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So I bought a new box set of Elvis movies. In it was "Charro." I
thought it looked refreshing to see Elvis play a more serious role
instead of the usual musical. I did some research and found this
generally to be poorly received. Well I watched the film anyway. . .
I honestly was expecting this to be utter garbage. The first five minutes went by. I thought it was pretty good so far - I was wondering when it would start to suck. 20 minutes go by. I was being drawn into the plot and finding the action riveting and exciting, with a nice musical score, too (Still isn't bad yet).
Then I get to the climax - - - Original and intense. What was so bad about it? The acting was solid, it had a good script, and I found it a very pleasurable experience. Is it just the general bias towards any Elvis film after the '50s or is it because it's not some hoity toity British trash? I say, if you're a fan of westerns and/or Elvis. You should certainly give this movie a chance.
*** / **** stars.
I don't know what makes me enjoy this movie more, being an Elvis fan or
being a fan of western movies (my favorite is El Dorado).
This movie shows some pretty good acting, an impressive soundtrack, beautiful cinematography, some wild action and an Elvis, that is pretty rough and tough. Warren hadn't made a movie for ten years before "Charro" and I think he shouldn't have been producer, writer AND director. He did his weakest job as the writer, his directing is a lot better, but I wonder what Peckinpah might have done out of this story. In fact the two-former-friends-now-enemies plot is typical for Peckinpah. The story reflects a lot of Elvis' own career, most obvious: the bad guy in "Charro" USES the Elvis character to make money, which is exactly what Elvis' real life manager did, too, in fact that guy (who called himself Colonel, although he wasn't) was highly unscrupulous and Elvis too weak (sorry fellow fans but let's face the truth!) to have his own way. This often underrated movie is highly recommendable to anyone who likes western movies. Let me add that this movie is NOT a musical; in one scene Elvis is opening a door to look into a saloon where a band is playing, in one of his awful musical comedies, the man would jump onto the stage and perform some tune, but here he turns around and closes the door.
As much as I like Flaming Star, I like Charro a whole lot more. Elvis's acting was more refined. You could tell he was better trained than in some earlier films. Yes, it's a western, and westerns are hardly ever Oscar material. But in its own genre, it's very entertaining. The plot is as good as any other western movie I've seen, John Wayne notwithstanding, and the acting (again for the genre) was quite good. I wish Elvis had been allowed to make more serious movies. As much as I like most of his musicals, the three dramatic ones (Love Me Tender, Flaming Star, and Charro) and his supporting appearance in Change of Habit, were by far the best and the ones that showed his real talent for acting.
This was intended as a totally different kind of role for Elvis. It's the
only movie in which Elvis does not sing at all (the theme song is played
over the main titles). Unfortunately, the film doesn't really get off the
ground. Not far off the ground, anyway. It's a real pity, too, because
Elvis could have been superb and the movie a modern classic. Now it's just
an interesting departure in a property sabotaged by substandard production
values and script.
Elvis acts well throughout but not as well and convincingly as in the other Western drama that he did, 1960's "Flaming Star." The passage of eight years had dulled Elvis' enthusiasm for film-making and, hard on the heels of the taping of his phenomenal 1968 TV special (taped in late June) and one year before his July, 1969 return to the stage, Elvis' mind was on other things. Elvis, so eager in 1956 to get into dramatic roles, had become jaded by the fiscal realities that dictated that he squander his prodigious talent (to a great extent, at least) on subpar fare. Elvis does a competent job in "Charro!" but at some points he does not really seem to be 'into it.' I find that somewhat surprising, because Elvis loved guns, horses, and playing cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers and the film could have been a blast for him to do. I'm sure that he enjoyed some of the role's physicality, including the horseplay, gunplay, and fisticuffs, but at times he appears bored. In truth, this apparent ennui on Elvis' part is probably less a result of cumulative boredom with and contempt for the path that his film career had taken and more a reflection of him really not being given much to do within the script. The role could have been a lot grittier and Elvis' character more active and proactive. The branding scene and subsequent beating of Elvis' character is pretty brutal, but other than that most of the film seems sanitized. Yep, it has its violent spots but I think that it would have profited from more of it and more of a menacing feel, overall. It's a spaghetti western, man...it's SUPPOSED to be down 'n' dirty, violent, and un-PC. It's got a definite made-for-TV look and feel about it, especially compared with the contemporary 'spaghetti westerns' that were so popular (and by which "Charro!" is obviously inspired) but even with older Hollywood fare like "Shane."
After a promising start, "Charro!" comes across to me as a little bit dull. It has its moments, but they're too few and far between. I wouldn't say that it is a bad film, just that it's a wasted opportunity. Then again, the film came so late in Elvis' Hollywood career, right at the cusp of his return to where he really belonged -- the concert stage -- that perhaps it wouldn't have made a difference had the film been all that it could have been. Still...
The ending is a major anticlimax and the entire film just sort of lurches toward denouement. The key fault is that the story is weak. It doesn't really go anywhere fast and much of the scripting is substandard. The cinematography is also extremely unimaginative -- the potential was great, with those central-Arizona locations, but it's never fully exploited. Sam Peckinpah or Sergio Leone would have had a field day. It's nice to see Elvis wandering around in the desert instead of being filmed against a studio backdrop. Elvis, as always, is utterly fantastic when he's being menacing, angry, or just directing a withering stare at somebody. His role as Jess Wade is just a little too soft -- well, what I'm saying is that if his role were more directly like Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name I think it'd play to some of Elvis' greatest acting strengths. Even without Clint's trademark squint, Elvis was always naturally adept at portraying a lot with just a look. Jesse Wade could still basically be a good guy without being all that nice about it.
Elvis looks cool in this movie, too. He'd have made a great spaghetti-western hero. The legend goes that Elvis felt uncomfortable with a beard and that the male members of the crew tried to put him at ease by growing their own facial hair out. Even Colonel Parker got in on the act.
The sad fact is that Elvis is terribly underutilized. So is everybody else. Just as I think that Elvis' character could have been at least a little harder, so could Victor French's bad guy have been...well..badder. I mean, he was bad, but he was no Lee Van Cleef. Overall, he and the supporting cast did a good job, but they, too, had little to work with. The fact that many were basically TV players perhaps only reinforced the TV-movie quality that I sense in this film. James Sikking (later the SWAT leader from "Hill Street Blues") revels in his role as 'Gunner' and Solomon Sturges is great as a psychotic outlaw. Ina Balin is also very good but she really doesn't have a big part in the film.
What this film really needed was Sergio Leone directing it with a stronger script. Think Elvis in the lead of "High Plains Drifter" -- it could have been done and it would have worked but, again, the material shortchanged the man's potential. The movie's poster promised "a different kind of role...a different kind of man," and it was a valiant effort. I like the film, overall, but it's far, far less than it might have been. At least they had Hugo Montenegro aboard for the music. I've always loved the ominous and atmospheric title song.
If only "Charro!" was a creative progeny of the excellent "Flaming Star," steeped in a late-60s spaghetti-western sensibility.
Elvis Presley plays Jesse Wade who tries to leave a gang of thieves led by Victor French. Jesse's neck is branded in order to frame him for stealing a Mexican war cannon. Jesse becomes sheriff as one of the gang is arrested. The bad guys now threaten the town with cannon fire until the leaders little brother is released from jail. Elvis sings only the title song under the credits. This is a different Elvis, with beard and a hat hung low over his eyes. Well known critic, Leonard Maltin, calls this a BOMB! Produced, directed and written by Charles Marquis Warren, this flick is better than the bad rap it has received. Also in the cast are Ina Balin, Solomom Sturgess, and Lynn Kellogg.
Definately his best film. This film proves that Elvis could act. It's quite refreshing to see a film like this after some of those PATHETIC films like Paradise, Hawaiian Style, or Clambake. I give this movie five stars. Even if you're not an Elvis fan, I reccomend this movie. It's not your typical Elvis movie, and Elvis only sings in the opening credit. With the late Ina Balin and the late Victor French as the bad guy, this movie has a strong supporting cast.
Elvis Presley plays an ex-gunman who has decided to reform. His
decision is not well-received by his old gang. They beat him up, and
enforce a grisly revenge - they "brand" him, to give him a scar
identical to a man WANTED in two countries (Mexico and the USA). The
"branding" is, possibly, the most gruesome scene you'll see in a Elvis
This film has a classic Western Plot: Elvis is the representation of the Law - Badman gone good, friend of the Sheriff, and rival for a woman (Ina Balin). Elvis has imprisoned the brother of the Badman (Solomon Sturges, son of Preston). Head Badman Victor French is big brother to the jailed one. Mr. French has a deadly cannon - he says, "Release my brother, or I will blow up your town!" This movie is too rough-around-the-edges to be extraordinary; and, it doesn't tread on much new ground. It does, however, create a world of its own; if you let yourself into this world, you will be entertained for the run of the film. In that way, it's like many westerns - and as good as several "classic" John Wayne films.
Again, this is a rough-around-the-edges film - my vote for the roughest edges are: The background music is too hokey and repetitive; and, I found the Sheriff's wife's betrayal too abrupt to be believable - it is interesting in that it shows the relationship between Elvis and the Sheriff is stronger than the relationship between the Sheriff and his wife; although Elvis' first intent is to meet the Badman's demands by releasing the prisoner, he decides to honor the Sheriff's wishes.
The title song is very good; appropriately, there are no additional songs. The performances are fine - I would taken a little more time creating this film; still, everything about it ranges from adequate to professional. It sounds like an apology (because Elvis Presley made so many awful films), but I enjoyed "Charro!"
******* Charro! (1969) Charles Marquis Warren ~ Elvis Presley, Ina Balin, Victor French
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Perhaps I was motivated to watch this film not because this wasn't
going to be one of Elvis' 60's "fluff" films but because I hadn't
shaved in awhile and this film is famed in the Presley canon for him
having a beard and mustache. It was a very good film that kept me
Charro! isn't about the eccentric Latin-American novelty singer (that would be Charo), but about Jess Wade, a former outlaw who wants to go straight. He rides into town looking for an old flame. Suddenly, his old gang, led by Vince Hackett (Victor French), ambush him and forces him to go with them to their hideout. The Hackett Gang have stolen a valuable "Victory Cannon" from Mexico but are going to have Jess Wade take the fall. To make it even worse for Wade, they described him as having a wound on his neck, so they hold him down and Vince burns his neck (perhaps Charro means "burn" in Spanish). They abandon him, but Wade gets back to town, where the people there support him. By chance, Vince's crazy brother Billy Roy (a brilliant performance by Solomon Sturges) comes in and tries to stir up trouble, but Wade is there. In the melee, Billy Roy shoots the sheriff. While the sheriff recuperates, Billy Roy is jailed. The Hackett gang now threatens Wade (who's now temporary sheriff) and the town to let Billy Roy go or have their town destroyed via the cannon.
I found the movie quite intriguing. I wanted to see how Wade would get his revenge on his old "friends". The acting is a cut above those "fluff" films, but Elvis still performs in his usual "thick-as-molasses-Southern-accent" way, just a bit meaner, though. Elvis always had great screen presence but his acting was hit-or-miss. The Southwest scenery is quite breathtaking, no doubt filmed near Elvis' favorite city (Las Vegas). The soundtrack is weak; Elvis sings the theme song at the beginning, but the rest of the music is just generic Western acoustic with that 60's flavour.
Still, this was a lot better than the Video Movie Guide rated it. Probably the best Elvis film I've seen in awhile besides Jailhouse Rock. Worth a look.
The movie Charro tried to save Elvis' acting career,unfortunately it was a case of too little too late. the movie had a lot of promise, a great musical film score,good supporting cast,and even a tolerable script, but you can see the interest has gone from Elvis'acting. Had he made this in the early '60's I am sure it would have made for a better film . It is obvious they based a lot of this on the successful Clint Eastwood "spaghetti" westerns but it lacks the sparkle of Sergio Leone direction.Compare Elvis' acting in this to Flaming Star and the difference is sadly noticable.
OK, I love Elvis movies a LOT, but he made some serious clunkers all in
the name of the almighty dollar and contracts Col. Parker made him
sign. Why Elvis couldn't break away and do more films like this, we'll
never know. We'll also never know 'what could have been', had Elvis
escaped the movie musical grind sooner. This is a pretty good western,
I have to say, and I have seen a LOT of westerns and I am a huge fan of
the genre. It's pretty cool that he only sings the title song over the
opening credits of Charro! and doesn't break into song in the middle of
a scene like in his usual Hollywood formula musicals.
He was offered the Kris Kristofferson part in 'A Star Is Born', and I think he would have been GREAT in that. For whatever reason, he turned it down. He was more into making concert films at that time, plus he was deeply involved in his prescription drug addiction and had put on a lot of weight, so maybe those were big issues that kept him from doing more good film roles.
Elvis, I thank you for making Charro! I wish there had been more films like this in your Hollywood resume.
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