Shalako (film)

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original film poster by Tom Chantrell
Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Produced by Euan Lloyd
Written by J.J. Griffith
Hal Hopper
Starring Sean Connery
Brigitte Bardot
Stephen Boyd
Jack Hawkins
Honor Blackman
Music by Robert Farnon
Cinematography Ted Moore
Edited by John D. Guthridge
Bill Blunden
Palomar Pictures International
Kingston Film Productions, Ltd.
Distributed by Cinerama Releasing Corporation (USA)
Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors (UK) (1968, original)
MGM (2004 and 2009, DVD)
Release dates
Running time
113 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $5 million[1]
Box office $1,310,000[2]

Shalako is a 1968 Western film directed by American Edward Dmytryk, starring Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot. The British production was filmed in Almería, Spain.

The cast also includes Stephen Boyd, Jack Hawkins, and Honor Blackman, Connery's co-star in Goldfinger. It is based on a novel by Louis L'Amour.

Plot summary[edit]

In 1880 in New Mexico, guide Bosky Fulton leads a hunting party composed of European aristocrats into Apache territory. When a French countess, Irina Lazaar, wanders off alone, she is confronted by Apache men on horseback. She is rescued by Shalako, a former cavalry officer in the American Civil War, sent by the Army to guide the party off Indian land.

The leader of the party, Frederick von Hallstadt, refuses to leave the Apache reservation, and the Apache retaliate by raiding the party. Although their lives are gravely threatened, Fulton makes off with the stage coach, ammunition and supplies, as well as Sir Charles Daggett's unfaithful wife, Lady Julia. With the party stranded, Shalako tries to lead them on foot to safety at an Army fort.

The chief's son, Chato, attacks the stage coach. The Apache make Lady Julia swallow her jewels, killing her. Fulton flees, but when he reaches the hunting party, Daggett shoots him to death.

After catching up with the hunting party, Chato accepts Shalako's challenge to a one-on-one fight using spears. He is about to be defeated when his father, the Apache chief, intervenes. He offers safe passage to Shalako and the others if his son's life is spared. With the party safe, Shalako rides off alone into the Western landscape, soon accompanied by Countess Irina.


Producer Euan Lloyd was introduced to Louis L'Amour, author of numerous Western adventure novels, by his actor friend Alan Ladd. Over the years as Lloyd dreamed of becoming an independent producer, he kept in touch with L'Amour. He wanted to film his 1962 novel Shalako.

At one time Lloyd had lined up Henry Fonda and Senta Berger to star in the film, planning to shoot it in Mexico. Lloyd recounted that, at the time, many film distributors were reluctant to back a film starring Fonda, and increases in the cost of filming in Mexico made it impossible to pursue.[3]

During a meeting with L'Amour, Lloyd recounted long lines at the cinemas in New York for the latest James Bond adventure film. L'Amour remarked that Sean Connery, who starred in the role, would certainly "look tall in the saddle".[4] When Lloyd met Sean Connery and discussed the work with him, he learned that Connery was a Western fan since childhood. He was also keen to do the film as he had been promised $1.2 million and 30% of the profits out of the $5 million budget.[1][5] Connery was available, as he had turned down playing Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Lloyd obtained that film's planned original co-star Brigitte Bardot, Bond cinematographer Ted Moore, and Bond stuntman and action scene arranger Bob Simmons.

Bardot was paid $400,000 plus 12.5% of the profits.[1]

Once Lloyd had Connery on board, many European and other film distributors were keen to finance the film. Distributors in 35 different countries agreed to provide promissory notes worth $5 million payable on delivery of the film. This enabled Lloyd to raise the $3 million necessary to start production and to sign Connery and Bardot. $1,455,000 came from ABC in the USA,[2] with $2 million from elsewhere. Dimitri de Grunwald became involved in helping finance.[1]


The film was shot in Almería, Spain. Whilst scouting locations when planning to film in the United States, Lloyd had noticed that many Native Americans were overweight. He did not think they looked menacing enough. Simmons recruited a "war party" of lean and mean Romani people (gypsies), whom he trained to ride and act like war-bent Apaches.[6]

Simmons talked Connery into shaving off the droopy moustache which he had grown for the historic period. The investors perhaps remembered Gregory Peck's moustache in The Gunfighter, which was believed to have discouraged some of the public from attending. They feared the same might happen with Shalako.

Almería province was a favoured location for filming spaghetti Westerns. But, when Shalako was in production, Harry Saltzman's Second World War film, Play Dirty, set in the Libyan Desert, was being filmed on the same locations. One film crew had to wipe out the tyre tracks in the sand before filming the Old West, whilst the other had to pick up the horse droppings before shooting the Second World War battles. Once the gypsy Apaches, mounted on horseback, rode by mistake headlong into an attack on a Long Range Desert Group.[6][page needed]

Lloyd gathered a strong international cast, including Connery's former co-star Honor Blackman from Goldfinger, as well as Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd, Woody Strode, Peter van Eyck, Alexander Knox, Eric Sykes, and Don Barry.


Critical response[edit]

The film premiered in late 1968 to mixed reviews. Some critics thought the film was not as good as the other Westerns being made in Europe, in particular, the Italian westerns (known as "spaghetti Westerns") by which Sergio Leone, Lee Van Cleef, and Clint Eastwood were building their reputations.

Box office[edit]

Shalako was the 18th most popular film of 1969.[7] It recorded admissions of 1,385,466 in France.[8] However, according to Variety, because of its high costs the film recorded a loss for ABC of $1,275,000.[2]

Later, Shalako became a cult classic; it has been regarded as having the hallmarks of a European Western.

Critics noted this was Sean Connery's first attempt to go mainstream in film and to distance himself from the James Bond role. Connery continued to experiment with other roles, although he starred in two more Bond films, Diamonds Are Forever and Never Say Never Again.


Shalako was released to DVD by MGM Home Video on May 25, 2004 as a Region 1 widescreen DVD and on November 3, 2009 as part of the 4-disc boxset The Sean Connery Collection, with Shalako as the fourth disc in the set, the others being Never Say Never Again, Cuba, and A Bridge Too Far.


  1. ^ a b c d Financial Close-Up of a Movie Cliff-Hanger: Financing of a Movie in Spain Turns Out to Be a Cliff-Hanger By TAD SZULCSpecial to The New York Times. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 01 Apr 1968: 69.
  2. ^ a b c "ABC's 5 Years of Film Production Profits & Losses", Variety, 31 May 1973 p 3
  3. ^ "Euan Lloyd Interview", Cinema Retro No. 1
  4. ^ "Lloyd interview
  5. ^ Herzberg, Bob. From Shooting Scripts: From Pulp Western to Film, 2005, McFarland, p.123
  6. ^ a b Simmons, Bob & Passingham, Kenneth. Nobody Does It Better: My 25 Years of Stunts With James Bond and Other Stories, 1987, Blandford
  7. ^ "The World's Top Twenty Films." Sunday Times [London, England] 27 Sept. 1970: 27. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. accessed 5 Apr. 2014
  8. ^ Box office information for film at Box Office Story

External links[edit]