TRAILER: This 1961 Western Is the Only Film Marlon Brando Directed & It’s Surprisingly Mexican

Marlon Brando isn’t generally thought of as a director, and that’s because the iconic mid-century actor never really did much directing. But hardcore film nerds will be pleased to know that the New York’s iconic west side art cinema, Film Forum, has dusted off an obscure 1961 western by the name of One Eyed Jacks, which happens to be Brando’s one and only directorial outing.

Adapted from the 1956 novel The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones, and loosely based on the true stories of Pat Garret and Billy the Kid, One Eyed Jacks was produced by Brando’s production company and initially had a young Stanley Kubrick signed on to direct. But when Kubrick’s vision wouldn’t jibe with Brando’s desire for a deep character study, the production parted ways with the budding auteur, and just a week before filming Brando stepped in to fill his shoes.

The film tells the story Rio and Doc Longworth: of a duo of bank robbers played by Brando and Karl Malden, who get caught up in a heist-gone-wrong in the deserts of Sonora, Mexico. After Longworth runs off with the bounty, Rio is caught by authorities and spends five years in a Mexican prison. From there, he heads up north to confront his backstabbing partner-in-crime only to find him working as a smalltown sheriff with a Mexican wife and stepdaughter played by Katy Jurado and Pina Pellicer.

Pina Pellicer
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While One Eyed Jacks had all the ingredients of a classic western, Brando proved to be a difficult director, and the moody method actor ran the film several weeks behind schedule and millions dollars over budget. To boot, Brando was unable to whittle the film down from a nearly five hour run time during the editing process, and eventually gave the film over to the studio for the final 141 minute cut.

After receiving mixed reviews, One Eyed Jacks has been undergoing a more positive critical reevaluation in recent years that should allow New York audiences to view the restoration with fresh eyes. Even if the film doesn’t quite live up to its ambitions, catching Marlon Brando alongside Jurado and rising star Pina Pellicer – who had a bright and promising career before her tragic suicide at 30 – should be worth the price of admission alone.

Catch Film Forum’s beautiful 4K restoration playing from October 14-20 in New York City.