OK Rod Taylor Western
This is a movie that constantly teeters on the brink of being awful,
yet somehow continually proves itself to be interesting and
Here's what I liked:
- Rod Taylor pulls off the role of charismatic "pistolero" loner quite
- I don't know how plausible it is for a former British army officer to
be commanding U.S. troops, but John Mills character adds a unique
texture to the Western setting.
- The characters in the movie were very well developed in terms of
- Ernest Borgnine and James Whitmore provide excellent supporting
- I liked the fact that a strong Mexican theme was introduced through
the love interest. It was nice to see a Mexican aristocrat portrayed
and not the usual ragged, barefoot street vendor/flunkie.
- Although the Indians were presented as stereotypical murderers
threatening the heroes, they were given legitimate cause for their
- I enjoyed a couple of "super macho" scenes, one involving a extended
fist fight between Taylor and Borgnine and the other involving an
extended Tequila drinking bout by Taylor and Whitmore.
- A shout out to lovely Bond girl Luciana Paluzzi. She's very effective
as a complex love interest for Taylor.
Here's some things I didn't like:
- There's maybe too much time spent developing the back stories of the
main characters. The movie needed more action oriented subplots,
especially since it was told as a flashback i.e. We already knew the
- I found the general pacing too slow, starting with Chuka's long pony
ride through the snow at the beginning.
- Maybe the Arapahoes were starving, but Rod Taylor sure wasn't. Hard
to imaging getting that pudgy wandering around the desert on a horse.
You think the guy could have worked out a little for this part.
- I don't know how to shoot a pistol, but I'm sure Taylor's firing
technique is extremely poor. Hard to believe he never misses.
- This was shot almost entirely on set. I like Westerns to have
significant location shoots in the West, not in Burbank.
- The Burbank set itself was very cheap and the whole movie had a
cartoonish feel. This was dissonant with its rather grim and violent
- Was it necessary to reveal that Colonel Valois is no longer a
"complete man" because he was sexually mutilated by natives in the
Sudan? This was a bizarre non-sequitur introduced late in the movie.
- There is zero comic relief, at least intentional comic relief..
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Better Than Average Hollywood Western
Just recently I found a video store in New Haven County where fine old
westerns can be had on VHS. One of the ones I had long wanted to see
was "CHUKA" or Chuka: the Gunfighter, from 1967.
The video transfer was high quality and so watching this movie on tape
was an enjoyable experience. Luciana Paluzzi is stunningly beautiful.
Indeed, Chuka is something of a Hollywood fantasy but the tone and the
settings of the story are fairly well done.
Both Paluzzi and her niece, played by Victoria Vetri ( as Angela Dorian
), do very well in this western oddity. Ernest Borgnine is good as
ever, at being Ernest Borgnine. Rod Taylor was also very good and very
believable as the cowpuncher turned hardened hired killer.
The most interesting part of the story was about how Fort Clendennon
became a dumping ground for misfits, rejects, and bad officers. This is
a well-known but seldom portrayed part of the truth of how the U.S.
Army operated in the late 1870's. It is true that in this fiction, many
of the soldiers and civilians seem to be just a little too clean for
that day and age, but it doesn't really detract from the rapid pace of
the events in this drama.
Additionally, the extreme deprivation imposed on the Arapaho tribal
nation by the Army at this time is another important element. The
"injuns" are rather cartoonish in their depictions but at least some
aspects of their true grievances are relayed in the plot.
Perhaps this Chuka -- pronounced Chuck-Uh -- is a lot more savvy than
circumstances in that day and age might have permitted, but Rod Taylor
does really well at being fast-as-lightning and very tough.
This film gets a vote of 7 from me, which was really a six with a
kicker for the beautiful Vetri and the beautiful Paluzzi.
Many of the better westerns have been good about presenting the Mexican
culture of that time in a favorable light, and this is one of them, and
neither Vetri nor Paluzzi appear as simply being "eye candy" for a
rough-and-tumble western. The dinner sequence where Colonel Valois
rakes his officers over the coals and embarrasses them all is a
piece-de-resistance in western drama. Other elements are not so
convincing but this is fun way to see a good western drama from a
by-gone era of movie making.
Chuka derives its power from the high quality of the story on which it
is based. I can recommend it heartily for western fans, for Victoria
Vetri fans, and for Rod Taylor's excellent, dynamic performance..