Charro! is a 1969 Western film starring Elvis Presley. It was among his final films, and his only role that didn’t feature the star singing on-screen (Flaming Star was not a musical, but he did sing one song onscreen), but Elvis does do the off-screen singing of the main title theme. Presley also sported a stubble beard, in contrast to being clean-shaven in all his other films. Co-starring with Elvis were Ina Balin and Victor French. It was also the only Elvis film released to theaters by National General Pictures. The film made a profit, but wasn’t a runaway success, and remains one of Presley’s least-seen films despite it being among his best in terms of a ‘straight’ (non-musical) acting performance.
Charro! was released to DVD for the first time in the summer of 2007. It marked the very first time that an uncut release of the film was presented to the retail market, and in its’ original wide-screen letterbox format. This DVD version underwent an extensive remastering process to restore the original 35mm filmprint quality. Previous VHS issues of the film, notably the 1990 Warner Home Video release, were of an inferior standard, mainly due to poor picture quality and minor edits throughout the movie. An oddity concerning Charro! is the film’s classification. Despite containing violence and partial nudity, it was released with an MPAA G rating, even though other Presley films from the 1968-69 period carry PG ratings. These latter releases are somewhat less ‘adult’ than Charro!.
Elvis Presley plays Jess Wade, a former member of a gang lead by Vince Hackett (Victor French). Hackett’s band steals a national treasure, a gold-plated Mexican cannon used by emperor Maximillian against popular leader Benito Juárez valued at $100,000 American dollars. The Mexican army offers a $10,000 reward, giving a description of one of the supposed gang members that could be recognized by his beard and a scar on his neck.
Jess returns to a small town he used to pass by. At a saloon he finds Tracey Winters (Ina Balin), a former love. Hackett decides to incriminate him as the robber because Jess meets most of the wanted poster’s descriptions. They find him in the saloon and take him to the desert, where Hackett uses a hot brand to mark Jess’s neck and complete the description.
With the Mexican army looking for the robber and the U.S Cavalry collaborating with them, Jess travels back to town. He visits the sheriff, Dan Ramsey, to make claim his innocence.
Arriving at the saloon is Billy Roy Hackett, Vince’s brother. He starts a rumble with Jess that ends up with the sheriff being shot by Billy Roy while trying to intervene. Billy Roy is incarcerated, with the threat of being hanged if the sheriff dies. Ramsey requests that Jess watch the jail.
Vince gives an ultimatum, demanding Jess set Billy Roy free or else he will begin firing on the town with a cannon. Vince’s gang starts by hitting Dan Ramsey’s house, causing his death after the roof falls over him.
Ramsey’s widow and the rest of the town people ask Jess to release Billy Roy. Jess locks the office and takes Billy Roy out by the back door as the mayor and citizens enter by the front. He goes to a hill where the cannon is located and begins a shootout against the gang, killing most of the Vince’s men.
Jess leaves Billy Roy tied up against a tree. The cannon rolls downhill, killing Billy Roy. Jess then returns the cannon to Mexico. He also takes Vince, to be judged.