Cast & Crew
While riding shotgun on a stagecoach just outside of Lenoria, Arizona, Mexican-American constable Bob Valdez comes upon several men shooting at a small hut. Local rancher and acquaintance Mr. Malson relates to Bob that wealthy businessman Frank Tanner reported the murder of a man at a nearby fort by an army deserter whom Tanner then tracked to the hut hideaway. Disturbed when Tanner's dimwitted, sharp-shooting henchman, R. L. Davis, fires upon a pregnant Apache woman when she briefly exits the hut to get water, Bob places his law badge on his lapel and approaches the hut to negotiate with the man, who is black. The man insists he has killed no one and has papers in his saddlebag proving his honorable cavalry discharge. Unknown to Bob, on Tanner's orders, Davis has circled down the hill and, hiding in the brush, waits until Bob moves to examine the saddlebag, then fires through the hut's open door. Believing Bob has set him up, the man shoots wildly and, forced to defend himself, Bob kills the man. Later, to Bob's dismay, the openly racist Tanner admits that he was mistaken about the man's identity. After Bob buries the man and takes the Apache woman to town, he approaches Malson, fellow rancher Beaudry, the sheriff and several men at the shooting to ask for $200 compensation for the pregnant woman. Taken aback, the men reply that donating a sizable amount of money would imply their guilt in the man's death. When Bob insists, Malson promises that if Bob can convince Tanner to contribute one hundred dollars, they will supply the rest. Agreeing, Bob rides out to Tanner's ranch where Tanner refuses to hear his request and orders hired gun El Segundo and his men to harass Bob. Inside, Tanner joins his mistress, Gay Erin, widow of the murdered man at the fort, but refuses to tell her Bob's identity. Later, Bob takes the Apache woman back to the Mexican neighborhood where he lives near old friend Diego Luz. The next morning, Bob returns to Tanner, who has just agreed to supply rifles to a Mexican military representative in the border town of Nogales. Angered by Bob's tenacity and disdainful of his mixed-blood heritage, Tanner again refuses to listen to his request and orders his men to torture him. As Gay watches in distress, El Segundo and the others tie Bob to a cross made of two heavy wooden beams and force him to stagger out into the desert. Privately, Gay confronts Tanner over his cruel treatment and demands that he pay the money to the Apache woman. In response, Tanner invites Gay to accompany him to Nogales where they can marry. Meanwhile, Davis follows Bob's agonizing progress through the desert. Upon reaching a small wooded area, Davis watches in fascination as Bob struggles to crack the heavy beam across his back. After finally splitting the beam between two trees, the now injured Bob collapses as Davis rides up to mock him. That evening, Bob awakens in Diego's house, unaware that he has crawled there mysteriously free of the wooden cross. After Bob recovers his strength, Diego tells him that the Apache woman has returned to her reservation. Undaunted, Bob returns to his one-room house, where he retrieves his old cavalry uniform and weaponry. The next day, in uniform, traveling with a pack horse carrying firearms, Bob rides out to the edge of Tanner's property to tell a ranch guard to inform Tanner that "Valdez is coming." The guard attempts to attack Bob, who wounds him and sends him on to take Tanner the message. Tanner orders El Segundo and his men to go after Bob but by nightfall, El Segundo reports they have not located him. Angry at having to delay his trip to Nogales, Tanner retires with Gay and hours later the couple is stunned when Bob bursts in and demands the money from Tanner. When Tanner pulls a gun from his safe, Bob takes Gay hostage and escapes. El Segundo orders three of his men after Bob, but by dawn, Bob has killed two of them and sent the dying third back to Tanner demanding money for Gay's return. Although Gay initially attempts to escape, she is puzzled by Bob's consideration for her in providing clothing, food and water. At Davis' suggestion that Diego might know Bob's whereabouts, Tanner and his men ride there and threaten Diego's wife and daughters, then burn down their house when Diego fails to reveal information about Bob. Moving higher in the hills, Bob learns from Gay that the man in the hut did not kill her husband, nor did Tanner. Spotting the smoke from Diego's home, Bob secretly returns to check on his friend's safety. In Bob's absence, Davis locates Gay, who has been left bound and gagged. Unsure what to do with Gay, who confirms that Bob has not harmed her, Davis is interrupted by Bob's return and, when wounded, quickly gives himself up. As Bob is about to kill Davis for murdering the man in the hut, Davis pleads with him, revealing that he freed Bob from the cross. Confident that El Segundo will come after him shortly, to Gay's amazement, Bob refuses to flee, and instead digs in to wait. The next morning, seeing Tanner, El Segundo and his men approaching at a distance, Bob kills five of the men using a long-distance rifle, then retreats with Gay and Davis in a cloud of fog. That night, Bob sends the fearful Davis back to Tanner with a message that he will kill Gay by morning if he has not received the money. While hiding in a cave together, Gay tells Bob she believes he is bluffing about killing her. Bob is startled when Gay then admits her culpability in the death of the man in the hut as she could have talked Tanner out of the attack. When Bob presses for an explanation, Gay confesses that she killed her husband. The next morning, as Davis brings Tanner and the others, Bob offers to set Gay free, but she admits she would like to see Tanner pay him the money. Bob attempts to make an escape using Gay and the horses as cover, but the horses are shot out from under them. El Segundo and his men surround Bob, who after seeing to the uninjured Gay, declines to fight or escape. El Segundo expresses admiration for Bob's shooting and dignified, fair sense of combat. When Tanner orders El Segundo to kill Bob, he refuses and tells his men the chase is over. Furious when Gay also declines to join him, Tanner turns to Davis, who, unarmed, also refuses to fight. As the hired guns step away from Tanner, Bob holds out his hand and asks for the hundred dollars.
Jose Garcia Garcia
Jose Maria Alarcon
H. Bud Alper
Mariano Garcia Rey
James T. Heckert
José María Rodríguez
Jose Maria Tapiador
Valdez is Coming
Lancaster stars as Bob Valdez, an aging, scrupulously honest Mexican-American Marshall who's coerced into killing a black man who's falsely accused of murder. In a symbolic move worthy of a Sergio Leone character, Frank Tanner (Jon Cypher), the wealthy rancher who manipulated Valdez, ties a cross on Valdez's back and leaves him to wander the desert, hoping he'll die out there. Valdez escapes this situation, however, then kidnaps Tanner's mistress (Susan Clark) and seeks bloody revenge. You better stay focused while you watch this - there are enough twists and turns for three less-ambitious movies.
In 1967, when producer Ira Steiner acquired the rights to Elmore Leonard's novel, Valdez Is Coming, he immediately sent a copy to Lancaster. Lancaster was so impressed with Leonard's storyline, he agreed to co-produce the picture with Steiner. Lancaster initially intended to play the evil Tanner, with Marlon Brando playing Valdez. Sydney Pollack was set to direct, and David Rayfiel began work on the script. But that would all change.
Lancaster put the project on hold in November of 1968, in order to appear in George Seaton's blockbuster, Airport (1970). When he returned to Valdez, his original collaborators were no longer available. This time, Lancaster opted to play Valdez, and recruited Roland Kibbee to re-write the part to fit him. (In a nutty twist, Rayfiel would end up receiving co-screenwriting credit, even though he insisted that nothing he wrote appeared on the screen!) Lancaster's boldest move, however, was the hiring of Ed Sherin to helm the picture. Sherin had never directed a film before, but he had received raves for his staging of The Great White Hope on Broadway. In Gary Fishgall's biography of Lancaster, Against Type, Susan Clark suggests that Lancaster hired Sherin "because he wanted a fresh look," and that he wanted to see "how a big Broadway director would deal with actors and who he would choose." This, as much as anything Lancaster did as producer, is how Valdez Is Coming wound up containing so many superior performances. Richard Jordan, Jon Cypher, and Hector Elizondo all made their debuts in the film, with Cypher winning the plumb role of Frank Tanner.
In Fishgall's book, Cypher notes that Lancaster, who had recently appeared in three pictures that tanked at the box office, wasn't even sure if he could scrounge up $6 million to finance Valdez Is Coming. "My sense of Burt," he says, "was that he was a fallen king...he had stumbled, and there was a certain sadness about him." Still, Lancaster was open enough to give the young actor important tips on the differences between performing on stage and on the screen. "I think it was very generous of him to take me under his wing like that," he said.
It wasn't all roses, however. "I love him," Lancaster said of Sherin during filming, "but as in all good love affairs, there is an element of hate too." Sherin took it even a step further, saying "We often had arguments on the top floor of the Grand Hotel in Almeria where the whole hotel shook...they were head-to-head arguments, and at some points I thought he was going to lift me up and throw me out the window." Lancaster may have been displaying a little bit of a paunch by this point, but it was important for Sherin to note that he still had those biceps.
Producer: Ira Steiner
Director: Edwin Sherin
Screenplay: Roland Kibbee, David Rayfiel (based on the novel by Elmore Leonard)
Cinematography: Gabor Pogany
Editor: James T. Heckert
Music: Charles Gross
Art Design: Jose Maria Tapiador, Jose Maria Alarcon
Special Effects: Chuck Gaspar, Linc Kibbee
Set Design: Rafael Salazar
Stunts: Allan Wyatt
Costume Design: Lewis Brown
Makeup: Mariano Garcia Rey, Alberto Gutierrez
Principal Cast: Burt Lancaster (Bob Valdez), Susan Clark (Gay Erin), Jon Cypher (Frank Tanner), Barton Heyman (El Segundo), Richard Jordan (R.L. Davis), Frank Silvera (Diego), Hector Elizondo (Mexican Rider), Phil Brown (Malson), Ralph Brown (Beaudry), Juanita Penaloza (Apache Woman), Lex Monson (Rincon), Roberta Haynes (Polly), Maria Montez (Anita), Marta Tuch (Rosa), Jose Garcia (Carlos).
by Paul Tatara
Valdez is Coming
The closing credits indicate that interiors for Valdez Is Coming were filmed in Estudios Roma, Madrid and exteriors in Almeria and Gredos, Spain. Sam Manners' onscreen credit is listed as "Associate Producer and Production Manager." Although Lex Monson, who played the man in the hut, is listed in the cast credits as "Rincon," "Frank Tanner" and "Bob Valdez" refer to him as "Johnson."
A November 1967 Hollywood Reporter news item indicated that M-G-M producer Ira Steiner purchased the rights to Elmore Leonard's novel Valdez Is Coming and hoped to produce it at the studio, whereas a March 1968 Daily Variety news item stated that director Sydney Pollack, who had directed star Burt Lancaster in the 1968 United Artists production The Scalphunters and the 1969 Columbia release Castle Keep ( for both), would re-team with Lancaster for Valdez Is Coming. In July 1968, Daily Variety reported that Steiner had taken the property to the Goldwyn Studio where he would continue preparation on the production, which UA would distribute. In November 1968, Hollywood Reporter noted that Valdez Is Coming was put on hold so that Lancaster could complete the 1970 Universal production of Airport. In August 1969, Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column stated that UA was shelving Valdez Is Coming, perhaps permanently.
An October 1970 LAHExam article stating that the American Humane Association had classified numerous films as unacceptable because of mistreatment to animals included Valdez Is Coming in the list. According to the article, the production used the long-prohibited "running-W," a wire to trip horses. When the Production Code lost its regulatory authority in the late 1960s, however, reported cases of animal abuse in film productions increased. As noted in Filmfacts, Valdez Is Coming marked the last film of longtime actor Frank Silvera (1914-1970). The picture also marked the directorial debut of Edwin Sherin and the feature film debut of Jon Cypher.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971