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Film / Viva Max!

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Viva Max! is a 1969 American satirical comedy film directed by Jerry Paris.

Brigadier General Maximilian Rodrigues De Santos (Peter Ustinov) is the commander of the 87-man Nuevo Laredo garrison of the Mexican army. Goaded by a series of insults from his mistress, he decides to re-capture the Alamo to demonstrate his supposed military genius. In actuality, the egotistical De Santos is an incompetent fool who commands absolutely no respect from his men. It is only through the actions of Sergeant Valdez (John Astin) that the unit has stayed together as long as it has.

Telling his men they're on a diplomatic mission to demonstrate pan-American friendship in a parade at Laredo, De Santos marches them across the U.S. border and promptly commandeers a car and civilian clothing from some tourists. Taking one of his men who has served as a cabbie in Guadalajara and knew how to drive, they reconnoiter the Alamo in disguise. After meeting back up with the platoon, they march down the freeway, through downtown San Antonio, and just before closing time at five o'clock, they charge the gates and "defeat" the garrison, composed of one elderly security guard. They also take the only two other people inside prisoner. These are Paula Whitland (Pamela Tiffin), a '60s college radical who is infatuated by the general and views him as the next Che Guevara, and Edna Miller (Ann Morgan Guilbert), who thinks that the whole affair is a plot by the Red Chinese and that the invasion has started.

Also in the cast are Jonathan Winters, Keenan Wynn, Harry Morgan, Alice Ghostley, and Kenneth Mars.

This film provides examples of:

  • The Film of the Book: Based on a 1966 novel of the same name by James Lehrer (yes, the late PBS news anchor).
  • Line in the Sand: The historical genesis of this trope is parodied in Viva Max, when General Maximillian, after somewhat successfully attempting to recapture the Alamo, draws a line and asks his men who want to give in to the local sheriff's orders to leave. Everyone stars to cross, but go back when Max's assistant — the only man in the company actually carrying ammo — points a gun at them. Later, Max's men decide to stay on their own volition.
  • Mexico Called; They Want Texas Back: The titular General Maximillian is driven to near insanity when the Mexican woman he has a crush on spurns him and insults his capacity as a military officer. He assumes that, naturally, the best way to impress her is to recapture the Alamo.