Shalako (1968)

Largely forgotten Europudding of a western, uniting Connery and Bardot, two of the biggest stars of the time.  It’s based on a story by Western veteran Louis L’Amour, although it also bears a strong resemblance to Elmore Leonard’s story Hombre, filmed a couple of years earlier with Paul Newman in the title role.

It’s your basic fishes out of water story, with smug patronising Europeans finding their years of culture and civilisation to be useless in the face of the harsher elements of the new world. (Of course this assumption is also a bit patronising in itself;  the British Empire wasn’t built on polite language).  Their hunting party moves on to Apache land and is soon under threat from understandably miffed natives, including Chato played here by Woody Strode.  Presumably this is based on the same character to be played a few years later by Charles Bronson in Chato’s Land, with equal disregard for ethnic authenticity.

Is this thing on?

Among the supporting cast you’ve got Stephen Boyd as a leering villain and assorted fine European actors, including Jack Hawkins who had undergone throat surgery a few years earlier; as a result he wears a series of unlikely high collars and cravats, as well as being dubbed by Charles Gray. Even more unlikely is the presence of English comic actor Eric Sykes as a butler called Mako – no idea what to make of that. Honor Blackman plays Hawkins’ hideous wife, who is clearly destined for an unpleasant end at the hands of the Apaches – or she would be if the censor didn’t usually intervene with no concern for continuity.

But it’s Connery and Bardot who are the star attraction – the tag-line says  ‘Sean Connery is Shalako! Shalako means action! Action means Bardot!‘ which can’t be logically possible unless Sean Connery is Bardot…  Connery’s wig and accent are a bit disconcerting, but that’s nothing new; Bardot pouts and flutters her eyelids without doing anything approaching acting, although she does fire a gun at one point. Both stars look good throughout the action and manage the inevitable clinch when the plot starts to flag.

Edward Dmytryk directs adequately but doesn’t seem to have the stomach to deliver the violence that the story more or less demands to make its point (and which had become the norm in movies filmed in Almeria like this one).  This is especially the case if you compare Shalako with its contemporaries like Don Medford’s spectacularly harsh The Hunting Party, or even Valdez Is Coming, which leave this movie looking like the compromised star vehicle it undoubtedly is.

Mild Peril Rating: ★★★☆☆

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One Response to Shalako (1968)

  1. Pingback:The Hunting Party (1971) - a movie review from Mild Peril

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