Alvarez Kelly

A herd of cattle against a herd of cannon!

Action War Western
106 min     6.3     1966     USA


In 1864, during the American Civil War, Mexican cattleman Alvarez Kelly supplies the Union with cattle until unexpected circumstances force him to change his customers.


John Chard wrote:
In every every age...the forgotten weapon is food.... Alvarez Kelly is directed by Edward Dmytryk and stars William Holden & Richard Widmark. It's written by Elliott Arnold & Franklin Coen (Dan Taradash uncredited for tidying it up), the locations for the shoot are Baton Rouge & Clinton, Louisiana, with Joseph MacDonald on photography (Panavision). Story is apparently based on a true US Civil War incident in 1864, it sees Alvarez Kelly (Holden) kidnapped by Confederate's led by Tom Rossiter (Widmark) and forced to drive a herd of Union owned cattle to the hungry Reb troops in Richmond. Slow moving and blighted by a tepid script, Alvarez Kelly relies on its stars and photography to keep it out the trough. Evidently the makers were going for a social conscious piece based around an historical incident. All that is achieved is an overly talky piece, with periods of inane conversations; that is only briefly lit up by its action packed finale. And even then it can be argued that the "battle for the bridge" and the subsequent "stampede" isn't worth waiting 90 minutes for. The acting is solid, where Holden plays a role he could do in his sleep, and Widmark, sporting an eye patch, convinces as a rough and ready Colonel. Most pleasing is MacDonald's photography, not just for capturing the essence of the barren South in Baton Rouge, but also his choice of lenses for the top notch costuming (take a bow Seth Banks) afforded the ladies of the piece (Janice Rule & Victoria Shaw). There's a lovely print for this film, where in High Definition the colours positively ping from the screen. Dmytryk (Broken Lance/Warlock), Holden (The Horse Soldiers/The Wild Bunch) & Widmark (The Last Wagon/Cheyenne Autumn) owe Western fans nothing, but this is one from the three guys that's easily forgotten once the end credit rolls. 5/10
Wuchak wrote:
_**Confederate and Union troops fighting over a herd of cattle**_ During the partial siege of Richmond–Petersburg in September 1864 a troop of Confederates mean to acquire 3000 cattle from Mexico meant for consumption by the Union Army. William Holden plays the livestock businessman while Richard Widmark and Patrick O’Neal play opposing Confederate/Union officers. Roger C. Carmel is on hand as the Captain of a blockade runner. "Alvarez Kelly" (1966) is a Civil War Western based around the real-life Beefsteak Raid. It’s similar to “The Horse Soldiers” (1959), also co-starring Holden, mixed with “Major Dundee” (1965). While it’s the least of these, with “Horse Soldiers” easily being the best, it’s still worth checking out for those interested, just don’t expect a conventional Western or Civil War yarn. Critics complain that it’s too talky with not enough action, which I suppose is true, but I appreciated the settings and the authentic scruffiness of the Rebs, not to mention the wartime intrigue and a thrilling stampede in the last act. My top qualm would be how easy it seemed the cattleman is secretly taken into Richmond. Yet this can be overlooked on the grounds that it wasn’t a classic military siege wherein a city is fully surrounded and all supply lines cut off. You could still enter Richmond from the west. The flick scores well on the feminine front with stunning Southern belles Janice Rule, Victoria Shaw and Stephanie Hill, plus peripherals. The two stars became best buds during shooting. Widmark remarked how the four months of being constantly together during shooting was the equivalent of 10-15 years of friendship. Meanwhile Steve McQueen happened to be filming “Nevada Smith” in the same area and the three ran into each other one day wherein McQueen and Holden ended up drinking together for the rest of the evening. The movie runs about 1 hour, 55 minutes, and was shot in Louisiana (the vicinity of Baton Rouge), with the opening sequence done in the Southwest. GRADE: B-