KLSC gives another Charles Bronson favorite a Blu-ray upgrade - Chato's Land. A slick Revenge Western, Bronson is nearly silent the entire movie as he tracks and executes a posse of rapists and murderers led by Jack Palance. Directed by Michael Winner from a script by Gerald Wilson, the film plays almost as a shrewd allegory for the Vietnam war with some brutally frank depictions of violence that stretches its PG-rating pretty thin. KLSC gives Chato's Land a welcome video transfer upgrade offering a new restoration with cleaner details, bold revitalized colors, a new DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio mix, and a decent bonus features package. Recommended.
[Excerpt From The 2016 Twilight Time Review]
"When Chato's Land was released in 1972, it was met with some pretty tough criticism for its violent content and languid pace. These are certainly valid criticisms as the film is a bit on the long side and very violent, but compared to the hyper-kinetic filmmaking of our modern era, the pacing and honest brutality in the violence is actually a bit of fresh air. Chato's Land launches you into the story with Chato having to immediately go on the run, but then it wisely taps the breaks and lets our film's villains create their posse. At this point, Chato is almost like a phantom, only popping up here and there for a second or two; long enough to see the outcome of a trap he recently laid and Bronson plays him with an honest curiosity of the men who hunt him. All of that changes when he sets out to exact his own brand of vengeance after his wife is attacked.
Charles Bronson always played the tough guy role very well, it's what maintained his career through the 80s and 90s when he had a tough time getting hired. Through all of the Death Wish movies and flicks like 10 to Midnight, Bronson has offered up his traditional stoic tough guy brand of revenge. As Chato, he's in incredible physical shape and you get a true sense of danger the posse is in - not that they don't deserve what they've got coming their way! On the opposite side of the coin, we have Jack Palance as the former confederate Quincey. Quincey is a man who proudly climbs back into his Captain's uniform for one last ride. All he wants is a victory, a battle that he can win, but just like the war that made him a veteran on the losing side, he's completely misjudged his opponent. By the time Chato starts his revenge plan, you can see Quincy recognize he's reached a point of no return and is wracked with regret and Palance pulls it off perfectly.
Chato's Land is one of the six collaborations between Charles Bronson and director Michael Winner. The pair always worked well together - that is until 1985's Death Wish 3. While Chato's Land itself could well be tossed aside as a piece of exploitation filmmaking, but that would be doing this film a disservice. Its lead actor may not talk much, but he doesn't have to give his character plenty of depth as the film explores the ideas of justice, revenge, and honor. I was thoroughly entertained by this one. I'd long heard of this film, seen its box on rental store shelves, but before now I never sat down to give it the time it deserved. It's a solid film and Bronson fans should be very happy to see this one arrive on Blu-ray."
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Chato's Land earns a second crack at revenge thanks to Kino Lorber Studio Classics giving this film a welcome upgrade over the 2016 Twilight Time release. Pressed on a Region A BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard case with slipcover and reversible insert artwork. The disc loads to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
When I first reviewed Chato's Land way back in 2016, I felt it was overall a very good presentation. Not perfect, there was quite a bit of damage to the source elements and the pale color pallet led to some inconsistent black levels, but for what it was it was pretty darn good. Now Kino Lorber Studio Classics follows pace with Breakheart Pass and gives fans of this Revenge Western a reason to upgrade.
From the opening shot of Chato trying to get a drink in the bar, the improvements are appreciable. Scratches, speckling, and print staining are all but gone entirely. Details are impressive with a much more healthy and naturally film-like grain structure. Colors have also been greatly improved allowing for more natural and healthy skin tones while primaries find their ways to pop. Blue skies, yellowed plants, crimson red blood - all are in better shape with this new transfer. Black levels are also in much better shape approaching that desired true inky black we want to see. Crush isn't an issue and image depth also adds some extra dimension. Some slight speckling still crops up, there's a series of optical fades and transitions nearing the start of the third act that is still rough - but they were in much worse shape on the 2016 disc. All around this disc offers many improvements over the solid previous Blu-ray.
This new disc for Chato's Land also comes packed with what sounds like a newly refreshed DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio mix. I thought the Mono track on the old 2016 disc was pretty good, but not amazing. It did its job. This new track hasn't been reworked dramatically but it sounds like there's more presence to the dialog and sound effects. There's a better sense of atmosphere to the open scenic locations. Imaging also gets a little extra kick with the soundscape spread more evenly through the channels. For levels, I also didn't feel the need to have my volume quite as high with this disc compared to the Twilight Time disc to get the same sense of impact and feeling for the big action sequences. This isn't an over-the-moon improvement but enough subtle tweaks to give it a worthy edge.
Not content with simply recycling the same set of extra features, KLSC offers up a new and pretty interesting audio commentary featuring Howard S. Berger and Steve Mitchell. The same archival interview with Screenwriter Gerald Wilson appears again. Sadly, KLSC wasn't able to bring over the isolated score mix. After that, we get the standard collection of KLSC trailers.
One of Charles Bronson's best efforts - Chato's Land gets a fresh new Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. In a near-silent role, this Western Revenge flick plays with a lot of important themes while giving its great supporting cast including Jack Palance, Simon Oakland, James Whitmore, Richard Jordan, and Richard Basehart moments to shine. With a new restoration, this fresh transfer offers up a much-improved transfer with sharper details and more vivid life-like colors. Toss in a new and more impactful audio mix with an informative new audio commentary and you have another great Bronson flick to add to the collection. Recommended.