100 Rifles (1969)

And so, after a detour or two, I finally found the famous Raquel Welch shower scene that I’ve eagerly been wanting to see for a little while now. Was it worth the wait? Well, let’s just say good things come to those who wait. I won’t lie to you, as I was watching Raquel washing herself while wearing nothing but that completely drenched. almost see-through shirt as part of a ploy to lure the Mexican army into a trap, the only thing on my two brain cell filled mind was capable of doing was lament over the fact that the world missed out on Raquel doing the scene topless, which is how the director originally had wanted to shoot the scene until Welch, understandably, refused to do it and the current compromise that we see here, which in my opinion still captured the sensual titillation, was formed.

But enough of juvenile monkeying around, let’s get down to business. What we have here is a minor piece of cinema history, believe or not. Even though 100 Rifles as a movie isn’t particularly great, it does have one reason why it is still widely remembered by people more versed to Hollywood history: it happens to be one of the very first Hollywood movies to depict interracial coitus between a black man and a white woman. Scandalous, I know. As mild as it looks to us now, nearly fifty years later, back in the day this was hot, sizzling stuff. This was, after all, not that long after the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute incident had gained plenty of notoriety and racial tensions in America were on the rise.

One of the biggest surprises that I had while watching this movie was to see Burt Reynolds play such a secondary role in the movie. He is of course the one whose presence starts the story in the story by being the bank robber that Jim Brown’s character is tracking in Mexico to arrest and bring back to the United States, but after both Brown and Reynolds get captured by the Mexican army and then join the fight between the native rebels and the Mexican government, Burt is almost entirely demoted to being a supporting character while Brown takes the center stage, claiming most of the focus, wooing Welch and kinda accidentally becoming the leader of the entire rebellion movement. Due to having grown up with movies like the Cannonball Run and Boogie Nights, to me Reynolds automatically seemed like the obvious bigger star than Brown, but as it turns out, I had it completely backwards. 100 Rifles was still relatively early in Burt’s career as he had not yet done Deliverance, the movie that skyrocketed his career, whereas Brown had already done couple of smash hit movies at this point, namely the Dirty Dozen and Ice Station Zebra, speak nothing of his illustrious NFL career that he had before becoming a movie star

But what is the movie itself like? Well, like I’ve already mentioned, the movie isn’t that great, and the story isn’t particularly compelling. It’s horribly generic as far as westerns go and it’s probably the weakest of the three Raquel Welch westerns. It does however have few moments that make it entirely watchable, such as the aforementioned, and much hyped about shower scene featuring Ms. Raquel Welch. There’s also the character that Reynolds plays in the movie, Yaqui Joe Herrera. I just really love the ridiculous notion that Reynolds is meant to be half-native, half-white, because he frankly looks and sounds nothing of the kind. Apparently Burt himself had decided to play the character as if his daddy was from Alabama and that’s why he’s such an odd sight, dressing up really flamboyantly but sounding entirely like an average southern boy, and standing out like a sore thumb any time he’s shown mingling amongst his native rebel brothers. The action is also pretty good. The climax  of the movie featuring the native rebels mounting an attack against the Mexican army  in an urban setting is actually rather exciting to watch. It manages to capture the scale and rough feel of an armed combat in the final days of the Old West quite well. Raquel even gets to do some nice little action scenes during the battle when she’s leading her fellow Indians to victory. She apparently did most of her own stunts in the movie, which is pretty cool little tidbit.

Considering that you can easily find the much talked about shower scene on Youtube, 100 Rifles does not offer much in terms of content that would make it a must-see movie. It is still an interesting middle chapter in Welch’s western trilogy, if only for the fact that she isn’t portrayed as a victim in the story, outside of having to witness father being executed. But even that ends with Raquel speeding up the agonizing process, showing the necessary hardness and strength you not that often see in woman characters in most westerns.


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