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Valdez Is Coming

By Sean Axmaker

There's nothing like the laconic, confident ease of Burt Lancaster in his gray years, even in the unlikely role of an easy-going Mexican. Bob Valdez is a deputy sheriff in an American frontier town bubbling over in racism. Scapegoated by the community for the death of an innocent victim of a trigger- happy posse and crucified, literally, by the sadistic gunrunner (Jon Cypher) responsible for the tragedy, the quiet lawman takes up arms in a bloody campaign that begins with the mantra: "Tell him Valdez is coming."

Adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel, the script is hardly subtle or original and it never makes the gaping chasm between the search for justice and the bloody reign of terror work in any dramatic terms. It's a rather amorphous morality tale without a solid grounding, but it's dutifully violent, charged with righteous anger, and makes good use of the stark landscape (it was shot in Spain, giving it even more of the flavor of a spaghetti Western). It's a bit embarrassing how Hollywood puts the spotlight on racism by casting a white actor to play the wronged minority, but Lancaster creates a wonderful character in Valdez. With gentle eyes and a tired smile behind a face covered in brown Hollywood makeup, he brings sure-footed authority and calm ruthlessness to a mission of justice by a man wronged one too many times.

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FILM FACTS

Buy this VHS movie from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Buy this DVD from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Buy this soundtrack from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Rated PGNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: Edwin Sherin

Stars: Burt Lancaster, Susan Clark, Richard Jordan

Released: April 9, 1971

Availability: DVD VHS CD


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