The Valdez Horses - The Valdez Horses(Blu Ray) [Powerhouse - 2021]The Valdez Horses is a mellow ‘n’ moody early 1970’s western that is both bittersweet & thoughtful. It features in its lead Charles Bronson as lonesome rancher- who tries to shift from his solitary life. The film features largely nuanced performances, and low-key gunplay/ action quota- all set to a dramatic and rugged mountain/untamed plains backdrop. From Powerhouse here is a Region B Blu Ray release- bringing together a commentary track from Bronson expect Paul Talbot, and a few other extras.
The Valdez Horses(Valdez il mezzosangue, Chino) was an Italian production that appeared in 1973, it was directed by American John Sturges, with an American, Italian and Irish cast. It was filmed in Almería, Spain, which was often used in Spaghetti Westerns, though I’d say this is less typical of that genre- as there is a much more mellow-to-charming feel to much of the film's runtime. Though it’s edged with moments of melancholia, and a more gritty-to-cruelly violent edge in its last quarter.
The film focuses in on Chino Valdez (Bronson)- a solitary/ half Indian-half Mexican rancher, who tames wild horses to sell to the nearby town. One evening when he’s cooking supper in his isolated ranch- there’s a knock on his door, it’s Jamie Wagner(Vincent Van Patten) a blond-haired teen looking for work. Initially, the boy stays a few nights, but the pair quickly bound- with the rough, yet caring Bronson mellowing some. This mellowing continues when English / America women Catherine(Jill Ireland) turns up to buy a horse from him- but unfortunately, her half brother is Maral(Marcel Bozzuffi) is a cruel & ruthless cattle baron. The film largely stays in a rather mellow-to-moody setting, with very fleeting action/ gunplay that is largely kept for the last quarter of the film.
Cast wise Bronson is prefect as the tough-yet-lonesome rancher, Van Patten mangers to balance youthful naivety & charm well. With Ireland(Bronson's real life wife) nicely shifting from stuffy-to passionate, and Bozzuffi makes for a believable unpleasant bad guy. The Valdez Horses is certainly a more low-key western that nicely sits between comfy & bittersweet.
This new region B features a high definition print- this is nice & crisp, highlighting the wonderfully dramatic landscape. On the extras side- first off we get a commentary track- I’m not sure if this new, or brought over from a previous edition of the film- it’s with film historian & Bronson expert Paul Talbot. This is a very well researched & interesting track- with Talbot moving from talking about the film's production, what point Bronson was in his career, the original novel the film was based on & how it compares. He gives in-depth actors bios, comments on locations, and much more- it’s a very worthy track, which could easily be played a few times. We get two new on-screen interviews- one with respected make-up artist Giannetto De Rossi, and the second is with uncredited screenwriter Stephen Geller- the first one runs sixteen minutes & the second twenty-one. The finished release comes with a 36-page booklet featuring a new essay by Roberto Curti, an archival on-set report with contributions from Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, and John Sturges, extracts of interviews with Bronson and Ireland, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits.
The Valdez Horses is a more moody character study take on the western, and it’s great to see this more thoughtful take on the genre receiving a release from Powerhouse.