Chato's Land is a 1972 western Technicolor film directed by Michael Winner, starring Charles Bronson and Jack Palance. It falls more closely into the revisionist Western genre, which was at its height at the time. The original screenplay was written by Gerry Wilson.
- 2 Cast
- 3 Reception
- 4 Media Releases
- 5 Soundtrack
- 6 References
- 7 External links
When Chato, who is half Apache, kills the local sheriff, in self-defense, a former Confederate officer, Capt. Quincey Whitmore gathers a posse to hunt him down. It includes a number of local ranchers and townspeople, along with a Mexican who is used as a scout and tracker.
The posse pursues Chato into the wilderness, deliberately led into Apache country by him. Chato sabotages their water supply and puts several of their horses to flight.
In retaliation, some members of the posse brutally assault Chato's woman, raping her and murdering his friend. Disagreements flare while Chato picks them off one by one. It gradually begins to dawn on the remainder of the posse that they are the ones being hunted.
When released Vincent Canby panned the film calling it a "...long, idiotic revenge Western...It was directed by Michael Winner in some lovely landscapes near Almeria, Spain. Just about everybody gets shot or knifed, and one man dies after Chato lassos him with a live rattlesnake."
TV Guide, echoing Canby, wrote, "A great cast is primarily wasted in this gory, below-average, and overlong film. The script could have been written for a silent film to fit with Bronson's traditional man-of-few-words image (in fact, more grunts and squint than words)...As usual Bronson must rely upon the conviction that there are viewers who find silence eloquent."
A more recent Film4 review was more positive observing that Chato's Land "...though no masterpiece, is an effective and frequently disturbing piece of filmmaking. A tough, cynical western with well-paced direction and a fine performance from Charles Bronson and the cast of vagabonds out to get him. A quality film from Michael Winner."
Film critic Graeme Clark discussed an often discussed contemporary political theme of the film when it was released in the early 1970s, writing, "There are those who view this film as an allegory of the United States' presence inVietnam, which was contemporary to this storyline, but perhaps that is giving the filmmakers too much credit. Granted, there is the theme of the white men intruding on a land where they are frequently under fire, and ending up humiliated as a result, but when this was made it was not entirely clear that America would be on the losing side as the conflict may have been winding down, but was by no means over."
Film4, is more assertive in their review, "The cruelty of the posse is well conveyed by an able (and supremely ugly) group of actors headed up by Jack Palance and Simon Oakland. Some of their acts, such as the brutal rape of Chato's squaw and the burning of an Indian village, have an unpleasant edge which Winner does not shy away from. Parallels with the contemporary situation in Vietnam can't have been lost on the original audience.