Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Two Mules for Sister Sara" and the unexpected appearance of a heart of gold

Title: Two Mules for Sister Sara
Released: 1970
Genre: Western with a woman
Notable for: Clint gets hot for Shirley MacLaine
Coolest thing Clint does: Orders woman to light afire an arrow stuck in his shoulder and run it through to cauterize the wound

Pairing Clint Eastwood with Shirley MacLaine in an "African Queen" with saddles is an idea that should never have worked. First off, MacLaine had a reputation as a headstrong and temperamental actress, the sort with whom Clint supposedly hates to work. On screen and off, they do not seem a likely couple.

That's the magic of movies. Sometimes things work that shouldn't. This film combines action, humor and lust (romance is not quite the right word) in a way tailor-made for Clint.

"Two Mules for Sister Sara" takes Clint's Western tough-guy character, complete with cigars, and experiments by giving him something close to a heart of gold.

Clint grunts, squints and kills dozens of people on the range, as usual. He is, as usual, motivated by money, this time as a mercenary in Mexico looking to profit from freedom-fighters resisting French occupation. As usual, he has a mysterious past. The only thing revealed about his background is Clint fought in the U.S. Civil War and considered himself a sucker for it. His life's goal is to set up a big gambling saloon in San Francisco.

So much usual stuff provides a nice comfort level to Clint's usual fans, like us. We don't know much about Mexico's fight against the French, but we can tell good guys from bad.

The story starts with Clint, a lone rider on the Mexican range, encountering three scumbags preparing to rape MacLaine. Clint kills the scumbags, then discovers MacLaine is a nun. It ruins his plans for the night.

MacLaine joins up with Clint because they share a mutual interest in toppling a French garrison. MacLaine is sympathetic to the Mexican cause and Clint is working with the Mexicans to capture a safe from the French.

"If they pay me off in tortillas, I am going to shoot them right in the eye," Clint says, explaining the depth of his commitment to Mexican freedom.

Action and adventures follow in rapid-fire style as Clint and Shirley travel toward the garrison. The nun is surprisingly handy to have around on the range. They pull a dead man from his grave, cut off the head of a rattlesnake, are attacked by Indians, blow up a railroad bridge and eventually have a huge battle at the French garrison.

MacLaine talks like a nun but obviously is not what she seems. She sneaks off to smoke cigars, shows fondness for booze, and says "ass" and "god dammit."

It's sort of a buddy movie with rising horniness. Between action scenes, Clint asks MacLaine about her sexual desires, which she claims to suppress with prayer. Shirley asks him if he wants a woman and children, and he claims he does not. Along the way he admits he would like to give her a good poking except she is a nun.

Conveniently for Clint's sexual desires, MacLaine turns out to be a whore disguised as a nun. Isn't it great when that happens?

After he secures the French safe, Clint jumps MacLaine in a bathtub. In the final scene, they ride off together, presumably headed for San Francisco.

The factor that separates "Two Mules for Sister Sara" from all previous Eastwood Westerns is Clint's tough character is undeniably a good guy. It works.

A real man can have a heart of gold, and even be won over by a woman, as long as he is not a wimp about it.

Next up: "The Beguiled."


  1. Nice piece: again, more or less exactly the same as my view on this somewhat under-rated movie. But I will try to stop all this senseless agreeing with you - it must be getting nauseating.

  2. I agree - this film is not one of Clint's highest regarded westerns but I bloody enjoy this one. Course he's the man with no name again but then he does it so weill