Directed by Don Siegel
There isn’t much to say about Two Mules for Sister Sara except it’s a good western of the Clint Eastwood variety (though not directed by him).
The movie draws on the Sergio Leone western (the spaghetti western) for its inspiration. It’s not as good, I’m afraid – it’s more of a Hollywood take on that kind of film.
But it does combine all the western elements to make for an engaging story. Clint Eastwood is the nameless drifter who, in this case, actually does have a name – Hogan.
He’s also not as mysterious as he has been in the Leone films. He’s given something of a past, scant though it is.
Hogan has been in the American Civil War, become disenchanted, and is now living only for himself. He has no ties and wants none.
When we meet up with him, he’s working as a mercenary for Mexican revolutionaries. He cares nothing for their cause, only for the money he stands to make.
When the movie opens, we find him coming upon a group of “bad guy” types – thieves, mercenaries, whatever.
They’ve caught and stripped a nun (Shirley MacLaine as Sister Sara) whom they are going to rape. (This is a very standard western opening. It establishes the “good guy” and the lawless environment he is in.)
Eastwood, with his squint and chiseled looks, saves the nun, guns down the bad men.
As Eastwood and the nun are about to go their separate ways, they see the French occupying army approaching.
Eastwood (as Hogan) suggests that Sister Sara go to them for further aid but she can’t – she has a past of her own. She is wanted by the French for helping the revolutionaries.
So the two of them, Hogan and the nun, are now teamed up. The two mules of the movie title refer to the one Sister Sara rides and Hogan, who is stubborn as a mule. Their relationship is a feisty one with sexual overtones. Hogan finds Sister Sara attractive but restrains himself because she is a nun.
Of course, they have numerous adventures from here. Sister Sara is returning to the revolutionaries but, Hogan discovers, if he can help her he can collect a big payday by getting the treasure in a French fort, which is their target.
It’s all very typical of this kind of movie. There is nothing new here. However, it is performed well by everyone involved and is shot and edited well.
It’s extremely well made and a good example of how compelling a film can be simply by having strong characters. There is nothing fancy here; this is a kind of meat and potatoes sort of film.
And it makes for a very good western.
(It’s interesting to note that this film was directed by Don Siegel, whom Eastwood credits as one of his influences as a director. The film’s opening of the tree in silhouette is very similar to what Eastwood used in Unforgiven, suggesting a nod in Siegel’s direction in that film, one that is also dedicated to Siegel.)