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Given its director (Edward Dmytryk) and its cast (Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot) it is rather odd that 'Shalako" (1969) is such an obscure film and that so many of the comments/reviews are totally negative. "Spaghetti" westerns (filmed in Italy or Spain) were quite the rage in the late 1960's and "Shalako" is about what you would get if "Hombre" (1967) had been given a mild "Spaghetti" treatment.
While not even remotely on the level of Monte Hellman's stuff, "Shalako" is an entertaining and comprehensible western that most viewers will get into and enjoy until about the ¾ mark when the wheels fall off and it drags along to a less than spectacular resolution.
Dmytryk was a veteran action director who occasionally ("Eight Iron Men" and "The Young Lions") even did a good job of directing actors for the camera. This was one of his last efforts and he seems to have stayed focused on the action and paid little attention to the performances themselves.
Connery plays the title character, an experienced frontiersman who (like Paul Newman in "Hombre") is forced by circumstances into guiding a bunch of clueless civilians to safety. "Hombre" had Newman (a white man raised by Indians) in the moral dilemma of having to assist a group of people for which he has total contempt. Shalako ' s situation is simpler: he must extract a European aristocrat's hunting party who have ticked off the Apache's by coming onto their reservation and who have been betrayed by their cowboy hunting guides. Although he has little use for most of this group he has developed a grudging respect for a plucky countess (Bardot). There is decent chemistry in the early Connery-Bardot scenes but it does not sustain itself as the relationship begins to turn romantic.
As in "Hombre" there is an interesting twist with the young wife (Honor Blackman) of one of the aristocrats deciding to leave her husband for the dangerous cowboy (Stephan Boyd) who has just placed the group at the mercy of the elements (and the Indians). Blackman is excellent in this part , the only really challenging role in the production.
Dmytryk does an excellent job with his first three action sequences, including a surprisingly credible dawn attack on the camp of the hunting party and a more traditional stagecoach chase sequence. But as already mentioned, the film is extremely front-end loaded and he has dissipated all the tension before the climatic sequence even begins.
"Hombre" on the other hand withheld its best sequence until the end and managed to pack some nice irony into its resolution. You won't find this in "Shalako", in fact the final 20 minutes are so listless your mind begins mulling over the plot holes. Like how did Boyd's character manage to walk all the way to the top of the plateau without being detected by the Indians? When you have to insert a detailed verbal explanation for something totally inexplicable (that has happened "off" camera) a competent editor knows that it is time for some major trimming and a focused director begins revising his script.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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