|Spaghetti western style marketing|
Valdez wants to compensate the man’s widow and attempts to collect $100 from the man, Frank Tanner, who wrongly accused the victim. Tanner refuses and humiliates Valdez, then has him tied to a cross when he persists. Arming himself, Valdez surprises Tanner in his bed and asks again for the $100. Failing in this attempt, he takes the man’s girlfriend (Susan Clark) as a hostage, and thus begins a long chase.
Man after man sent after Valdez comes a cropper. By the time we get to the last reel and the final standoff between Valdez and Tanner, eleven men have bitten the dust. We see several picked off by buffalo gun in this clip (click).
The film has a steady level of excitement but is thankfully also interested in character. It’s not just marksmanship with firearms that keeps Valdez going. There’s also a hidden depth of intelligence as he continues to outsmart his pursuers. It’s a battle of wits right to the end.
I really enjoyed this movie. In many ways it beats Hombre (1967), another Elmore Leonard story that picks up some of the same racial issues. (I didn't mention that the man shot at the beginning of the movie is black and his wife is Indian.)
The film was directed by Edwin Sherin, who went on to a lot of TV work, including 200 director and producer credits for Law & Order. Barton Heyman deserves mention as El Segundo, Tanner’s chief henchman. The film is rated PG-13 for violence, brief nudity, and some language. [Lancaster wears a Stetson or a cavalry cap in the movie, not the photoshopped one on the the DVD cover.]
Valdez is Coming is currently available at netflix and amazon. Tuesday’s Overlooked Films is a much-appreciated enterprise of Todd Mason over at Sweet Freedom.
Coming up: Mary Austin, Isidro (1905)