Filmed in both Spain and Italy, Valdez is Coming (1971) is yet another Euro-Western. It stars Burt Lancaster, whose self-proclaimed mission is to raise a decent pile of cash for the Apache widow of a man wrongfully shot. Among fast guns, prejudice, and easy virtue, Bob Valdez’s charitable solicitation is laughed off by the boss and responsible party, rancher Frank Tanner (Jon Cypher). It was Tanner who bungled the shooting, having cornered an honorably discharged soldier nowhere near the scene of the crime. But what about it? The man is Black. His wife is Red. So Valdez is fully earnest when he tells Tanner to be colorblind and fork over a hundred dollars for the sake of the grieving widow. Tanner cannot believe it. But his being stubborn is nothing but a temporary problem. Valdez will resort to force and cunning. Tanner must pay.
An IMDB User Reviewer brings out the fact that Valdez is a constable from Lanoria. In other words, he is a peacekeeper. With one hundred dollars from Tanner he can get another hundred elsewhere. Two hundred is a tidy sum indeed. It will placate his restless soul for having shot an innocent, and also for having hunted Apaches long ago for General Crook. A single flashback tells the story. Expiation is a genuine motivator. As a result, Valdez will not rest until he collects. The money has to come from Tanner and no one else. Along the way, he succeeds in irritating a lot of neighborhood VIPs.
In Westerns, as usual, Mr. Lancaster gives a hundred percent. He is almost always in motion: climbing, riding, shooting, hiding, or fighting. Captured, he is tied to a makeshift crucifix. Freed, he wears cross bullets. At rest, upon occasion, the camera drives in close, punctuating the movie screen with painterly effects. Euro-Westerns break many unwritten cinematographic laws. They make ample use of zoom and telephoto lenses, and often overwhelm the soundtrack with over-dramatic music. Shootings are sometimes supernaturally quick. Every once in a while, one wonders if the filmmakers did not have 3D in mind with so many guns pointed in as many directions. But the narrative keeps moving regardless of how often the viewer is deliberately startled. That nice suspension of disbelief is interrupted, a key psychological mechanism of cinema.
There are movie fans who prefer not to look back, to move forward, and always see the new ones, released every single week. There is nothing wrong with this. But why deprive oneself? Valdez is Coming is so nicely plotted, tough, and tender. Valdez speaks with a light accent and wears his hat sideways. He is no gringo, and time and again, he is called a fool. But he knows what he is doing. He can shoot from a great distance and hit his mark. He takes enormous chances, too. He holds Tanner’s lady friend hostage to apply pressure. But she is not so keen on going back. In the meantime, so many get killed and injured that the viewer will once or twice be tempted to give up on Valdez’s extremism. Why does he not just quit and own up to the fact that the West belongs more to the corrupt than the righteous? Or the invaders rather than the native inhabitants? But for those who like movies with twists and turns, bite, and moral components, Valdez is Coming will not disappoint. One need only watch and hope that there is some sort of correspondence to reality. For it is true, or so it would seem, that things can be done, not to magically erase wrongs, but to re-direct the pathways men and women trod upon, so that some wrongs, at least, are rarely if ever repeated.