Although filmed in Almeria, Spain and staffed by an Italian and Spanish crew and actors, VALDEZ HORSES is not a spaghetti western. A spaghetti western is essentially about seeking reward or vengeance through violent action. That's why we like spaghetti westerns. VALDEZ HORSES has some action, and some violence, but it's not about revenge or reward, and it doesn't segue into mythological themes about gunfighters. It is essentially a character-driven drama about giving up what you love in order to save it from destruction. It's also a bittersweet romance. Chino Valdez finds some happiness in mentoring an orphan and romancing an English lady who obviously loves him, but in the end, he has to give up everything. He is a halfbreed who is not fully accepted in either culture. This is a thoughtful and intelligent drama, adapted from a popular novel by an influential western author, scripted by a respected western author, and directed by an acknowledged expert of the genre. The film plays out on the plausible scale and realistic scale. It's cinematic brothers are THE MISFITS (1961), HUD (1963), and THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (1971) except that it's a period piece. I find it a satisfying western drama. I enjoy the interaction between Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland. They clearly enjoy working together, their scenes ring true emotionally, and she brings out a light in his eyes that isn't just acting. I also enjoy the footage of wild horses and wrangling which everybody works hard to get right.
Does anyone know why John Sturges was replaced by Duilio Coletti?
How much of the film did Sturges direct, and what did Coletti direct?
VALDEZ HORSES wasn't a box-office success in the USA. Perhaps audiences expected an action film, or a spaghetti western and were disappointed to find out it wasn't either, or perhaps they stayed away because it was sold as an action film / spaghetti western. Since the film makers clearly intended to make a period drama, perhaps the distributors didn't know how to market the film. In any case VALDEZ HORSES is an under-rated gem that merits another chance on home video.
In view of the quality of the film, the presence of a big star whose films remain popular on home video, and an A-list director, it is surprising that VALDEZ HORSES doesn't have a decent release in the USA. Is there a widescreen, anamorphic print somewhere in the world? There is a Momentum/Arrow DVD and a Optimum DVD in the U.K., but are they widescreen and anamorphic, or pan & scanned? And how is the picture quality?
All the public domain editions in the USA look like crap.