Eastwood or Wayne? Keaton or Chaplin? Lee or Chan? Katherine or Audrey? Vorhees or Myers? Truffaut or Godard? Spielberg or Scorsese? These are a few of the many choices that might point a person in the direction they gravitate toward regarding film taste. When it comes to westerns (or oaters as I like to say around the house), I’m an Eastwood man.
I just have never been drawn to Wayne’s films the way I have to Eastwood. Wayne’s too much of a “hero”. Eastwood’s protagonists are much more “grey” in their heroism. I like that. I love the Eastwood squint. I love the way his characters often have no name, are usually loners, and are hell bent on killing and revenge as a solitary act. In Eastwood’s westerns, people who ride with him are usually tag alongs, extra weight, useless and needing help in the rugged, frontier setting.
The Don Siegel directed Two Mules For Sister Sara (1970) is a very pleasant western with some of the elements I love so much in an Eastwood film of this sort. What makes it surprisingly fun though is the way it twists some of the Eastwood standards over to reveal lighthearted moments.
Clint, as Hogan, rides alone (of course) until he comes across a nun trying to get away from banditos. Begrudgingly for Hogan, the nun becomes useful when she provides information regarding an armory Eastwood wants to rob. Sara, the nun, played by Shirley MacLaine, has a lot of spunk for a nun. She’s prone to cursing, swigging alcohol and other non-nun like behavior and this gets Hogan’s attention. “If only this feisty and attractive nun wasn’t a woman of the cloth!” he hints to Sara during a drunken moment of their journey. The pair bond during the trip to the French garrison to settle the score/rob the place.
Two Mules For Sister Sara has similar aspects to many westerns—people on an arduous journey via horse/donkey over treacherous terrain, intentions to rob and the planning of that robbery and the always usable story of a small band of underdogs, joining together to defeat those who are the villains (in this case, the French military). Even with those standardized elements, the comedy from Eastwood/MacLaine, their chemistry and a memorable Ennio Morricone score makes the film a fun, worthy addition from a bygone era of great westerns.
Oh, for the record: Eastwood, Chaplin, Lee, Audrey, Vorhees, Truffaut, Scorsese. You?