Blu-ray Review: Chato's Land - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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For a rather bracing blast from the past, try Chato's Land (1972). The Michael Winner-directed Western was quite violent for its time, pulling no punches with its depiction of anti-Native American racism. Although it never transcends its decidedly B-movie status, Winner's film (written by Gerald Wilson, also screenwriter of Scorpio) delivers a relatively gripping tale. Stars Charles Bronson and Jack Palance add to the air of gritty, pulpy authenticity which permeates every nook and cranny of this revenge-driven tale.

Boutique reissue label Twilight Time, which specializes in unearthing forgotten classics of a wide variety of genres, has recently made Chato's Land available on Blu-ray. The edition is limited to 3,000 copies.

Bronson's usual stoicism works even better than usual in his portrayal of half-Caucasian/half-Apache Pardon Chato. Looked down upon for his heritage to the point where the local bartender refuses to serve him, Chato draws upon and shoots a sheriff in what amounts to self defense. This sets off a chain of events that finds Quincey Whitmore (Palance) leading a posse of vigilantes in an effort to kill Chato. Whitmore served during the Civil War as a captain in the Confederate army. He seems more than a little too eager to hunt Chato down.

As played by Bronson, Chato exhibits a disarmingly vulnerable side. He's clearly not out to make trouble, but circumstances have backed him into a rather uncomfortable corner. There's sort of a Rambo-esque quality to Chato, who has no choice but to resort to unforgivingly punishing violence as he avenges those close to him who've fallen victim to Whitmore's posse (the fate of Chato's wife, played by Sonia Rangan, is particularly horrific). Having been on the wrong side of the battle during the war, Whitmore's relish in his attempt to "win" the fight against Chato makes him all the more hissable. 
Chatos Land BD (301x380).jpg Chato's Land is one of ten Michael Winner films shot by cinematographer Robert Paynter. Twilight Time's Blu-ray offers a handsome high definition transfer of his work. The various Spanish and Mexican shooting locations offer plenty of beautiful scenery, all rendered fresh in a transfer struck from generally clean source materials. Audio is presented in lossless DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono.

As for special features, Jerry Fielding's score is presented as an isolated track (a standard feature of most Twilight Time releases). There's also an interview with Chato screenwriter Gerard Wilson.

For ordering information on Chato's Land, while supplies last, head to Screen Archives or the Twilight Time official site.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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