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Valdez Horses
cast: Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, and Marcel Bozzuff

director: John Sturges, Dulio Coletti

93 minutes (15) 1974
widescreen ratio 16:9
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by John Percival
Valdez Horses is a thoughtful western with Charles Bronson at his most brooding. Here as loner Chino Valdez, a half Indian and half Mexican, he faces enough problems but always seems most comfortable on his remote ranch and in the company of the horses he breaks in. However his life changes with the arrival of a 15-year-old runaway and falling in love with a vicious landowner's sister.

Not really being used to westerns I gave this one a try because even though I had not heard of it before, the combination of Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland usually produces good results. I am glad to say that even though the story is simple and the pace slow, essentially it is quite enjoyable.

Although there are moments of action it is not really what defines this movie and much of the emphasis is on the interactions between Chino and the other characters. Chino is generally tough and brooding usually involved in fights in the local town, he withdraws to his ranch to break in horses and they are what he respects. It is surprising then that not only does he take in the runaway and teach him the way of life, that also he swings from politely insulting the posh Catherine to falling in love with her. Some of the problems for Chino result from his half-Indian background. The racists from town use that as excuse to attack him, although Chino does give as good as he gets. Also even though he is a loner he still has connections to an Indian tribe and returns there frequently, giving Jamie a lesson in other cultures. It is also to them that Jamie takes Chino when he is badly injured by Marcel the neighbour who is trying to steal Chino's land and drive him away from his sister.

It is the relationship and near marriage of Chino and Catherine that leads the cowboy to crisis. Nearly killed by Marcel's men he does not return as an angry 'angel of vengeance' all hot lead and chewing tobacco. With Catherine out of his reach, he defends himself against the men who continue to hunt him before he sets his horses free and torches the ranch. He and Jamie then ride off into the distance.

It is definitely an unusual ending, as it seems that the bad guy has won and nothing has been resolved. I can see how some people would find this unsatisfying that after the slow story we are denied the hero's victory. However maybe that is the point that the hero does not always win the big battles but also withdrawing from the conflict prevents any further casualties such as Jamie or Catherine can be the better option.

The filming is really quite good and with the stunning scenery everything appears to be thoughtfully appropriate and not stereotypical. There are many elements that are interesting to watch, such as the respectful way that the horses are broken in. Also the growing relationship between Jamie and Chino as Chino gradually becomes fonder of the boy who represents the child he has never had. Chino is obviously a man with a sad and troubled past, from the scars on his body, his own exile to the doomed relationship with Catherine, Bronson draws out each element brilliantly. He is not an angry gun-slinging thug but a thoughtful troubled man with good intentions. For anyone looking for a different kind of western then this would be a good choice. For someone who usually shies away from westerns I am really quite glad to have seen this one.
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