Green Red and – (Isobel) Black, Revolutionary Captain Juanita Negra in The Magnificent Two (1967)
My Final FEMbruary 2021 female figure painting challenge figures are the new BMC Plastic Army Women in 54mm. In their 1950s / 60s uniforms, they reminded me of a childhood favourite comedy film.
Shiny gloss varnish is not the usual finish for khaki figures, but it’s the 54mm shiny toy soldier look I want for these BMC figures – and practical too for gaming and handling.
See more of these painted figures on my post here:
Amonongst my favourite Saturday films as a child was this 1967 Morecambe and Wise oddity, the last of their three films The Magnificent Two, set in the fictional (?South American? Mexican?) Republic of ParaZuellia.
Taking its title from the popular Magnificent Seven film (1960), you get a good flavour of this odd cowboy western town / war movie meets Carry On style comedy mash up in the short official Rank Film 1967 trailer here:
As the trailer boldly claims, the film is “A Saga of Fear. A Drama of Courage. the Time is Now. The Place – Campo Grande, Parazuellia, flashpoint of a troubled continent.“
The synopsis or plot of the film
Mid 1960s: Two British Action Men travelling salesmen [Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise] arrive in Campo Grande in the (Central or South American?) country of Parazuellia to sell their goods.
During the train journey Eric accidentally opens a train door leading to the accidental death of the returning British educated Fernando Torres, the son of an assassinated Revolutionary president and figurehead of a revolutionary movement, and a government secret policeman who is trying to arrest him.
Upon arrival by train in the city of Campo Grande, Eric is mistaken by the revolutionaries for Torres. When they discover the death of the real Torres, they pay Eric and Ernie to maintain Eric’s impersonation of Torres to lead a revolution to oust the unpopular dictator President Dias.
However once the revolution is successful, Eric gains an inflated opinion of himself, promises lots of unaffordable reforms to the people and has to be “assassinated” by his own side in a myriad of absurd further comic plot twists and turns and betrayals.
Aided by chief of the women’s army General Carla (Margit Said), once he is “dead” Eric rescues the President’s young children (who were due to be executed by the revolutionaries). Morecambe and Wise then try to flee the country.
Having delivered the President’s children to the President’s secret hideout, a military museum in the forest on the site of a great Parazuellian victory in the past, they are then warned by Revolutionary Captain Juanita Negra (Isobel Black) that a mobile armoured column of the revolutionaries led by the shady General Carrillo (Virgilio Texera) have followed them.
The bizarre “Battle of Campo Grande” (as the trailer calls it) takes place and the few Presidential forces are bolstered by old cannons and by dummies from the military museum manning the battlements in true Beau Geste / Fort Zinderneuf style.
Captured by Carillo’s Revolutionary forces, Morecambe and Wise are rescued in the nick of time by General Carla, Capatin Juanita and the Women’s Revolutionary Army in an unexpected and not fully clothed tactical manoeuvre that befits a late 1960s British comedy in the style of the Carry On series …
This can be clearly seen on the trailer, various film posters including the one above and on IMDB.
This comically handled tactical manoeuvre, it could be argued, slightly undermines the film’s potentially late 60s feminist credentials.
My need for a colour scheme for these Revolutionary uniforms does not extend to the underwear, which for the record is camo khaki green, red or black in the revolutionary and national colours for the women. I’m not sure if the film dwells on that level of modelling information for all the characters beyond a white vest or khaki shirt and shorts from Eric and Ernie.
Somehow it’s quite abrupt ending parade not long after this Carry On moment is a curious mixture of Gilbert and Sullivan humour about ‘female troops’ (Princess Ida meets Castro’s Cuba) and “sisters doing it for themselves” 60s feminism.
Fifty years on from The Magnificent Two, we now live in a world where many armies worldwide have removed the bar or glass ceiling from allowing women into front line combat roles.
A more detailed, plot spoiler / synopsis from the BFI:
As a child what I most remember was the Action Men battle bit at the start (with some Britains 155 mm guns) and the larger Action Men joke of the Military Museum ‘Beau Geste’ dummies on the battlements trick. I liked watching Morecambe and Wise then, as harmlessly silly, and I still do.
Many people dismiss this and the trio of Morecambe and Wise cinema films from the Sixties as uneven and a box office flop.
I rather like the three Morecambe and Wise films in the way I prefer the early Sixties Bond movies to any of the others.
As one commentator or critic pointed out, it has a rather high body count for a comedy. It would be a proper blood and guts gritty western / War movie, if only Morecambe and Wise hadn’t blundered into it – therein is the joke.
Watching this again on DVD as an adult, I was intrigued by the fictional ImagiNations uniforms and equipment. The Parazuellian Presudentail forces of El Presidente Diaz (Martin Benson) wear American style sand coloured uniforms.
The ‘heroic’ Revolutionary forces of men and women wear American style Green uniforms, men with US green helmets and the women wearing British WW2 tin hats with a red revolutionary star on white circle badge.
Green and Tan 50s 60s US uniforms – what does this remind me of? This Magnificent Two film costume universe is like a large bag of cheap green and tan pound store play set figures and mismatched equipment writ large in its simple colour schemes. The film is a comic Little Wars of an American plastic playset of the 1960s.
That basic GI Joe cap from 1960s Action Men https://www.actionman.com/history.php
The American KP or Ridgeway utility peaked caps, as seen in the basic early Action Men / GI Joe, reminds me a little of Fidel Castro and his Cuban Guerillas, all part of the 1960s topical theme of the film https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrol_cap
An equally odd mix of equipment – British scout cars, trucks, American half tracks and jeeps, FN Armalite rifles, Vickers HMGs, Sten and Bren Guns – scraped together by the film company help to give the impression of the Government and Revolutionary forces using any equipment they can get their hands on.
Many of the lobby card images by The Rank Organisation are now copyright / licensed of Alamy, so I will not reproduce them here. The Rare Film photo montage gives a good flavour of the adapted uniforms.
The Film Set-tings
The station (based in a now vanished station from Longmoor Military Railway) and city set of Campo Grande can be seen on Reel Streets (set up by John Tunstill of the Soldiers Soldiers website – it’s a small world sometimes).
As ImagiNations go, Parazuellia is obviously a mix of Paraguay, Venezuela and an “-ia” ending. (Presumably there is another nearby country called Vene-guay-a?) A further fictional South American country is mentioned: Urapania, made up of Uruguay and Hispania?
I am reminded strongly of the South American ImagiNations in the Gran Chapo War in Tintin’s 1930s The Broken Ear, based on the real Gran Chaco War.
Anyway it’s an enjoyable Saturday afternoon slice of childhood comedy nostalgia with some interesting possibilities of gaming scenarios with pound store figures and the new BMC Plastic Army Women figures.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 4 March 2021
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
The New Zenda / Ruritania for film makers in the 1960s was obviously South American revolutionary ImagiNations. Recently there have been some blogposts about Viva Max! a 1969 Peter Ustinov fronted ‘comedy Mexican’ screwball film plot about Mexicans retaking the Alamo in 1969. See the trailer here as the IMDB article is sparse:
The Mexicans in Viva Max! wear very similar desert tan uniforms to the Presidential army of Parazeullia. Red Green And White national colours and thinly disguised Mexican type National and Presidential flags crop up in The Magnificent Two. (IMDB Notes them as a blooper.)
IMDB Website Quotes for The Magnificent Two
Ernie: We’ll never sell anything here. I don’t suppose anybody’s got two pesos to rub together.
Eric: Maybe we picked the wrong town.
Ernie: The wrong town, we picked the wrong country! We were doing all right in Urapania until you had to open your big mouth. “Long live the President.”
Eric: How was I to know they’d just shot him?