CHATO’S LAND has Charles Bronson do what he did best: bump guys off. In the case of this thoroughly unpleasant 1972 western, made in Spain with a predominately American cast and a British director, Charlie’s casualty count takes out all major supporting players. One of three build-the-legend pictures he made in ’72, joining The Valachi Papers (a big hit, #11) and The Mechanic (#50), this revenge saga tagged 65th place, grossing $4,800,000.
Half-Apache ‘Chato’ (CB) kills a thuggish sheriff in self-defense, and is pursued by a posse of 11 scruffy creeps led by ex-Confederate ‘Captain Quincey Whitmore’ (Jack Palance). They’re Indian haters, brutes and curs in general, with the few who have a spark of decency buffaloed by the nastier types. But Chato knows his land, and after they rape his wife (a repellent and needless scene) he takes ’em down, one by scurvy one. The End.
Directed by Michael Winner, who never met a scene he couldn’t coarsen, with an atrocious script by Gerald Wilson, filled with faux-folksy cussin’ and cactus lingo. Not lazy enough, it adds pretentious philosophizing in between the groups endless squabbling and violent exits. Good actors gone bad: this marks a real low point for pros Richard Basehart and James Whitmore, and lets Palance, Simon Oakland, Richard Jordan and Ralph Waite rabidly chew half the parched scenery in southern Spain. This may be the movie where Bronson has the least lines of dialogue in any of his pictures, and most of the handful he does have are not in English. Since the other ‘Apaches’ Chato encounters look like Cheyenne’s (maybe they got lost from the set of Custer Of The West ?), we’re skeptical if the “native” speak is accurate.
The first of six pictures director Winner–who also produced and edited the movie—and Bronson would make together. Effective offbeat scoring from Jerry Fielding (The Wild Bunch), and some decent cinematography by Robert Paynter (An American Werewolf In London) help some. Bronson looks imposing as hell. With Victor French, Roddy McMillan, William Watson, Lee Patterson and Sonia Rangan (as Chato’s violated wife, on hand so director Winner can gratuitously rip off her clothes and stage a gang rape). 100 minutes.