Two Mules For Sister Sara—Clint Eastwood, Shirley MacLaine, Manuel Fabregas (1970; Dir: Don Siegel)
This one stars Clint Eastwood and Shirley MacLaine. It’s directed by Don Siegel, from a story by Budd Boetticher, with music by Ennio Morricone. All of that sounds great, right? Somehow this is less than the sum of its parts. Clint Eastwood has cited Don Siegel (director of Dirty Harry and The Shootist) as one of his two greatest directorial influences, along with Sergio Leone; he dedicated his last western, Unforgiven, to them.
This features Clint in his early 1970s leather hat period (albeit the hat appears to be basically of the same design as he wears in the Dollars trilogy and Pale Rider; leather would be hotter than felt, though). He is Hogan, a Civil War veteran and mercenary working for the Juaristas battling occupying French soldiers in northern Mexico in the 1860s. In the movie’s opening scenes, he rescues an unclad Shirley MacLaine from three very unsavory American bandidos.
When she dresses, he’s surprised to find she’s a nun—Sister Sara. She’s also working for the Juaristas, it turns out. Hogan has agreed to help Col. Beltran (Manuel Fabregas) take the French garrison in Chihuahua in exchange for half the treasury. Sister Sara knows the garrison well, having taught the French soldiers Spanish there before they discovered she was working for the Juaristas. Together they devise a plan for attacking the garrison with Juarista support, so Hogan can collect his treasury, Sara can help the Juaristas, and Col. Beltran can root out the French from his country.
On their way to Chihuahua, Hogan is shot with a Yaqui arrow and Sara has to help him blow up a railroad trestle with a train full of French troops going to reinforce Chihuahua. Arriving in Chihuahua, Sara leads them to a house with a tunnel going into the garrison—a house of ill repute, as matters develop. Sara is a resident of the place who has disguised herself as a nun to escape French retribution. They storm the garrison, Hogan gets his treasury, and in the end Hogan and Sara ride off together, this time with Sara in a more suitable bright scarlet.
It’s unclear what the two mules of the title refer to. The pairing of a profane adventurer with a woman of God echoes The African Queen. In fact, MacLaine was said to get along with neither Eastwood nor director Siegel. As with many films from the early 1970s, much of the blood looks like red paint. Watchable, but the script has some clunky dialogue and the story doesn’t hang together real well. Some have suggested it would work better if Sara stayed a nun. Story by Budd Boetticher, music by Ennio Morricone. In color, filmed in Mexico.