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Chato’s Land (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Chato’s Land (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: November 16th, 2021.
    Director: Michael Winner
    Cast: James Whitmore, Charles Bronson, Simon Oakland, Jack Palance, Ralph Waite, Richard Jordan
    Year: 1972
    Purchase From Amazon

    Chato’s Land – Movie Review:

    The first of six movies that director Michael Winner would make with Charles Bronson (Death Wish being their most successful), Chato’s Land begins with a scene where an Apache named Pardon Chato is minding his own business in a tavern. He’s hassled by a racist man and winds up killing him in self-defense, unaware that the man was a U.S. Marshall.

    When a Confederate Captain named Quincey Whitmore (Jack Palance) learns of this, he puts together a posse made up of Joshua Everette (James Whitmore), Jubal Hooker (Simon Oakland) and his brothers Elisa (Ralph Waite) and Earl (Richard Jordan), Martin Hall (Victor French) and a few others including a Mexican scout (Raul Castro). The arm themselves and head out into the desert, Whitmore firm in his belief that they’ll have a hanging by nightfall. Once they’re out in the sticks, however, they soon learn the hard way that Chato knows this terrain far more intimately than they do. Tensions within the group begin to mount in a big way, but once certain members of the gang abduct and rape Chato’s woman (Sonia Rangan), the kid gloves come off and he exacts his violent revenge.

    Although it is essentially a chase film with some obvious revenge movie elements thrown in set against the backdrop of the classic American West, Chato’s Land also works as an allegory to what American troops went through in the Vietnam War. Here we have a group of men completely out of their element and while they have more advanced weapons at their disposal than their enemy, said enemy has the home turf advantage. It’s interesting to think about the movie that way, particularly when the men in the posse torch a small Apache village (in a seen the predates Cannibal Holocaust but conjures up a similar feeling of queasiness) that makes you think of something like the My Lai Massacre where American soldiers did just that – torched a Vietnamese village. The movie also serves as a fairly scathing critique on racism no just in the period and location in which it is set, but American society as a whole. Michael Winner may have occasionally wallowed in exploitation, but this time around he directed a film with a very strong social conscience.

    The cast are in fine form here. It’s amusing to see Victor French, best known for his role as kindly Isiah Edwards in Little House On The Prairie, cast as one of the bastard posse members. Richard Jordon, Ralph Waite and Simon Oakland are great as the treacherous Hooker Brothers and James Whitmore well cast here too. Jack Palance is great as Quincy Whitmore, a man with his own code of honor and a bit more level headed than most of the men he’s surrounded himself with. Palance, occasionally prone to chewing scenery, delivers an admirably restrained effort here and the movie is all the better for it. Of course, in the middle of all of this is a fifty year old Charles Bronson. A man who could cut an imposing frame even in an advanced age as he is here, Bronson as Chato is lean, mean and cunning. Bronson does almost all of his acting here without dialogue. He’s got a few lines, sure, but more often than not he does what he does using body language and facial expressions. He does it so well, you almost don’t notice that the role is nearly silent, his weathered face able to convey more with just a glance than any script could hope to achieve.

    There are times where the pacing is a little sluggish but even in those moments the movie is strong enough in the cinematography department that we don’t mind. Shot in Spain and in Mexico this is a very good looking film, you’ll have no trouble buying this as the American West, while the score from the legendary Jerry Fielding helps to accentuate the drama, the tension and the action inherent in the story.

    It should be noted that although this Blu-ray release features a PG rating on the back of the cover art, this is in fact the uncut ‘international’ version of the movie. That means that certain scenes are stronger than they were on the previous Region 1 DVD release – the rape scene features some obvious nudity, the Indian that is hung over the fire is shot, the horse stripping is intact, the rock to the face scene is also intact.

    Chato’s Land – Blu-ray Review:

    Taken from a new 2K restoration, Kino brings Chato’s Land to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed properly in the film’s original 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio looking really good. Taking up 33GBs of space on the 50GB disc, the film is given a nice, strong bit rate and shows impressive detail, depth and texture in pretty much every shot, though some do look a bit heavier in the grain department than others. Black levels are strong but avoid crush and color reproduction looks very good. There aren’t any compression problems to note, even in scenes with a lot of dust or smoke, and the image is free of noise reduction or edge enhancement. There’s also very little print damage here to note, the image looks very clean.

    The only audio option provided on the Blu-ray is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono mix, there are no alternate language options but subtitles are provided in English as well. This track sounds fine. The levels are nicely balanced and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion. The score has a decent amount of depth to it and the dialogue is always easy to understand.

    The main extra on the disc is a new audio commentary from Howard S. Berger and Steve Mitchell that begins by gushing a bit about how good the movie looks before then talking about who did what behind the camera. There's lots of talk here about Michael Winner's life and career, Wilson's script and how the movie is deeper than the simple plot, how well the film is structured, satirical elements that are common in Winner's work, the use of the McBain house from Once Upon A Time In The West and the shooting locations used for the film, where a lot of the 'scrub and brush' was put in by the art department, where Bronson's career was at this point and the success he'd had in Europe, how Palance did and didn't get along with Winner on the shoot, Winner's penchant for putting in content in this films with Bronson than Bronson wasn't always comfortable with, the different versions of the rape scene that have existed in different cuts of the movie, Jerry Fielding's score and its 'ugly, transitory' qualities and lots more. There are a few spots where they talk over one another but overall, this is an interesting breakdown of the movie, equal parts history/trivia and analysis.

    Up next is an eighteen minute interview with screenwriter Gerald Wilson where he talks about his feelings on the western genre, his connection to Native American culture, how the landscape in the film is not an inanimate backdrop, what his motivations were when writing the script, stories of the Apache Indians and how good they were at working the land they lived in, working some of his own politics into the script and thoughts on some of the acting in the film.

    Finishing up the extras on the disc are a trailer for the feature, bonus trailers for a few other Bronson vehicles (Cold Sweat, The Valdez Horses, Mr. Majestyk, Breakhart Pass, From Noon Till Three, The White Buffalo and Cabo Blanco), menus and chapter selection options. This release also comes packaged with a reversible cover sleeve and a slipcover.

    Chato’s Land – The Final Word:

    Chato’s Land is a hard hitting western revenge film that takes advantage of some great location photography to tell a tense and violent story. Highlighted by some great work from both Jack Palance and Charles Bronson, it’s a really well made film that’s absolutely worth checking out. Kino’s Blu-ray reissue offers a very nice presentation and some good extras as well. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below (or right click and open'em in a new window!) for full sized The Chato’s Land Blu-ray screen caps!

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    Ian Jane
    Last edited by Ian Jane; 01-20-2022, 06:27 PM.

    • Spaghetti Monkey
      Spaghetti Monkey
      Senior Member
      Spaghetti Monkey commented
      Editing a comment
      Cool, i was just wondering if this might be the longer cut the other day, and then forgot to look into it. Definitely gonna order this at some point.
    Posting comments is disabled.

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