I had not seen it in quite a while, and was surprised by the film’s brutality. Shot in the Almeria surroundings, Shalako 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. Without pretending that it’s a good film, I’d say it’s better than it’s reputed to be.
The premise is very nice: a company 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, frizzled moustaches and Countess Irina Lazaar (B.B. herself)… But then they’re threatened by hostile Apaches and duped by their treacherous guide, who’s after their jewelry (and Honor Blackman). Luckily there’s a U.S. army scout (007 himself) 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. Veteran actors Van Eyk and Hawkins are very convincing as, respectively, an arrogant and a tormented member of the European nobility, and both Honor Blackman and B.B. are perfectly believable as the high class tarts (with or without hearts) flirting with macho Sean and macho Stephen. Boyd is a standout as the double-crossing guide, Erik Sykes very funny as the butler. The problem is a meandering script that slows the film down considerably, especially during the second half. 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.
Not great, certainly not a classic, but worth a look if you’re in the mood for some tasty nastiness.