A vital antecedent to Sergio Leone's comically cynical spaghetti Westerns, Vera Cruz (1954) dispenses with black-and-white distinctions between good and bad and ratchets up the humor, becoming a comic yet violent epic of American bad behavior during the Mexican Revolution. Though Gary Cooper sports the lighter hat than grinning co-star Burt Lancaster, both pursue the highest paycheck and a cache of gold with an amusingly amoral fervor that stands in striking contrast to their more noble Western incarnations in High Noon (1952) and Apache (1954), respectively. Cooper's anti-imperialist conscience and Southern manners provide the few glimmers of ethics, as well as several laughs at the snobbish Mexicans' expense. While Lancaster's charisma and wit make him into an inordinately appealing outlaw, director Robert Aldrich's harshly staged battles finally reveal the cost of such systemic greed. Boasting gloriously composed, location-shot widescreen vistas as well as megastars Cooper and Lancaster, Vera Cruz overcame critical distaste for its gleeful venality to become a blockbuster hit.