Thursday, October 4, 2012

As Dry As Its Desert Locations: "Madron" (1970)

Richard Boone is the title character in this weak entry in the cowboys and nuns/missionaries genre that includes "Two Mules for Sister Sara" and "Rooster Cogburn."

Leslie Caron is Sister Mary, who survives an Apache massacre. She buries her dead friends, and continues on her journey through the desert to Santa Fe. The viewer is then assaulted by a dinky love ballad that has absolutely no purpose in this film other than to get nominated for an Oscar.

Madron (Richard Boone) comes along and agrees to help Sister Mary to Santa Fe, for no reason. They are shadowed by both a gang of outlaws and the same Apache warriors. In the spirit of most modern westerns, the outlaws threaten to rape Sister Mary but Madron kills them all except Angel (Gabi Amrani) who is taken along for the ride so he won't tell everyone about the nun and the tough gunfighter. Angel leaves the duo to outsmart the Apache, who watch Madron pretend to kill Mary, bury her, then fight it out with their leader, Sam Red (Haim Banai).

Also keeping with modern Hollywood's skewed version of life, the nun and Madron fall in love. Remember, all priests and nuns are either a target for ridicule, molest children, battling Satan, or need a good roll in the hay to loosen them up. Mary is ashamed at her, uh, denunning, and Madron finds religion too. He confesses that Angel might still be alive, and he sends Mary away so he can rescue Angel. Angel is conveniently being crucified by the Apaches, and the final gun battle between Madron and Sam Red begins.

This western was shot in Israel, and poor Leslie Caron looks appropriately exhausted in her full nun's habit. She and Boone, two opposite actors if there ever was, have a nice chemistry together. Boone is always good in these types of roles, his last role in "The Bushido Blade" was embarrassingly bad, but a scoundrel gunfighter is right up his alley. His motivation for wandering in the desert and discovering Sister Mary is not known, and any quasi-spiritualism attempted by the film makers is badly done.

Jerry Hopper's direction is awful, his camera seems to run as the actors are rehearsing where they are supposed to stand for the real takes. Nonsensical scenes are tossed in only to cover mistakes in editing, and there are several. Watch when Madron draws on Angel, his pistol jumps from his left to his right hand, then back again. The scant plot summary is necessary because the plot is scant. Not much happens, mostly Sister Mary and Madron ride around in the desert and argue cute.

"Madron" came out in 1970, which marks the beginning of the end of the mainstream Hollywood western. "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" was successful, and Clint Eastwood worked for the genre through "Unforgiven", but when junk like this comes out, is it any wonder the western has been relegated to cable television premieres?

"Madron" is a vast disappointment. If you absolutely must rent this to complete your Leslie Caron fixation, you may have greater problems than a lousy western. (* *) out of five stars.