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Film / Valdez is Coming

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Valdez is Coming is a 1971 American Western film directed by Edwin Sherin and starring Burt Lancaster, Susan Clark, Richard Jordan and Jon Cypher. The film is based on the Elmore Leonard novel of the same name.

Aging town constable Bob Valdez (Lancaster) is tricked into killing an innocent man by powerful rancher Frank Tanner (Cypher), whose hired gun R.L. Davis (Jordan) shot up the hovel where the wrongly accused man and his Indian wife were trapped. Valdez believes it would be a fair gesture to raise $200 for the widow, $100 from Tanner and the rest from others in town. Tanner is livid at the old man's suggestion. He orders ranch hand El Segundo and his men to tie Valdez to a heavy wooden cross and drive him into the desert. Valdez survives and recovers and summons up his days in the U.S. Cavalry in order to fight them. Valdez wounds one of the henchmen and sends him back to Tanner with the message, "Valdez is coming."


  • Arms Dealer: One of Tanner's sidelines is selling weapons to revolutionaries in Mexico. He is supposed to be delivering a shipment of guns to Nogales, but instead chooses to stay and fight Valdez. As El Segundo points out to him at the end of the movie, if he had gone to Nogales like he was supposed to, he would have avoided all of the bloodshed.
  • Badass Bandolier: Valdez wears a bandolier of shotgun shells over his old uniform.
  • Bedouin Rescue Service: After his ordeal on the cross in the desert, Valdez awakes his friend Diego's ranch. Diego tells him that he heard the dogs barking and found him crawling in the desert and brought him home. Valdez later learns that it was Davis who cut his ropes.
  • BFG: Valdez uses a Sharps buffalo rifle—the largest calibre longarm available in the Wild West—to wreak havoc on Tanner's hired guns as they are riding across the valley floor; killing five men. Lampshaded in the dialogue when El Segundo catches up with him:
    El Segundo: [referring to Valdez's earlier marksmanship against his men] You know something, Bob Valdez, you hit one, I think, 700-800 yards.
    Bob Valdez: [with certitude] Closer to a thousand.
    El Segundo: What was it? Sharps?
    Bob Valdez: [nods] My own load.
    El Segundo: You ever hunt buffalo?
    Bob Valdez: Apache.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Summed up by the final lines of the film:
    Frank Tanner: I shoulda killed you three days ago.
    El Segundo: Or gone to Nogales.
    Bob Valdez: Or paid the hundred dollars.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: El Segundo and his men tie Valdez to a heavy wooden cross and drive him into the desert.
  • Dangerous Deserter: This is how the Tanner paints the man he has killed at the start of the film: claiming he killed his commanding officer before deserting. After he is killed, Valdez finds the man's discharge papers on him; proving that Tanner was—at the very least—mistaken.
  • The Determinator: Valdez is determined to get Tanner to pay $100 to the dead man's widow, and nothing—not even being beaten and left for dead in the desert—will prevent him from achieving this.
  • The Gunfighter Wannabe: R.L. Davis fancies himself as a big-time hired gun, and seems fairly accurate when shooting at a distance, but goes to pieces when he gets in a real gunfight with Valdez, and loses his nerve completely after he is wounded.
  • Gun Twirling: Tanner performs a 'road agent spin' on one of his customers when he extends a pistol to him for his examination: seemingly for no other reason than he is a dick who enjoys showing off and pointing guns at people.
  • Human Shield: After breaking into Tanner's compound, Valdez grabs Gay Erin and uses her as a human shield to make his escape: knowing that Tanner's hired guns won't dare shoot at them for fear of hitting Tanner's woman.
  • I Have Your Wife: Valdez abducts Tanner's woman and plans to send her back to him in exchange for the $100. After the lengthy chase, Gay Erin is hoping that Tanner will make the exchange: not because she wants to to return to Tanner, but beacuse she is convinced Valdez is in the right.
  • Noble Top Enforcer: El Segundo lives and breathes this trope, and openly regards Valdez as a Worthy Opponent.
  • N-Word Privileges: Valdez does not like the various racial epithets that Tanner and his men casually hurl around ('nigger', 'coon', 'greaser', etc.), but he and his friend Diego have no problems in referring to themselves as 'greasers' when there are no Anglos about.
  • One-Man Army: Tanner picked on the wrong man when he had his men beat the aging town constable and drive him into the desert to die a slow and painful death. Valdez returns and starts using every trick he learned fighting the Apache under General Crook. By the time Tanner catches up with Valdez, Valdez has killed eleven of his hired guns without taking a scratch himself.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Tanner and his crew casually throw around terms like 'nigger', 'coon' and 'greaser'. Tanner also uses a church for target practice, showing him to be sacrilegious as well.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: Valdez favours a short-barrelled shotgun, the kind stagecoach guards use, as his primary weapon.
  • Spare a Messenger: Valdez finds a henchman and politely asks him to deliver the message that he's coming for the Big Bad. The henchmen pretends to ride off, then when he thinks he's out of range of Valdez's shotgun he turns and tries to shoot, gets wounded, and is put back on his horse by Valdez to deliver the message anyway.
  • Still Wearing the Old Colors: When Valdez recovers from his ordeal in the desert and begins his one man war against Tanner, he dons his old 7th Cavalry uniform.
  • Title Drop: "Valdez is coming" is the message Valdez gives to Tanner's wounded henchman to deliver to Tanner.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Tanner thinks that because Valdez is old and Mexican, he must be a pushover. He punishes Valdez for having the audacity to suggest that he give $100 to the widow of the man he had killed in a case of mistaken identity by having his men tie a heavy cross to Valdez's back and drive him into the desert to die. Unfortunately for him, Valdez is The Determinator and a One-Man Army, and he returns to cut a swathe through Tanner's men until he gets the $100.
  • Worthy Opponent: Valdez and El Segundo come to regard each other as this as they play cat-and-mouse through the mountains. So much so, that when Tanner commands El Segundo to gun down the helpless Valdez, he refuses and orders his men not to fire as well. If Tanner wants Valdez dead, he will have to do his own dirty work.