Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970)


In late 1800s, Mexico, an American mercenary (Clint Eastwood, Coogan’s Bluff) comes to the aid of a feisty nun (Shirley MacLaine, The Apartment) who is working with Mexican rebels against puppet leader Archduke Maximilian of Austria.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Everybody’s got a right to be a sucker once.”

Surprisingly gritty, engaging western-comedy — it’s The African Queen (or Heaven Knows Mr. Allison) with Spaghetti Western sensibilities.

Two Mules for Sister Sara was the second of five films Clint Eastwood made with director Don Siegel. Interestingly, the screenplay by Albert Maltz was based on an old script written by western icon Budd Boetticher (The Tall T, Decision at Sundown, Buchanan Rides Alone, etc.). Anyhow, this is a really fun, crafty western blessed with sardonic humor and plenty of suspense.

Eastwood plays the quintessential anti-hero. His character’s motivations for helping the nun aren’t as altruistic as they appear to be at first glance — the mercenary simply has the hots for the religious woman! The cynical gunfighter-for-hire has no qualms about shooting people in the back either. It shows you how much westerns have changed since Stagecoach, Red River, High Noon, Shane, etc.

Eastwood is very funny here. He handles the dry humor with ease. Eastwood also has wonderful chemistry with Shirley MacLaine. She is one of Eastwood’s strongest co-stars. There is something irresistible about seeing these two tough actors interact together.

Despite its many humorous moments, Two Mules for Sister Sara is pretty violent — the climax is particularly gruesome. I’m kind of surprised that the film is rated PG because there are all kinds of nasty deaths and ugly violence. As I said before, the last part of the film has plenty of ugly mayhem.

Two Mules for Sister Sara has a ridiculous “surprise twist” — not really a surprise since you get hints throughout the entire movie — but it doesn’t damage the movie. P.S. Incredibly, the original theatrical trailer gives away the twist!!!

The film was gorgeously shot in Mexico by celebrated cameraman Gabriel Figueroa (The Night of the Iguana). Ennio Morricone, the man who practically invented the soundtrack of the Spaghetti Western (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, etc.), wrote the fantastic music score. You can always count on maestro Morricone to deliver a memorable score!

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Two Mules for Sister Sara is, in my opinion, one of Eastwood’s most underrated movies. I had such a great time re-watching this western! A must-see film for fans of Eastwood, MacLaine and/or Siegel! Color, 114 minutes, Rated PG.

11 responses to “Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970)

  1. I am indeed a fan of Clint Eastwood, so I’ll have to give this another look…it’s been years (maybe even decades) since I’ve seen it. Funny that it’s rated PG…but then again, so is Jaws, so maybe audiences were tougher back then. And cool that it was based on a Budd Boetticher story, AND features music by Ennio Morricone. Shoot, with all that you mentioned in your review, I have no reason NOT to watch this again!

    Liked by 1 person

      • He is a music master. What are some of your favourite scores from him? I love this score and The Mission, the Dollars Trilogy, The Untouchables, Once Upon A Time In The West, The Thing, In The Line Of Fire, Wolf, Mission To Mars.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Morricone is a genius, and he is a very prolific composer. My favorites (in no particular order):

          Cinema Paradiso
          The Untouchables
          The Thing
          The Mission
          Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion
          The Sergio Leone films
          The Hateful Eight

          I think we have similar taste! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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