The Name's Shaloka, Just Shalako
As a rule I enjoy westerns but yet I always seem to struggle with the westerns of the 60s which had heavy European influences. I don't mean the spaghetti westerns but the likes of "Shalako" which feature a dominant European cast including Sean Connery, Brigitte Bardot, Peter van Eyck, Honor Blackman and Eric Sykes. They just don't feel very natural and whilst "Shalako" has a storyline about European hunters finding themselves under attack in Indian Territory it all feels very false. And it also feels very routine as they are lead to safety by frontiersman Shalako through the hills full of brushes with danger. Don't get me wrong as "Shalako" is not a bad movie but compared to other westerns is struggling to be average.
On an Apache reservation in New Mexico a group of European hunters discover that they are in danger from the Native Indians but pig headedly ignore the advice of frontiersman Shalako (Sean Connery - Thunderball). Despite this and an instant fondness for Irina (Brigitte Bardot), one of the hunting party, he convinces them to prepare for trouble whilst he heads off to try and alert the army. Leaving Bosky Fulton (Stephen Boyd - Billy Rose's Jumbo) to protect the hunters Shalako doesn't get very far before hearing the gunfire as they are attacked and returns to try and lead them to safety.
So as already mentioned there is something very routine about "Shalako" with the story of Indians on the war path and a group of civilians in trouble. Yes the set up maybe that they are hunters from Europe and there is a subplot featuring the Daggett family who are in money trouble but none of this makes it feel any different. And so what that means is we have the hero Shalako who tries to help these hunters by leading them to safety and protecting them from the Indians. We watch as he leads them through rough terrain, battles Indians and being the hunky hero also falls for the delightful Irina who also has Baron Hallstatt interested in her. To say "Shalako" was cliche wouldn't be unfair as every single story element has been used before.
To be fair many westerns end up being cliche and routine and whilst "Shalako" is no different it does have some decent moments of action. A scene which sees the fort coming under attack from the Indians is pretty spectacular especially as we actually see people getting hit by flaming arrows. And just the sheer chaotic energy of the action grabs your attention. Although the level of over the top acting when it comes to people dying is frightening, you find yourself uncontrollably laughing as people die, grabbing their last breath, staggering several paces before a sudden demise.
But whilst it is routine with some good action I just find the whole European side of "Shalako" feeling very wrong. It just doesn't feel right to have Connery's Scottish accent, Bardot's French accent, Peter van Eyck German tones and then also the British accents of Honor Blackman and Eric Sykes. Yes you may have Woody Strode and whilst Irish by birth Stephen Boyd does a decent American accent but the whole diversity of it with it being so heavily European just feels wrong. And I have to say that Erik Sykes who is a comedy genius seems to have been cast in an almost "Carry on" like role as the hunters Butler yet the comedy of the character has been toned right down. You may laugh that it is so quintessentially British that the Butler serves drinks on a silver salver in the midst of the desert but the witty dialogue you expect is non existent.
Whilst the whole European thing and the diverse accents is an issue Sean Connery is actually quite good as hunky hero Shalako. It almost feels like he is at home playing this western character and certainly looks the part especially in the moments of action. He even makes the love triangle side of "Shalako" work and works well with Brigitte Bardot who as Irina seems to have been cast primarily for her stunning looks rather than anything else. But sadly the rest of the cast from Stephen Boyd playing the cheating Bosky Fulton through to Honor Blackman as Lady Daggett feels very wrong and very unsure as if they weren't sure how to be playing their characters.
What this all boils down to is that "Shalako" is not a terrible movie but neither is it very good and to be honest it is struggling to be average. The diversity of European accents and characters in a western makes for a very strange mix and it doesn't disguise that "Shalako" is in fact a very routine western with such cliches as a love triangle, warring Indians and a cheating, untrustworthy cowboy. It does have its moments which work especially when it comes to the action but what goes on in-between is relatively dull.