Money, Greed and Revolution
The first thing which strikes you about "The Treasure of Pancho Villa" is the impressive colouring and sharpness of image, in those early scenes it doesn't look like a movie over 50 years old but one made more recent. The other thing which strikes you is during a bank robbery there is a "Coca-Cola" sign on a building, whether that is authentic or not it certainly grabs your attention considering this is a movie set in Mexico in 1915. Unfortunately those are the only things which end up being striking because whilst we have an interesting story about greed and some nice performances "The Treasure of Pancho Villa" is such a plodding movie that it becomes laborious and that is a big shame.
We enter the movie with Juan Castro (Gilbert Roland - The Bad and the Beautiful) and Tom Bryan (Rory Calhoun - How to Marry a Millionaire) pinned down in the middle of nowhere, Tom's Lewis machine gun resting on a shelter made from sacks full of gold coins. And then typically what follows is how we get to this point and we are taken back to a bank robbery where we learn that Tom is a man and machine gun for hire who often partners up with Castro who is fighting for deposed dictator Pancho Villa. Tom has had enough of the dirty life and is planning to go straight but with Castro doing another robbery, this time of a train Tom agrees to help. At the same time we meet the soldiers who will be helping lead by Pablo (Joseph Calleia) and also American woman Ruth (Shelley Winters) who wants to fight for Villa like Castro. What this all builds up to is a successful train robbery, mainly down to the fact Tom mows down people with the machine gun and then we have Castro, Tom, Ruth, Pablo and his men hitting the trail with sacks of gold to where they are to meet Villa.
Now the actual storyline in itself isn't bad and in truth leads to a movie all about greed and what people will do for money. As such we have the loyal Castro who only cares about getting all the gold to Pancho Villa whilst we also have Pablo who is only looking for a chance to take the money for himself. Then there is Tom who is split because whilst he is loyal to Castro the thought of all that money is a huge temptation.
Unfortunately whilst we have this tale of greed what we get in "The Treasure of Pancho Villa" is a plodding movie which does nothing quickly. Action goes on longer than is needed and the trek through the mountains whilst littered with drama also feels drawn out making it laborious. Throw in the less than surprising romantic aspect as Tom and Ruth get close but she can't stand his mercenary for hire life and rather than really revealing aspects of greed it just skims the surface.
It is a shame especially as both Rory Calhoun as Tom and Gilbert Roland as Juan Castro both deliver surprisingly good performances. Both seem to really get into character with Gilbert being thoroughly convincing as a loyal soldier of Pancho Villa who trusts no one and will die for the cause.
What this all boils down to is that "The Treasure of Pancho Villa" is an entertaining little western which visually looks good and has some surprisingly good performances. But because it's not only drawn out but only skims the surface of the greed storyline it ends up sadly laborious.