[box cover]

The Professionals: Special Edition

Four seasoned cowboys are hired by J.W. Grant (Ralph Bellamy) to retrieve his wife Maria (Claudia Cardinale). Henry 'Rico' Fardan (Lee Marvin) is the leader, Bill Dolworth (Burt Lancaster) is the amoral scoundrel and explosives expert, Hans Ehrengard (Robert Ryan) is the horse wrangler and most passive, and Jake Sharp (Woody Strode) the strong and silent master of arrows. Maria has been kidnapped by Mexican revolutionary Jesus Raza (Jack Palance), and the trip will be hard going, but these men are the best at what they do. Unfortunately, for everyone the kidnapping is not what it seems, and Jesus and Maria have a real relationship that threatens to derail their rewards. Directed by Richard (In Cold Blood) Brooks, 1966's The Professionals resembles its title in that it sets out to get the job done and accomplishes it in a proficient but graceless way. The story is slight with the ending making the whole film feel like overheated nonsense (a bunch of people are killed by the heroes, which the conclusion reveals was for no good reason), but the workmanlike nature of the movie makes it a passable entertainment by never taking anything too seriously. What the film does right is hire a great ensemble cast. Of the four actors playing the guns for hire, one couldn't ask for a better western quartet: Lee Marvin is one of the great tough guy screen presences, Lancaster is always a charming rascal, Strode exudes the stoic masculinity and grace to which he's renowned, and Ryan is fun to watch at the twilight of his career. The film is also engaging because it features the great Italian beauty Claudia Cardinale. Having made her presence felt in a number of seminal Italian films (including 8-1/2 and The Leopard), she — like many of the European stars to rise out of the '50s and '60s — dabbled in American cinema, and her robust beauty is always a welcome presence. The film is also well shot by Conrad Hall, and he lenses the exciting raid of Raza's camp with panache. And yet the picture is ephemeral to a fault; there's no substance to latch onto, just some fun set-pieces and talented performers. Columbia TriStar presents The Professionals: Special Edition in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and both Dolby Digital 3.0 and 5.1 audio. Extras on this second DVD release of the title include "Burt Lancaster: A Portrait" (13 min.) with daughter Joanna Lancaster and biographer Kate Buford; "Memories from The Professionals" (23 min.) with Claudia Cardinale, Marie Gomez, and the late cinematographer Conrad Hall; "The Professionals: A Classic" (6 min.) with director Martin Campbell (Goldeneye), Buford, and Cardinale, and a theatrical trailer and bonus trailer. Keep-case.

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