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As far as I am concerned, "Charro" is a great movie. I am a lifelong fan of Elvis Presley and love actor, Victor French, who has appeared in a lot of television westerns such as "Gunsmoke" and "Bonanza". I was thrilled to sit down and watch a film with them both in it. Imagine my surprise and delight to see another of my all-time favorites..Tony Young! When I was a young girl, growing up in England, my parents loved Westerns above all else on television. "Gunslinger" was fantastic and I hadn't seen a man as handsome as Tony Young, since I discovered Elvis. I am also a lover of Western films and think that "Charro" is a darn good movie..great storyline and characters and the music is just great. In fact, the song, "Charro" is one of my favorite Elvis songs and I always play it in the jukebox when I go to a certain hamburger restaurant in the Graceland Plaza area near the mansion, in Memphis. I am saddened to think that all three of these gorgeous men died relatively young. They left so much behind and made a lot of people happy. May they rest in peace.
Jess Wade(Elvis Presley in a straight role) is a reformed outlaw
confronting against the members of his old band. The violent band is
commanded by Hackett(Victor French, House of prairie) and the hoodlums
are Gunner(James B Sikking, future TV star) and his brother
Billy(Salomon Sturges, son of famed director Preston Sturges), among
others. The gang has robbed from a little town a gold-plated cannon
which was used by Emperor Maximilian in his failed battle against
popular Mexican revolutionary Benito Juarez. Only Jess Wade can save
the town people(and his previous girlfriend, Ina Balin in one of her
few movie roles) from his former bunch.
Elvis in a different kind of role, his third Western after of 'Love me Tender and Flamingo Star'; here was given a new opportunity to prove himself as a serious actor and represented a radical departure for him. He considered an important feature and it's indicated by the choice of supporting cast and director.Elvis did agree, exceptionally, to sing the title credits, but there are no songs within the body of the movie.Elvis sports a scruffy beard and a gritty look whose model was obviously the Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western. Jess Wade character is costumed similarly to Clint Eastwood's 'Man with no name'. Both wore beard, dust-covered and kept a tough demeanor with a cigar in their mouths. Many of the movie's crew and some members of the Memphis friends grew beards to match Elvis's while the picture was in production. Even Colonel Parker, Elvis's manager, grew his beard. The motion picture was shot on location in and around Arizona's Superstition mountains.Although the film provided Elvis with one of his opportunities to play tough roles, the movie's producers were nervous about the reaction of fans.Unfortunately, the picture was a dismal critical flop , much of the blame was placed at the feet of director Charles Marquis Warren. He was screenwriter, producer and director for Charro , and had previously directed several successful Western for cinema and television.
The only singing you will hear from Elvis Presley in Charro is the
title song over the credits at the beginning. After that Elvis is all
business in Charro!. He even wears a scraggly beard to emphasize this
film won't be your usual Elvis funfest.
I liked the idea that Elvis was expanding his range as an actor and maybe he might have done more westerns after this if Charro! had been good. Presley had done two previous westerns Love Me Tender and Flaming Star and he acquitted himself well in both.
But this one was plain ridiculous. Victor French and his gang which includes his idiot brother Solomon Sturges steal a solid gold cannon from the museum in Chapultepec near Mexico City and then schlep the item to the border where French then proceeds to pin the crime on former gang member Elvis Presley. He even brands him across the neck with a running iron to simulate a bullet wound the leader allegedly got. Now that little journey is about 2/3 the length of Mexico.
Never mind, Elvis captures Sturges and holds him in a jail and gets himself appointed deputy sheriff to make it all legal. Never mind that, French threatens to use the cannon to level the town because he was smart enough to bring powder and shot and has in James Sikking one of Stonewall Jackson's old artillery men.
In that other film about a cannon, The Pride And The Passion the weapon was symbolically a phallic symbol and the illusion is drilled into our heads, especially with the ridiculous ending that Charro! has.
Colonel Tom Parker whose instincts for film properties were pretty good and knew Elvis's type of films were going out of vogue in the late Sixties, tried to take him in a new direction cinematically with Charro!. It was just the wrong western to do.
* 1/2 (out of 4)
Elvis plays a gunfighting outlaw who decides to go straight but his old gang pulls him back in to steal a cannon, which is a priceless gem from the Mexican Revolution. I was really excited to see this title since it was said that it was unlike any other Elvis movie. That's certainly true as there's only one song, which is over the opening credits and even Elvis is made to look ugly with an ugly beard and dirty appearance. That, however, is as far as things go because while it was interesting to see a different type of film from Elvis this is still a pretty poor movie when looked at as a straight Western. We've seen this "one last time" thing in thousands of movies and it isn't any fresher here. We've also seen countless gunfights and the ones here come off very laughable and silly. Elvis gets his shot at doing a straight film but sadly he doesn't do too much with it. During the scenes where he's suppose to be a dangerous gunfighter, you can't help but laugh. The direction is also very poor and I usually don't mention the work of extras but they are incredibly bad here as well. Victor French is pretty good in his role but that's about all the film has to offer.
After 30 films of watching Presley sing to everyone including the guy he just beat up, can you imagine trying to take Presley serious in a western? Not for fans like me. This film could have been a hit for Clint Eastwood or John Wayne but Presley...no way. Presley sings only the title song and only a fan with more time on his hands than brain power could sit through the first 30 minutes. Presley was showing obvious signs of extreme boredom during this film and you can tell his movie contracts were close to being finished. The unshaven, dirty western appearance of Presley was not tolerated by fans in 1969 and fans have not changed, So even from the biggest fan, Charro does not come with a recommendation.
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