because Mrs. Simmons feels bad about testifying against their father. But the girls want to go with Elfego instead. They go to see Mr. Bernal in jail. In the next cell is Red Daniels. The younger Bernal girl, Chiquita, thinks she recognizes Red Daniels as the man who stole their pinto horse. (The way she looked at Red on her way out of the jail, makes him think that she may have recognized him.) Elfego asks Mr. Bernal if he knows Red Daniels? Bernal says he knows very little of the man.
When Elfego comes out the younger girl tells him she recognized Red as the man who stole their pinto. Elfego tells her to tell no one for now. He takes the girls to see his partner, Mr. Newman. Elfego wants Newman to take the girls into his home. Newman gets angry and he says no way. But the girls start working on him and they are soon staying with him. The girls try to help out, but make a mess of many things.
Elfego comes in for a visit. He tells his partner that if they could get Red Daniels to talk, they could get the names of the other bank robbers. The girls scream and Elfego runs upstairs where they tell him they saw a man looking through their window. Elfego checks but doesn't see anyone, but when he hears another noise he heads out after a man. He fights with the man and is winning, but an accomplice knocks Elfego out and the two get away.
Elfego finds one of the men's hat and is sure he knows the owner. They go into the saloon to find Red Daniels who is, as usual, making a nuisance of himself. Elfego goes over and drops the hat onto the table. It belongs to Red. The deputy sheriff arrives and take Red to jail. He takes him outside and a few seconds later a shot is heard. Monroe has shot Red. And Mr. Simmons supports Monroe's story of resisting arrest.. Newman says he saw the cowboy draw first.
Elfego tells Newman that he wants him to play checkers with the sheriff. And he will give the sheriff some information about Mrs. Simmons. Elfego goes to see Bernal and tells him about what happened. Red is dead, but he thinks he knows the identity of the other man with Red tonight.
Newman plays checkers with the sheriff. He tells the deputy sheriff that their firm is going to defend Bernal. And he says Baca interviewed Mrs. Simmons and she doesn't seem so sure of the identity as before. This makes Munroe really mad and he says the lawyers will do anything to get their client off. Newman says that Munroe wants to hang Bernal and he knows why? Munroe leaves. The sheriff asks Newman to tell him what's going on.
Munroe goes to pay a visit on the Simmons. He comments that Red and Mr. Simmons went snooping around Newman's place last night. He then tells them that he is leaving town with all the bank money. Mrs. Simmons say she will see to it that Munroe goes to prison. Munroe goes over to her and slaps her and she screams. This tips off Elfego and comes running with his two pistols at his side. Munroe gets away on the buggy. Elfego goes after him.
Going too fast around a curve the wagon spills over and out goes Munroe. Elfego checks him out. The guy plays dead. When Elfego turns his back on him Munroe tries to kill him, but Elfego turns and fires first, killing Munroe.
Mr. Bernal is freed and goes home with his daughters.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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