Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Time killed, too, in Mitchum film

Cleveland Press August 17, 1972

"The Wrath of God" is playing at local theaters. Adventure melodrama; adults, older teens. In the cast are Robert Mitehum, Victor Buono, Ken Hutchison, Frank Langella, Rita Hayworth, John Colicos, Paula Pritchett. Running time: 111 minutes.

Ralph Nelson directed "Lilies of the Field" -- very gentle, very sensitive.

Ralph Nelson also directed "Soldier Blue" -- very bloody, very heavy-handed. Nelson was trying to play Sam ("Wild Bunch") Peckinpah's game and lost.

In "The Wrath of God" Nelson is again imitating Peckinpah and doing it badly. Nelson's mayhem is neither meaningful nor well done. It is simply there, killing time as well as people.

THE SETTING is some unnamed South American country where mass executions go on in the midst of a festival. Star Robert Mitchum wears a cassock and a Roman collar and carries a Bible but he administers the word with a blast from a machine gun he totes in his bag.

Mitchum is a defrocked priest who finds himself involved with an overweight, gun-running Englishman (Victor Buono) and an over wrought Irishman (Ken Hutchison).

All three are about to face a firing squad when military leader John Colicos turns them loose on condition they wipe out this real nasty revolutionary leader played by Frank Langella.

THEY HEAD for Langella's town where the peasants as they always do in these movies -- LIVE IN FEAR. Yes, sir.

"Father, they kill priests here," one of the fearful peasants confides. Langella makes it even plainer ---out by sunup or sundown or something or Fr. Mitchum will be ready for the last rites.

"We are heavy with sin," a peasant tells the priest so Mitchum sets out to perform mass weddings for the unwed, mass baptisms for the unbaptized and listens to confessions all through the night. He also is setting a trap for Langella.

THIS IS ONE of those movies were everything could have come to an end very early and several times over. Those three fellows had a number of opportunities to knock off Langella but they let them pass in order to allow the movie to run longer. There didn't seem to be any other reason.

Nelson, who also wrote the script, isn't consistent in the kind of movie he has made. Are these three devil-may-care soldiers of fortune types? Is the movie about total evil? Nearly everybody in the film is pretty bad. Is he saying that God works in strange ways? So do movie directors.

THE PICTURE is marred by both grossness and padding. The humor ranges from course (the sign of the cross ending with a vulgar gesture) to corny puns - "My father in heaven can beat your father in heaven' and "He leadeth me beside distilled waters."

Nearly everybody overacts except Mitchum who plays as though he were unaware of the director or anybody else. Langella wears what must be a permanent look of petulance. Only Hutchison seems to know what it is all about.