Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Two mules for Sara, nun for Eastwood

Cleveland Press July 17, 1970

"Two Mules for Sister Sara" is an ordinary movie aping its betters and the strain shows. It shows in a one-joke situation that rapidly wears thin, in tension that doesn't hold up, in acting that is never up to snuff.

It has the surface look of something better -- a situation that might have been developed with wit and insight, photography that serves the story better than the script does, sweep and move through the countryside that keeps going even when the story stops.

Clint Eastwood is a fast shooting, dynamite throwing soldier of fortune who has strayed off the Texas range to hire himself out to the Mexican revolutionists against the French.

GALLOPING ALONG in search of a war he comes upon three desperadoes about to have their way with Shirely MacLaine. He efficiently kills them and when he turns around he finds that Miss MacLaine nearly in the buff on his arrival, has donned a nun's garb.

She's on the run from the French, says she, and she has information about the army headquarters that he has to attack. They're heading in different directions but predictably she gets him to go her way and the two form a shaky alliance.

He's a rough, tough man but pays grudging respect to her profession. It isn't what it seems however and it is readily apparent to the audience if not to Eastwood that the veil is a temporary disguise and not a costume of habit.

IN SHORT, Miss MacLaine is a hooker. She plays pretty much the same role she did in "Sweet Charity" and "Irma La Douce" only with less range.

Maybe if Eastwood didn't squint so much or wear his hat pulled down so low he'd have known.

The basic situation is not new but it has been done better. There was "Heaven Knows Mr. Allison" (Robert Mitchum's marine and Deborah Kerr's nun) and "African Queen" (Humphrey Bogart's riverboat man and Katherine Hepburn's prim spinster).

THE BEST "Two Mules" can get out of it is an occasional leer. One big trouble is that Eastwood isn't the actor to carry it off and Miss MacLaine's range can only be guessed at from her other films.

What "Two Mules" does superbly well is to establish a climate of natural terror, particularly in opening shots that shift focus from mountain lion, snakes and tarantulas to the lonely rider who crosses the landscape. The geography is great even if the movie isn't.

THE PICTURE stays with the trend toward bloody violence -- a man's head split by a machete, another's arm whacked off in hand to hand fighting.

One long sequence is given over to Miss MacLaine's removal of an Indian arrow that has gone through Eastwood shoulder.

If you learn nothing else from this movie you will learn how to cauterize an arrow wound with gunpowder.