Villa Rides! (1968)




Director:    Buzz Kulik. 

Starring:     Yul Brynner (Pancho Villa),  Robert Mitchum (Lee Arnold),  Maria Grazia Buccella (Fina),  Charles Bronson (Rodolfo Fierro),  Herbert Lom (Gen. Victoriano Huerta),  Robert Viharo (Urbina), Frank Wolff (Ramirez),  Alexander Knox (President Francisco Madero),  Diana Lorys (Emilita),  Bob Carricart (Don Luis),  Fernando Rey (Fuentes),  Josť MarŪa Prada (Major),  Antonio Ruiz (Juan),  Jill Ireland (Girl in restaurant),  Regina de JuliŠn (Lupita). 

an American pilot becomes involved with Pancho Villa and the Mexican Revolution


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

American Lee Arnold flies his plane over the Mexican federal troops of Captain Francisco Ramirez. The Captain is chasing after Pancho Villa the general of the northern troops at the start of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920).   Lee is going to be working with the federales.

Lee sets his plane down near them on a piece of flat land. The plane develops a problem with one of its wheels.  He asks if some of the Captainís men might help him fix his wheel, but Ramirez says he has to return with these guns to Huerta as soon as possible. He tells Lee to get help from the people in the nearest town from here, Chubaderro. Ramirez also tells Lee not to tell the villagers why he is here because they are sympathetic to Pancho Villa. Ramirez gives Lee a donkey to ride to the town.

Lee is led into town by a horde of children. An old man walks in front telling everyone that Lee is a gringo from El Paso, Texas. The old man introduces Lee to the blacksmith Luis Gonzales. The blacksmith and many villagers walk back to the airplane. Mr. Gonzales tells Lee that nothing can be done until tomorrow.

Lee stays with the Gonzales family. The family has a beautiful daughter named Fina and a young boy. The blacksmith tells Lee that he just missed seeing Pancho Villa. He was in the village yesterday. Lee says he only knows that in the USA the man is known as a bandit. Luis says that Villa is fighting for the ideals of the Mexican Revolution, whereas the colorados are trying to destroy the revolution. He adds that the colorados are the cruelest men in Mexico.

The next day Lee, the blacksmith and his son work on the wheel. Later Nearby Fina washes the clothes down by the river. Lee walks down by the river and over to Fina, who he really has taken a liking to. He kneels down by her and they look at each other. Very soon Lee is kissing Fina. The blacksmith sees some of his clothing floating down the river and he tells his son to go get their clothes. The blacksmith fixes the wheel. Lee asks whatís the bill, but Luis says itís nothing because Lee is his friend. After dinner, Lee gives the donkey to the family.

Ramirez and his troops descend on the town. Luis shouts to everyone that the colorados are coming. The troops come to get Luis because they know he has helped Villa. Luis figures that they want to hang him. The people of the village are herded into the town square. The troops shoot through the door of the Gonzales family and break in. They grab Luis to take him to be hanged. A fight develops. Lee joins in by socking Ramirez to the floor. They grab Lee and take him with them. 

Ramirez then goes upstairs to check for the other family members. He tells the two women to go outside. Fina tries to scratch the eyes out of the Captain. So the Captain rapes her.

Ramirez is planning to hang seven men, including Gonzales.

Villa is told that the colorado captain is hanging everybody. Pancho just says: "Not yet."

From a roof top over the square Villista Rodolfo Fierro with an assistant opens fire with a machine gun on the federal troops. Ramirez continues kicking over the stools under the men to be hanged. Luis is hanged. Villa and his men come riding into the town square as the troops are leaving. The troops remaining in the square fight it out with Villa and his men. After a short fight the troops surrender.

In the fight Lee was knocked out. When he awakens he finds himself surrounded by the bodies of dead federal troops. He has to push one corpse off of him to get up. Now the tables are turned and the federal officers will be hanged.

Lee returns to the Gonzales house. He hears Fina crying and goes upstairs to see whatís the matter. The boy tells Lee that it was Captain Ramirez who raped his sister.

Villa talks with Lee. The guns are made by the Munitions Company of El Paso. Villa says he thinks somebody has been running guns to the federales. Villa's men pull and push the plane into the town square. Pancho has Lee put his hands up. He then grabs the money belt stuck in Leeís pants, strikes him with the belt and watches as Lee falls to the ground. He then tells Urbina to put Lee with the colorados.

Rodolfo Fierro tells the federal troops that he is going to shoot them. He has three or five men sent out at a time and he guns them down with his pistols. He has a man reload for him. Lee rushes Fierro, but he is not successful and falls on the ground. Fierro is going to shoot him, but Villa intervenes. Villa wants to know if Lee will fly for them. Lee is very enthusiastic and says immediately: "Iíll fly for you!" Villa agrees. Lee then says he wants Villa to let the rest of the troops go. Villa will only let one go. The guards grab one trooper and let him go.

Lee learns that Villa could have stopped the atrocities done by Ramirez in the town from the start. He is shocked and amazed. Urbina explains to him that the people didnít hate the federales enough to fight them, but now they do. Thatís the reason for the delay.

At night one of Villaís men grabs Fina. Fierro shoots the man. He then says to him: "Go outside and die! Where are your manners?" Villa comes in and Lee tells him off because of the deliberate delay. Lee says that Villa could have prevented the rape of Fina by Captain Ramirez if he hadnít delayed, so itís like Villa raped the young woman himself.  Villa has a funny response. He has a priest marry he and Fina and then immediately after the ceremony he leaves.

Lee goes with the Villistas to the plane. He tries to talk to Villa, but he is in a very bad mood. Urbina tells Lee that Villa got a telegram telling him not to attack Parral. General Fuertes is to attack Parral.

Villa tells Fierro to ride in the airplane with Lee. Fierro looks over the plane and refuses. Villa tells him if anything happens to the pilot, then Fierro can pilot the airplane. Fierro challenges Villa to fly the plane. Villa says he can do it and Fierro tells him to try it. Villa forces Lee to give him some instruction about flying and then he tries to fly the plane. He gets the plane into the air for a little while but doesnít have enough speed to take off. So he quits while heís ahead. The people run to Villa shouting his praises.

Now Fierro and Lee go up in the plane. Fierro keeps his eyes closed. Lee flies the plane upside down for awhile and then does some more tricks. Fierro threatens to shoot Lee if he doesnít stop it.

Down on the ground Fierro tells Villa about a train filled federal troops. Villa instructs Lee that he wants him to fly low over the train and drop some home made bombs on it. Lee says he will do it only if he gets paid. Villa tells him he will get 25 pesos for every soldier he kills.

The train stops before entering a tunnel. Four soldiers are told to go and check it out. Villistas kill the soldiers. Just before the train gets to the tunnel, they explode the tunnel forcing to train to stop. The plane flies low and Fierro drops lit dynamite and bombs on it. Then Villa and his men attack from the ground. They take the train.

Fierro starts shooting the captured troops. Villa says now he will attack Parral. Urbina says that Huerta told him not to. Villa will get around that. He sends a telegram to headquarters in Parral. "We are under heavy attack by Pancho Villa. Request permission to return at once. Signed Jose Ochoa, Major commanding."

Villa talks with Fierro and tells him to make friends with the pilot for the sake of what the airplane can do for them. Lee brings food to Fina, who is still suffering psychologically from the rape. He helps put the blankets over her when she tries to sleep.

The train comes in to Parral. Some of the men jump off the train, while other stick their weapons out from the train windows.

Gen. Victoriano Huerta says Pancho Villa took Parral without firing a shot.

A woman dances for Villa and the others. Pancho kisses her when Fina walks in. She leaves after his profession of love to the woman.. Pancho asks for a priest to marry them. Lee talks to Fina for awhile.

Huerta arrives and he tells Fierro that by order of President Madero, Villa is to turn over Parral to Huerta. Fierro says he doesnít know where Villa is and heís a hard man to find.

Villa opens the box car where Lee and Fina are making out. He doesnít say a word to Fina or about Fina. He tells Lee that he will be flying him to Mexico City to see Madero.

In Mexico City, Villa tells Madero not to make him turn over Parral to Huerta. Madero says that Pancho has just put him a difficult position. Huerta will think that now Madero and Villa are working together and he will have him (Madero) killed. General Huerta is head of the Republican Army, so what else can he do but give him Parral? Pancho doesnít like Huerta because he is just all for himself and heís not loyal to Madero. Villa thinks the President is too naive, but he promises to obey Huerta.

Huerta explains the plan of attack on the town of Conejos tomorrow. He tells Villa that he will have the honor of opening the attack. This is the last colorado stronghold in the north. He wants Villa to leave immediately. Pancho objects that in the daylight the enemy will see their dust and know they are coming. Huerta insists Pancho leave right away. What Huerta wants is for Villa and his men to be destroyed to the last man.

Pancho takes a look at Conejos. It doesnít look good. The enemy has a very fortified position on a hill. They are ready for Villa and have quite a few pieces of artillery. When Villa gives the order to attack the artillery opens up on them. Villa starts taking heavy casualties. His men then run into the problem of barbed wire. Villa has to order a retreat.  Fierro wants Lee to take him up, but Lee refuses to do it without any artillery support.

The colorados are lining up for a charge. Villa wants artillery support from his guns, but Huerta has told the artillery officer to wait for Villa to make a counter-attack. Villa says: "Huerta is waiting for me to be overrun." Instead of counter-attacking, Villa tells his men to prepare for a cavalry charge.

Lee passes over Villaís head. Villa looks at the plane and says Lee could not have helped them anyway. Lee, however, comes back and drops two bombs on the colorados. This causes a lot of confusion among the colorados and Villa orders a counter-attack.

Lee takes a number of hits from a machine gun. He flies low over the colorados again and they start retreating quickly. He crashes his plane at the riverís edge. The colorados have to smash through the barbed-wire in order to get away.

This time Villa gets to the other side of the river. They take the outer defensive positions of the colorados. Ramirez now has to order a defense along secondary positions.

Two riders throw dynamite that blows a big hole in the outer walls. The men rush through it. The colorado artillery is turned against the fort. A hole is blown through walls of the headquarters. Villa and Fierro rush in and kill the officers, including the General.

Ramirez is wounded, but he gets away. He lowers himself down into a well. Villa and Fierro look for him.   Fierro throws a bomb down into the well. It explodes killing Ramirez. Villa has now taken Conejos in addition to Parral. Lee gets to see Fina again.

Huerta is mad that Villa was not killed. Col. Fuentes speaks to Villa saying that Huerta wants to see Villa at his headquarters. Villa says he will finish his sweat bath first, forcing Fuentes to tell Villa that he is under arrest. Fierro sends a message to Madero that Huerta has just arrested Villa. Change Huertaís mind or I will. Respectfully, Major Fierro.

Fierro goes with Fina. He tells Lee they will all meet at Trubadero. Lee comes in to see Huerta and asks that he be compensated for the destruction of the plane. Huerta says thereís one problem. The plane never belonged to Lee in the first place. He says that Lee will be taken back to El Paso and be charged with grand theft. Oh, and Lee is under arrest. He is in the cell with Villa. Villa tells Lee that Madero will protect him, so Huerta canít shoot him tomorrow morning.

In the morning Villa is about to be shot. Villa says Huerta knows this is wrong. Madero sent word that he was not to be killed. Villa keeps stalling. At the last meeting, Huerta says to stop. Villa is to be transferred to Mexico City to testify at an inquiry for the hangings at Conejos. Huerta says that if Villa escapes, the responsible officers and men will be shot.

Being escorted to El Paso, Lee asks the soldiers if he could see his girl once more. They take him to Chubaderro. He goes to see Fina. He asks her where the money is hidden. She hesitates and he says that he will only take what they owe him. When she shows him the hiding place Lee takes all the money. This upsets Fina and she tells him to find some other girl. The soldiers tell Lee that they are going. Lee leaves.

El Paso. Dave, a friend of Leeís, tells Lee that in Mexico they killed Madero. Huerta had him killed and now Huerta is the president. Pancho Villa escaped from jail.

Lee eats dinner at a restaurant with a pretty woman, but one who blabs on about her clothes. Lee is thinking about Mexico, when Villa, Fierro and Urbina show up motioning to him to come over to them. Lee goes over to them and Villa tells him they want him to come back to Mexico with them. With the money Lee has been "keeping" for them, they will buy guns. Lee says he wouldnít give them a dime. He says the revolution is over, end of story.

Villa tells him they want their money. Fierro tells Villa to shoot Lee, but Villa says they donít do that anymore. They start to leave, but Lee asks what they are going to do. Villa says they will take Mexico City and then find a new Madero.

Villa and some of his men are riding on flat ground when they see an airplane coming at them. They give out a shout when they realize that itís Lee coming to help them.

Seven months later, Pancho Villa at the head of an army of 50,000 triumphantly entered Mexico City.


Good movie.  I enjoyed watching the movie.  I was always interested in what was going to happen next.  Robert Mitchum as Lee, Yul Bryner as Pancho Villa and Charles Bronson as Fierro were all good in the film.  Maria Grazia Buccella as Fina was very pretty.  The movie primarily deals with the fight of Villa and Madero against General Huerta, who later became a dictator. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

See Viva Villa! (1934).



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