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The Wrath of God

Thou shalt not screw with Robert Mitchum.

Rod Lott September 26th, 2012

What a kick it is to see Robert Mitchum biting into a stogie and laying waste to a room with a machine gun. Because, really, how often does a man of the cloth do that? No wonder the 1972 quasi-Western is titled The Wrath of God. The film takes place in a South American town so brutal and dismal that, as one character reasons, "If God had wanted to give the world an enema, he'd've stuck the nozzle in here."


As Father Van Horne, Mitchum is part of a small group of non-natives "recruited" by the local military to kill the ruthless leader Thomas De La Plata (Frank Langella, Unknown) in order to end the senseless killing he orders. For doing so, Father and friends (including burly Victor Buono from TV's Man from Atlantis) are promised freedom and equal shares of $53,000. They don't have much choice, but they agree.

Directed by Ralph Nelson (Charly), Wrath suffers no shortage of action. Bullets fly, blood bursts, a mine collapses and, in her final role, Rita Hayworth vamps. Even in that twilight of her career, she still had it. (For further proof, check out 1968's The Cats, a groovy Italio-crime effort that, like Wrath, is available on MOD DVD from Warner Archive.)

But what really sells it is (duh) bad-boy icon Mitchum. Being tough is one thing — he throws a crucifix like a ninja star! — but being tough and sarcastic is another, and his Van Horne possesses an exquisite sense of humor. To his group's Planet of the Apes-style mute beaut, he says, "Don't you say a word," after crashing their car in a chase. Later, "The Lord taught us to turn the other cheek," he cracks as he maneuvers his hindquarters toward his enemy. Man, how the movies miss him. —Rod Lott

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