Combustible Celluloid
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With: Burt Lancaster, Susan Clark, Frank Silvera, Jon Cypher, Richard Jordan, Barton Heyman, Hector Elizondo, Phil Brown, Ralph Brown, Werner Hasselmann, Lex Monson
Written by: Roland Kibbee, David Rayfiel, based on a novel by Elmore Leonard
Directed by: Edwin Sherin
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, brief nudity and some language
Running Time: 90
Date: 04/09/1971

Valdez Is Coming (1971)

3 Stars (out of 4)

A Hundred Dollars

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Burt Lancaster is quite good in the title role in Valdez Is Coming, although here in 2018, it's the kind of role that would raise hackles; why did it have to be played by a white actor, when it's a perfectly good role for a Latino actor? In any case, with a story by Elmore Leonard, the movie has its good points, notably its intriguingly gray-area setup. A rich white landowner has a black man trapped in a cabin. He claims the black man has committed some crime. Valdez goes to the cabin to speak to him, and it's confirmed that he is, in fact, not guilty. But one of the landowner's nasty henchman has crept up behind Valdez with a gun. The black man sees this, thinks he has been double-crossed, and attacks Valdez. Valdez shoots and kills the man. It's clearly not his fault, but he did pull the trigger.

Since the man has an Indian wife, Valdez decides that she deserves some compensation for the killing. The townspeople agree to put up $100 if the evil landowner, Frank Tanner (Jon Cypher), also puts up $100. Valdez asks nicely, more than once, but is tormented and humiliated. So he pulls his guns out from under his bed, and utters the the title "Tell him Valdez is coming." The grimy-looking movie certainly has some fun moments, but Tanner is just a flat-out nasty, one-dimensional monster, and his wife (Susan Clark) is only around for window dressing, though everyone -- even the men -- wears too much eye makeup. Kino Lorber released it on Blu-ray in late 2017. It comes with a knowledgable commentary track by historian Jim Hemphill and trailers.

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