Sunday, August 20, 2017

My Twenty Favorite Film Actors Of All Time





Recently my friend Troy Howarth (who has been contributing audio commentaries for several Blu-rays) listed his favorite actors on his Facebook page. This inspired me to finally come up with a list of my own...it's an idea I've been thinking about doing since I started this blog.

I decided to limit the list to twenty names. I could easily have gone to a hundred--there's plenty of great actors I admire. For this particular list the subject's entire body of work counts greatly--if a performer appeared in a number of films I happen to like, he's going to get more of a shot at gaining my admiration...hence the prevalence of so many monster movie guys.

I must point out that just because I did not put a certain actor on this list does not mean I don't appreciate that person. Whenever I do one of these lists, people seem to react more to who isn't on this list than who is. I also need to point out that this isn't my choice of the twenty greatest actors of all time, it's my personal favorites.

I've also decided to include my personal favorite movie role of each actor selected. A list of my twenty favorite film actresses will be coming soon.



1. Peter Cushing
Favorite Film Role: Dr. Van Helsing in THE BRIDES OF DRACULA

2. Christopher Lee
Favorite Film Role: Count Dracula in HORROR OF DRACULA

3. James Stewart
Favorite Film Role: Jefferson Smith in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON

4. Clint Eastwood
Favorite Film Role: The Man With No Name in THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

5. Steve McQueen
Favorite Film Role: Capt. Virgil Hilts in THE GREAT ESCAPE

6. Buster Keaton
Favorite Film Role: Johnnie Gray in THE GENERAL

7. Alec Guinness
Favorite Film Role: Colonel Nicholson in THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI

8. Lon Chaney
Favorite Film Role: Erik in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

9. John Wayne
Favorite Film Role: Capt, Nathan Brittles in SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON

10. Cary Grant
Favorite Film Role: Roger O. Thornhill in NORTH BY NORTHWEST

11. Spencer Tracy
Favorite Film Role: John J. Macreedy in BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK

12. Boris Karloff
Favorite Film Role: The Monster in FRANKENSTEIN

13. Bela Lugosi
Favorite Film Role: Murder Legendre in WHITE ZOMBIE

14. Vincent Price
Favorite Film Role: Dr. Anton Phibes in THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES

15. Lionel Atwill
Favorite Film Role: Ivan Igor in MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM

16. Claude Rains
Favorite Film Role: Alexander Sebastian in NOTORIOUS

17. Lee Van Cleef
Favorite Film Role: Col. Douglas Mortimer in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE

18. Liam Neeson
Favorite Film Role: Dr. Peyton Westlake in DARKMAN

19. Gary Oldman
Favorite Film Role: Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK

20. George Zucco
Favorite Film Role: Dr. Alfred Morris in THE MAD GHOUL

Saturday, August 19, 2017

THE MANSTER On Blu-ray









Shout Factory, under their Scream Factory label, releases yet another weird vintage horror film on Blu-ray--the 1962 production THE MANSTER. This movie was filmed in Japan, with a mostly Japanese crew--but the directors, producers and writers were American. No matter who was behind it, the result is indeed a strange concoction.

An American newspaper reporter working in Japan named Larry Stanford (Peter Dyneley) travels to a remote laboratory based on a mountain to interview a scientist (Satoshi Nakamura) about his experiments dealing with human evolution. The duplicitous doc slips Larry a mickey, and while the reporter is passed out he is injected with a mysterious serum. Larry soon becomes an irritable drunk, and even though he is married, starts to enjoy the Tokyo night life with the scientist's gorgeous assistant (Terri Zimmern). There's a bigger reason for Larry's irritability than a mid-life crisis--the serum has caused a being to start growing inside of him! The being also drives Larry into sporadic killing urges. Larry's condition worsens, to the point where he has a new head growing out of his shoulder (in this case two heads are not better than one). It all leads to a frantic climax at the scientist's laboratory, backed by an exploding volcano of all things.

A written description of THE MANSTER simply can't do it justice. It has a number of elements which make it stand out from the typical monster flick of the 1950s-60s. First, there's the fact that even though the lead character is American, the film is set in Japan, which brings even more of an outsider quality to his plight. The movie has a very seedy quality to it--the opening scenes show three lovely Japanese bathing beauties attacked by a shadowy creature, and Larry's partying ways play a major role in the plot. The scientist eggs Larry on to pursue his beautiful assistant--their nudge nudge wink wink conversation on how "friendly" the lady can be is a hoot. The scientist really wants the woman to keep an eye on Larry--and she even winds up falling for him, despite the fact that he acts like a total jerk most of the time.

One could say that there's a reason why the character of Larry Stanford acts like a jerk, since he's been injected with an experimental serum that causes a uncontrollable being to grow inside him. But even before his affliction, Larry carries a self-satisfied smirk on his face, and he comes off as an arrogant American. It's hard to feel sorry for Larry because of this, and especially since the married man develops a taste for the Japanese club scene. My Facebook friend Dan Smeddy says that actor Peter Dyneley, as Larry, looks like Lon Chaney Jr., and sounds like Alan Ladd. That's an apt description, and Larry's travails do resemble those of Lon Jr's Larry Talbot (except that Lon Jr. was much more sympathetic). If Peter Dyneley's voice does sound familiar to you, it may be due to the fact that he provided the speech for the puppet of Jeff Tracy in the British cult TV series THUNDERBIRDS. By the way, the character of Larry's wife is played by Jane Hylton (who also appeared in CIRCUS OF HORRORS), and she and Peter Dyneley were married in real life.

Satoshi Nakamura is a bit too low key as the scientist--this part calls for the manic intensity of a Lugosi or a Atwill. The viewer finds out that the doc has experimented on his brother and wife as well! (The wife, who has become a pitiful monstrosity, is kept in a cell--every movie mad scientist's laboratory has to have a cell to keep failed experiments or gorillas). Terri Zimmern brings an exotic quality to her role of the scientist's assistant. I tried to find out more information on her through the internet, but apparently THE MANSTER was her only confirmed movie role--I find that surprising considering her striking good looks. She doesn't even have a Wikipedia page!

The most memorable aspect of THE MANSTER is the idea of Larry having an extra body growing out of him. Larry's condition was a major inspiration for a famous sequence in Sam Raimi's ARMY OF DARKNESS, and elements of it would later be found in such films as THE THING WITH TWO HEADS and THE INCREDIBLE TWO-HEADED TRANSPLANT. I'm sure many might find the whole idea laughable, but it is the main reason THE MANSTER has any notoriety at all 55 years after its production. The movie does have some slow spots, especially in the soap opera-like aspects of Larry's problems with his wife, but for most of its 72 minute running time it gives classic monster movie fans what they want, and it even injects some black & white noir elements into the proceedings.

Shout Factory presents THE MANSTER in HD 1.66:1 black & white anamorphic widescreen. The print looks fine, and the DTS-HD mono audio is very robust. The only extras are a trailer and a still gallery, which shows advertising for the film featuring an alternate title, THE SPLIT. It's too bad that Shout Factory wasn't able to provide an audio commentary for this--I would love to know more about the making of this production and the people who were behind it.




Monday, August 7, 2017

THE UNCANNY









The latest entry in my YouTube Theater viewings is THE UNCANNY, a anthology horror film filmed in Canada and England in late 1976. The movie tries to be on the level of more famous multi-part terrors as DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, but it falls way short.

THE UNCANNY was co-produced by Milton Subotsky, and he provided the stories for Michael Parry's screenplay. Subotsky was the co-founder of Amicus Productions, the company that made the films I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post. Subotsky had parted ways with his Amicus partner Max Rosenberg, and set up THE UNCANNY as an independent production. Like his earlier Amicus horror tales, Subotsky gathered up a number of notable actors for his new venture, such as Peter Cushing, Ray Milland, Joan Greenwood, Donald Pleasence, Samantha Eggar, and John Vernon.

By 1976, however, the English Gothic film had all been rendered extinct (the movie that Peter Cushing had worked on earlier in that year, STAR WARS, just about finished the genre off when it was released). THE UNCANNY seems stale and old-fashioned, even when compared to the Amicus films Subotsky worked on only a few years before.

The linking story of THE UNCANNY deals with Wilbur Gray (Peter Cushing), a strange character who is trying to get his new book published by Frank Richards (Ray Milland). Gray's work purports to show that the common cat is actually a danger to humans all over the world. Gray proceeds to tell Richards three stories that will supposedly back his claims.

The first story takes place in England, 1912. A rich old woman (Joan Greenwood) plans to change her will and leave her fortune to her many. many cats, instead of her nephew. The old lady's maid (Susan Penhaligon) is in love with the nephew and tries to steal the new will while her mistress is asleep. The woman wakes up and the maid suffocates her...only to have the dead woman's voluminous collection of cats take revenge by besieging the maid in the old woman's home and attacking her.

This is probably the best of THE UNCANNY's three tales (which isn't saying much). It occurred to me that this story is basically a retread of Hammer's SHADOW OF THE CAT (that's more fuel to throw on the fire of the rivalry between Subotsky/Amicus and Hammer).

Gray's second example takes place in 1975 Quebec. A young girl named Lucy, who has lost her parents in a plane crash, is taken in by her Aunt and Uncle. Accompanying Lucy is her cat, named Wellington. Lucy's Aunt doesn't like cats, and Lucy's spoiled cousin Angela is jealous of it. Angela blames the cat for her own trouble making, and her mother decides to get rid of it...but Wellington returns, and encourages Lucy to take revenge through use of the occult, which she does by shrinking Angela to the size of a mouse. The scenes of the spellbound Angela vs. Wellington are very reminiscent of THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN. What's most interesting about this tale is that Chloe Franks plays Angela. In THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, Franks played a role very much Lucy--here she's the victim of black magic instead of the perpetrator.

The final tale is set in 1936 Hollywood. An egotistical actor (Donald Pleasence) "accidentally" kills his wife during the filming of his latest horror movie. The actor's mistress (Samantha Eggar) immediately fills in, at the studio and at home...but the devious couple have failed to reckon with the late wife's cat, who brings about a grisly comeuppance for both.

This story attempts to be satirical, in the manner of the climax of THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, which also happened to feature an egotistical horror movie actor (who was played by Jon Pertwee). I say "attempts"...because it just isn't funny. The story resembles a skit from the Carol Burnett TV show--except it isn't as entertaining. You'd think the one thing a horror satire would get right is making fun of actual horror movies, but the 1936 setting doesn't jibe with the Edgar Allan Poe-Roger Corman style movie being made.

In the end, THE UNCANNY isn't very uncanny. The whole point of the movie is that cats are plotting against us...but in the stories being shown, the only people harmed by the felines are nasty folks who deserve to "get it". The cats appear to be dishing out a form of cosmic justice instead of targeting the innocent. There may be some out there who are afraid of cats, but I'm sure there's many more cat lovers. The average house cat just doesn't seem all that scary. Director Denis Heroux spends a lot of time showing various cats in close-up, and there's a lot of shots of the critters leaping about, but despite all of that there isn't a real sense of menace.

Peter Cushing doesn't have much screen time in THE UNCANNY, but he does enough to convince the audience of Wilbur Gray's bizarre beliefs. Cushing's Gray is a trembling, worried man, and a bit disheveled (as I've mentioned on this blog before, when Cushing's hair is in disarray, you know things are not going too well). If there is a reason to see THE UNCANNY, it is for Cushing, despite his small role.

As I've mentioned, every story in THE UNCANNY reminds me of a much better film. It's as if Milton Subotsky had scraped the bottom of the barrel for ideas and made a few adjustments on earlier stories. The horror anthology film has a lot of promising possibilities, but too many of them follow the same old pattern of using the EC Comics/Robert Bloch format of disreputable characters getting supernatural just desserts.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The British Invaders Blogathon: The Dr. (not Doctor) Who Films









This is the fourth annual British Invaders Blogathon, and I believe I've taken part in every single one of them. For this one I decided to focus on a subject that is as British as you can get--but with a twist. The BBC television series DOCTOR WHO is a worldwide entertainment phenomenon, with over 50 years of history....but this post will be covering the two films based on the character. DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS was made in 1965, and DALEKS--INVASION EARTH 2150 A.D. was produced the very next year. Both movies starred Peter Cushing as the Doctor--or more accurately, "Dr. Who", which is what the character was called in the films. The difference between Dr. and Doctor is a subtle, but telling one. Cushing's "Dr. Who" has very little in common with "The Doctor" of the famed TV series.

Perhaps the Dr. Who films should be referred to as the Dalek films. The evil aliens had been a sensation since they were introduced on the DOCTOR WHO TV show in late 1963, and executive producer Joe Vegoda joined forces with Amicus' Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky to make a feature film taking advantage of this popularity. The Daleks are the real stars of these films--Dr. Who himself takes a backseat in the movies' advertising (just look at the original posters below). Amicus wanted the Daleks to be the main attraction since the character of the Doctor was only known in England, and these films were meant to be seen all over the world. (Amicus assumed that robotic-like creatures with a penchant for destruction would grab the attention of kids rather than a grouchy mysterious old man, which was how the Doctor was then played on TV by William Hartnell.) DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS was based on Terry Nation's multi-episode story "The Daleks", which introduced the aliens on TV.




Peter Cushing as Dr. (not Doctor) Who


Milton Subotsky's screenplay for DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS follows the original TV story closely for the most part. The big difference is how the Doctor is portrayed. Instead of a crotchety alien, this film's Dr. Who is a kindly, absent-minded human professor who has invented a device called TARDIS, which can travel throughout space and time. Note that I did not call it the TARDIS--in these films the device is called just TARDIS. The eccentric Dr. Who, along with his granddaughters Susan (Roberta Tovey) and Barbara (Jennie Linden), and Barbara's clumsy boyfriend Ian (Roy Castle), takes flight in TARDIS and bumbles his way to the Daleks' home planet, where the group helps the native Thals fight the robot-like creatures.






In DALEKS--INVASION EARTH 2150 A.D., Dr. Who is joined by Susan (Roberta Tovey again) and niece Louise (Jill Curzon). A London constable named Tom (Bernard Cribbins) inadvertently enters TARDIS, thinking it to be a real police call box. Soon Dr. Who & company arrive in the year 2150 (where everything looks suspiciously from the mid-1960s). They find that the Daleks have taken over the Earth, and the group joins forces with other rebels to defeat the aliens and save the planet.

DALEKS--INVASION EARTH 2150 A.D. is the better of the two films, with much more action and special effects, including Dalek spaceships. Milton Subotsky once again wrote the screenplay, this time based on the TV serial "The Dalek Invasion of Earth". This second Dr. Who feature was not as financially successful as the first, and Amicus decided not to make further films based on the character or the Daleks.





I believe that the Dr. Who films are nice, Saturday matinee-type adventures. Both films were in color and in widescreen, which was a major selling point when the films were originally released (the DOCTOR WHO TV show at the time was shown in black & white). Gordon Flemyng was the director on both films, and he keeps things at a rapid pace. The fact that both movies were condensed versions of multi-episode TV stories works in their favor....if you have seen enough classic DOCTOR WHO stories you know that much of the action involves the Doctor and his companions being captured, and escaping, and being captured and escaping, over and over again. The Dr. Who movies eliminate extraneous plot devices.

Many people look back on the films today and find them disappointing, mainly because the character of the Doctor differs so greatly from the TV show. But one has to place the films in their proper context. The movies were made for a mostly children's market, and sci-fi action was the major highlight. One has to consider that much of the extensive mythology surrounding the character of the TV Doctor had not yet even been created yet (the Doctor had not even had his first regeneration when these movies were made). The producers were trying to ride the wave of Dalekmaina, and they were not all that concerned about keeping continuity with a children's TV show that had only been on the air for a few years. The films have to be looked on as a separate entity from the television show--especially the 21st Century version of the program, with its overly complicated plots and soap opera-like elements involving the Doctor's companions. I'm sure that no one involved with the Dr. Who movies thought that they would be still discussed and debated 50 years later.

Peter Cushing's performance as Dr. Who has come under some major fan controversy. Bring up the Dr. Who feature films on any Peter Cushing groups on the internet and you're bound to get some strong reactions. There are some Cushing devotees who can't stand it when the great actor tries to be comic. I have to admit that Cushing lays the "funny old man" routine on a bit thick during the Dr. Who movies....but these films were made for a younger audience, and Cushing felt that this was the way to go. He certainly wasn't going to do a William Hartnell impression. The Dr. Who films give no backstory on the character (we don't even find out how such a muddled person can invent something like the TARDIS, let alone how he got the money to finance such a thing), so Cushing didn't have much to work with. He decided that these movies called for a more lighthearted portrayal than one was accustomed to getting from the actor in his many horror roles. His Dr. Who may frustrate some of his fans today, but Cushing enjoyed working on these films and getting away (if briefly) from the terror genre. I wouldn't want to see Cushing's "funny old man" routine in film after film, but in the Dr. Who movies I think for the most part it works.

I feel that the best way to appreciate the Dr. Who movies is to look on them as being part of an alternate universe. This is science-fiction, after all...who's to say that Cushing's Dr. Who isn't just part of a different time stream. The Dr. Who films are not part of the official continuity of the Doctor Who character--the BBC doesn't even have the rights to the films (Studio Canal does). Obviously the BBC is not going to go out of their way to bring attention to these movies. The result is that the Dr. Who films now reside in a type of limbo. They're based on DOCTOR WHO...but it's not really DOCTOR WHO. Cushing is not considered to belong among the constantly growing group of actors who have played the Doctor. (I can't tell you how many times I've mentioned to someone that Peter Cushing played Dr. Who in the movies, only to have that person respond with absolute surprise.)

However you define Peter Cushing's Dr. Who, the two films made around the character are worth seeing. Both movies are colorful, lighthearted, fast-paced adventures which were made to be enjoyed--not obsessively nit-picked over like so much of the Doctor Who Universe is today.

Monday, July 31, 2017

BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM On Blu-ray









A REAL Batman movie has just been released on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive. BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM (1993) was produced by the folks behind the wonderful BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. That TV show--and this movie--are far more truer to Batman's comic book roots than any of the character's live-action appearances.

Major gangsters are being killed in Gotham City, and the Batman is being blamed for it. The Caped Crusader's investigations of the murder wave lead him to some painful memories--mainly a broken relationship with the beautiful Andrea Beaumont, a woman that Bruce Wayne almost married. Andrea may have a connection with the gangland killings through her father. Batman's pursuit of this new vigilante--the Phantasm--also puts him in the path of the nefarious Joker, with devastating revelations for all concerned.

Clocking in at a compact 76 minutes, this movie might be mistaken as just an extra-length episode of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, but it's much more than that. MASK OF THE PHANTASM carries a PG rating, but it is a very dark story. The Phantasm does kill people, after all, and much of the story takes place during rain-soaked night scenes. During a flashback concerning Bruce Wayne's romance with Andrea Beaumont, the millionaire crime fighter feels guilty that if he marries the woman, he is turning his back on his vow to avenge his parent's deaths--which leads to Bruce having a breakdown in front of his parents' graves. This sequence has more emotional resonance than all the live-action Batman movies combined.

Usually when there is a romance for Bruce Wayne in a Batman movie, it comes off as contrived. Here it's totally believable, due to the earnest vocal performances by Kevin Conroy (who has portrayed the Dark Knight more than any other actor) and Dana Delany (who would go on to provide the voice of Lois Lane in Warner's Superman animated series). The Bruce Wayne-Andrea Beaumont relationship gives MASK OF THE PHANTASM a layer of dramatic weight that the "real" DC movies do not have.

The Joker has a only a supporting role in this film, but it's an important one, and Mark Hamill is dangerously funny as the Clown Prince of Crime. We also get to hear such character actors as Stacy Keach, Abe Vigoda, and Dick Miller. I would be remiss if I did not mention the droll subtlety of Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Alfred.

BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM comes to Blu-ray in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen. The movie is also presented in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The movie looks much brighter than the old DVD version, but it retains the classic animated look, which I prefer to today's too-perfect and too-sterile computer animation. The sound is presented in DTS-HD 2.0 stereo, and it is a booming mix, showcasing the action scenes and Shirley Walker's haunting music score.

I've always felt that BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES was the best representation of Batman in any medium other than DC comics. MASK OF THE PHANTASM was made during the series' height, and I can truly say that the only better Batman movie that has been made since is BATMAN BEGINS. If you think that animated means "kids stuff", you would be totally off the mark concerning MASK OF THE PHANTASM. It is a Batman movie for true Bat-fans. I do have to point out that it might be too dark for very young children.




Tuesday, July 25, 2017

DUNKIRK










I've always admired Christopher Nolan's film making abilities. He is a master at putting together intense, thrilling action sequences. I just haven't been able to love his movies as much as others. I've found his films to be overlong, overly complicated, and filled with too many climaxes.

With DUNKIRK Nolan has found the perfect subject for his considerable talents. Focusing on one historical incident brings out the best in the writer-director. The real-life saga of the British Expeditionary Force trapped on the coast of France in late spring of 1940, and facing utter annihilation from the German military, has enough dramatics on its own without Nolan inventing more. The actual timeline of the event keeps the film at a crisp 106 minutes, and Nolan has the audience on the edge of their seats during the entire time.

The film has three main points of view--an ordinary British soldier trying to get off the beach, an English civilian sailing his personal boat to Dunkirk to help in the evacuation, and a Spitfire pilot in the skies above. Nolan switches back and forth between the three subplots, compressing and stretching time, never letting the viewer catch a breath. There's no downtime in this film--Nolan strips away the usual war movie cliches. There's no scenes of wives and girlfriends waiting anxiously back home, or meetings of the German High Command, or shots of Winston Churchill staring pensively at a map. We're right in the thick of things with the protagonists in the sea, the air, and on the beach. The overall effect is riveting--and Nolan pulls it off without copious amounts of CGI gore.

We get no background information whatsoever on the characters in this film--for most of them we don't even get to learn their names. Some may find this annoying, but I think in this instance it works. Because we don't really know the characters we don't know how they will react to the various situations inflected on them--thus increasing the drama. There's no obvious war movie types here--the overall situation is more important than any one single character.

DUNKIRK is very much a visual experience--the images of real Spitfires soaring through the skies are awe-inspiring--but the sound design is noteworthy as well. Mention must be made of frequent Nolan collaborator Hans Zimmer, who contributes not so much a classic music score, but a driving tonal effect that ratchets up the tension.

It would be very easy for me to go on and on about DUNKIRK--but I would much rather have you see the film for yourself than spend time reading my opinion on it. I wonder if the movie will find the wide audience it deserves--at the screening I attended for it I was the youngest person in the theater, and I'm in my mid 40s. I hope DUNKIRK does not get branded as a "old white persons" story. The Second World War was the most monumental event in modern history--and in 2017 it's very easy to take for granted that the Allies won. If the BEF had been wiped out on the beaches of Dunkirk, or captured, the United Kingdom very well might have had to sign a treaty with Germany--and if that happened, where would have the D-Day invasion been staged from? DUNKIRK is a brilliantly made spectacle concerning human courage and tenacity, and it deserves to be seen by as many people as possible, no matter what their backgrounds or ages may be.




Saturday, July 22, 2017

SHALAKO










Movies don't get much more offbeat than SHALAKO. The 1968 Western was filmed in Spain, directed by a man who came out of the Hollywood studio system, and stars a collection of international actors. SHALAKO has just been released on Region A Blu-ray by Kino Studio Classics.

Sean Connery is SHALAKO--this was one of the first films he made after his initial retirement from the role of James Bond. The movie was based on a novel by Louis L'Amour, and a text introduction by the author states that throughout the 19th Century, European elites would take excursions into the American frontier in search of adventure and excitement. Connery's Shalako, a frontier scout, encounters a group of such aristocrats in the American Southwest. The group, which includes a Countess (Brigitte Bardot), a Baron (Peter Van Eyck), an English couple (Jack Hawkins and Honor Blackman), and a former U.S. Senator (Alexander Knox), has been led into Apache territory by their unscrupulous guide (Stephen Boyd). Shalako tries to warn the group of the danger that they are in, but they refuse to take him seriously, leading to the Apaches attacking and the embattled party having to work together to survive.

During the beginning of this film it takes some getting used to seeing Connery decked out in cowboy gear and riding a horse, but he does rather well in the role and the period. The actor is certainly masculine enough to put across the idea that he's someone well versed in the ways of the frontier. The characters of the hunting party are basically arrogant fools, and one wonders why Shalako would risk his life for them. Shalako is interested in the Countess, for obvious reasons (she's played by Brigitte Bardot, after all), but it's hard for a viewer to make a connection with her because Bardot's accent is so thick it's almost impossible to understand what she's saying. (Bardot also spends the entire movie wearing enough eyeliner to punch a hole in the ozone layer). Shalako may go out of his way to save the aristocrats for the Countess's sake, but it's doubtful the two characters could have a lasting relationship.

The leader of the band of Apaches is man called Chato, and he's played by Woody Strode. Apparently Chato is the same character played by Charles Bronson in CHATO'S LAND (talk about your shared cinema universes). Strode makes a powerful impression with very little screen time, but the big showdown between Chato and Shalako at the end of the film is something of an anti-climax.

A couple of other Bond veterans were part of the SHALAKO crew--cinematographer Ted Moore and stuntman/stunt arranger Bob Simmons. Simmons was kept pretty busy on this film (lots of folks fall off of horses in this story), but director Edward Dmytryk handles the action sequences in a generic fashion. (Dmytryk, who is more notorious for his involvement in the Hollywood blacklist controversy of the early 1950s, made a far better Western called WARLOCK.) As for Moore, his photography is hindered by the arid, depressing Spanish locations (if you've seen a number of Spaghetti Westerns, you might actually recognize some of them).

The Spanish locations, and the international cast, reminds one of a Spaghetti Western--but SHALAKO is nowhere near as outlandish or stylish as a typical outing from that genre. The movie will be most appreciated by Sean Connery fans and film buffs.