Synopsis by Michael Betzold
This misunderstood film is a satirical western, written, directed, and produced by Ralph Nelson, which he adapted from the book by James Graham (a pseudonym for Jack Higgins) In a restless Central American nation in the 1920s, Van Horne (Robert Mitchum), a defrocked American priest, hides a gun in his Bible and a knife in his crucifix. He rescues Emmet Keogh (Ken Hutchinson), who is being held by a group of rapacious bandits who are angry that Keogh has taken a mute native girl, Chela (Paula Pritchett), away from them. Keogh, an Irishman, and his friend Jennings (Victor Buono), a British rum-runner, are captured along with Van Horne by Colonel Santilla (John Colicos), a revolutionary leader. The colonel offers to set the three men free and send them safely to the U.S. -- if they agree to kill Tomas De La Plata (Frank Langella), the crazed local strongman. De La Plata was driven mad by Santilla's followers, who murdered his father, raped his mother, and tormented his sister into suicide. Van Horne dons his priestly garb and reopens the church in De La Plata's village, thereby setting up the trap to lure in the madman.
religion, anger, arrest, assassination, bad-guy-turns-good, bootlegging, capture, church, citizen, con/scam, crucifix, damsel-in-distress, engineering, faith, fate, fortress, freedom, God, government, governor, impersonation, imprisonment, Ireland, knife, leader, maniac, mother, mute, Native-American, outlaw [Western], priest, profit, rape, rebel, rescue, revolution, shoot-out, sister, smuggling, struggle, threat, tribe, undercover, village, warning, whiskey, life, man, play [recreation], will [document]