Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Chato's Land

What Chato's land doesn't kill, Chato will.

They should of known not to fuck with Bronson

Capt. Quincey Whitmore: - 'To you this is so much bad land - rock, scrub, desert and then more rock. A hard land that the sun has sucked all the good out of. You can't farm it and you can't carve it out and call it your own... so you damn it to hell and it all looks the same. That's our way. To the breed, now, it's his land. He don't expect to give him much and he don't force it none. And to him, it's almost human - a living thing. And it will give him a good place to make his fight against us.'

If you've not guessed, Bronson plays an apache
Chato's land is a western starring Charles Bronson & Jack Palance released in 1972 & directed by Michael Winner. This was the beginning of the relationship between Winner & Bronson which would see them work together on a further five films over the next few years.
Bronson plays the part of Chato, a half American, half Indian who in the opening scene kills a US marshal in self-defence. A group of locals led by Quincey Whitmore (Jack Palance) volunteer to hunt down & bring Chato to justice.

First of all, looking back at this film in 2012 the casting of Bronson as an Apache Indian feels kind of ridiculous. Whilst Bronson has a look of someone who doesn't quite fit you can't help but feel casting a person of actual mixed heritage or descent would of worked better for the movie. In the past this was the norm, most notably Burt Reynolds as Navajo Joe in the 1966 movie of the same name cast as a full blooded Indian.
Perhaps the studio felt that a star was needed for the role of Chato & there was nobody who could fit the part with the right credentials. However, this is not a major problem & very quickly into the film I began to accept Bronson as Chato.
Bronson says the reason he accepted the role was because 'I wanted to play an Indian as an Indian should be played. I've not seen an Indian played realistically on the screen yet... I want to give a good, clean-cut and fair identification..'

Bronson, professional snake thrower!

Bronson doesn't have a single word of English dialogue in this movie. On two occasions he talks in native tongue with fellow Indians but for the most part this is a silent role as Chato. Also, despite being the star of the film Bronson doesn't receive a great deal of screen time. The posse of men believe they are hunting Chato but as the picture progresses it becomes clear that the hunters are becoming the hunted.
As they ride deeper into Chato's climate they begin to slowly struggle to survive. They don't know where to find water from & they are starving so resort to eating one of their own horses. All this goes on whilst Chato watches from a distance. Chato knows where there are puddles to drink from & even catches a rattlesnake which he skins & eats.

The real star of this picture is Jack Palance. He & his group of volunteers go searching for Chino in the wilderness & end up deeper and deeper in Apache country. The majority of the group function simply as a bunch of bloodthirsty racists who cannot wait to put an end to an Indian's life. However Palance's character Quincey Whitmore is a much more sympathetic character who appears to be more cultured than the rest & understands the dangers of the Apache landscape.
In one scene members of the group find Chato's women & gang-rape her (yet another Winner film with rape!). Whitmore does not take part in this & covers the naked women up after the savages are finished with her. In another an Apache that has been caught & shot is being hung & burnt to death yet Whitmore pulls out his gun & puts the man out of his misery.

Chato's land features some strong cinematography, though with those kind of landscapes it would be almost impossible to not of made it look anything other than impressive. The score by Jerry Fielding is not your typical western score yet is very successful in subtle way which helps create the atmosphere & the feeling of dread which starts to creep into the posse as they travel further into Chato's territory.

Bronson may have little to work with considering his lack of dialogue & the fact he only pops up every once in a while to spy on his prey yet his performance is exactly what was needed for this picture. He looks more experienced, wiser & respectful of his surroundings than that of his hunters which gives Chato his believability throughout.

Overall Chato's land is a really tight & well performed western with some memorable scenes & some great characters. Not a classic Bronson performance but definitely a film that I'd personally place in the upper regions of pictures that he has starred in.

Turkish Promotional Poster

Director: Michael Winner
Year Of Release: 1972
Character: Chato
Also starring: Jack Palance & James Whitmore
Age during shoot: 51
Bronson Death Count: 7
Length - 110 Minutes
Film Rating: 7.5/10
Bronson Rating: 6.25/10


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