Shalako Review

From The Spaghetti Western Database

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Review of Shalako (1968 / Director: Edward Dmytryk / Cast: Sean Connery, Brigitte Bardot, Stephen Boyd, Peter von Eyk, Jack Hawkins, Honor Blackman, Woody Strode, Eric Sykes)

This British western was shot in the Almeria surroundings, the homeland of the spaghetti westerns. It stars no other than James Bond himself alongside Brigitte Bardot, in those days the biggest sex symbol in Europe. Connery received over one million dollars out of the 5 million dollar budget and brought two Bond collaborators with him, director of photography Ted Moore and stunt coordinator Bob Simmons. Honor Blackman also had a history in the Bond franchise: she had played the infamous Pussy Galore in Goldfinger.

In spite of the Spanish locations it doesn’t really feel like a spaghetti western, but it’s more violent and (especially) gory than most of them. There’s one scene including a necklace (you’ll recognize it when you see it) that is particularly gruesome. The premise is very nice: a party of European aristocrats are on a hunting party in New Mexico in the 1880’s. They’re travelling full equipage, including silver cutlery, vintage wines, butlers, maids, side-whiskers and frizzled moustaches. There’s even a countess called Irina Lazaar, played by Brigitte Bardot herself. The company is threatened by hostile Apaches and duped by the treacherous guide, who’s after their jewelry (and Honor Blackman's pussy galore). Luckily there’s a U.S. army scout to settle things.

The action scenes are well-crafted and quite exciting, and although Connery is largely ineffective as the scout, the film is well-cast. Van Eyk and Hawkins are very convincing as, respectively, an arrogant and a more concerned member of the European nobility, and Eric Sykes is very funny as the butler. Casting good old Woody Strode as an Indian was quite a daring thing, put the part probably launched his career in European westerns, which would turn him into one of the most famous people in film history waiting for a train. Main problems are a meandering script and the rather slow pace, especially during the second half of the movie. There are too many conversations with Bardot, who didn’t speak zee English very well and learned her lines phonetically. Edward Dmytrick’s direction isn’t very effective either. He was sixty at the time and probably not really interested in the project, but we would’ve expected more from the man who brought us Warlock and Broken Lance. The film is also marred by a rather abrupt conclusion and particularly silly theme song.

Allegedly Connery and Bardot didn’t get along very well. Producer Loyd had cast real Native Americans as Apaches, but the ones who turned up were overweight, so he hired Spanish gypsies instead. There were some incidents with actors and actresses complaining about these Spanish Indians charging in such a furious style that people felt really menaced. Two other movies were being filmed on virtually the same locations around Almeria, the spaghetti western May God forgive you … I won’t! (B.B. causing much excitement among the Italian stallions) and the British war movie Play Dirty (one film crew had to remove tyre tracks, the other had to remove the horse droppings before filming). One day the 'Indians' misinterpreted an indication of the director, and charged a British tank instead of the camp.


Simon Gelten
Simon Gelten is a long time contributor to the SWDb. "I'm not as old as Tom B. but I'm working on it. I hope to catch up with him by the end of the next decade.", he says. Simon saw all movies by Sergio Leone and several by Sergio Corbucci in cinema, most of the time in Eindhoven, the city where he was born. Currently, Simon is living in Turnhout, Belgium. Simon is active within the database as both Scherpschutter and his alter ego Tiratore Scelto.
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