Tuesday 10 January 2023

Vera Cruz (film Review)

 Vera Cruz (film Review)

This is a western adventure story set in Mexico after the end of the American Civil War (cerca 1865), so a little earlier than I would usually game! Directed by Robert Aldrich released in 1954.

The stars of the movie are Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper, but they are supported by a fine cast - Jack Elam, Charles Bronson (under his real name Charles Buchinsky), Ernest Borgnine and Cesar Romero.

Elam, Borgnine & Buchinsky

The opening sees our hero Ben Trane an ex-Confederate officer (played by Cooper) heading south into Mexico seeking work as a mercenary. He falls in with a smiling cold-eyed gunfighter Joe Erin (played by Lancaster) who leads a group of wild, cutthroats also looking to find work (and coin) in the ongoing revolution. They are recruited by Marquis Henri de Labordere played with style by Cesar Romero for service with Emperor Maximilian to guard a caravan from Mexico City to the port of Vera Cruz. Part of caravan is a coach carrying the Countess Marie Duvarre, played with wit and guile by French actress Denise Darcel. Trane and Erin also meet the arrogant officer Capt. Danette (who I assume is a Prussian) who will command the lancers as part of the escort.

Cesar Romero

Countess Marie Duvarre & Capt. Danette
Joe Erin, Emporar Maximilian & Ben Trane 

The ride across Mexico is beautifully filmed, the caravan passes through the amazing ruins of Teotihuacan with its spectacular Pyramid of the Sun! 

Trane and Erin notice the coach is heavier than the loaded supply wagon and this combined with the exessively large guard escort leads them to investigate. They discover the coach is loaded down with gold which Maximilian wants to use to buy mercenary help from Europe! They also discover the Countess Duvarne also wants the gold for herself and is willing to deal in the two Americans if they help her steal it! To add to the intrigue Mexican revolutionaries loyal to their leader Benito Juarez under the command of General Ramíez also want the gold which they believe is rightfully the property of Mexico and stage a couple of ambush attempts to seize it!! During the first of these, a Mexican girl helps by driving a supply wagon out of the ambush, the girl "Nina" played with vivacious charm by Spanish actress Sara Montiel immediately attaches herself to Ben Trane for protection; she later turns out to be a Juarista.

Nina & Ben Trane

The climax of the movie is a full on attack by the Juaristas against Vera Cruz with Trane, Erin and the surviving Americans now having switched sides supporting the attack - a very bloody, costly affair.

Two stills of the rather splendid Colt model 1883 Gatling gun with its 104 round drum


A great film with a superb cast, well plotted and filmed. 

Convoy games are easily convertable for a tabletop game and highly adaptable for all periods or eras on any continent, one could easily create a game with the French (or Spanish) Foreign Legion escorting a supply convoy across the tabletop to some isolated post. Or 1940 era French or maybe Norwegians or even 1941 Russians trying to get gold away from Germans or 1945 Germans trying to smuggle gold to Switzeland or some Nazi bigwig into Spain 😃


One of the most visually spectacular scenes for me the caravan moving through the ruins of Teotihuacan, obviously as it looked when filming in the early 1950s. So different to how it would have looked back in 1865.

How the Pyramid of the Sun looked in 1830

This image showing peons picking prickly pear fruit was taken in 1903, you can see the pyramid behind

After much archeology work in 1932
Stills from the movie


  1. Great fun to read, (and great still shots to remind us of this technicolour thriller - how do you find them!?) and as you say lots of ideas for games. Now if you wanted to open up a new "Front" in your colonial wargaming then you could bag yourself some bargains from Jacklex Miniatures who make a lovely range of 20mm for the French intervention of the 1860s - roughly the period of this film review. See

    1. Cheers Carl it was writing the review of Ten Tall Men got me thinking about this one. I have no intention of drifting outside the C20th, but I may steal this idea and re-use it after 1900 :)