Review: ‘The Return of El Coyote’

"El Coyote"/

“El Coyote”/

Cesar de Echague ….. Jose Coronado

Beatriz de Echague ….. Mar Flores

Don Cesar de Echague ….. Nigel Davenport

Leonor de Acevedo ….. Chiara Caselli

Mr. Greene ….. Ray Lovelock

Gen. Clarke ….. Neil Boorman

Potts ….. Paul Codman

Salinas ….. Ramon Langa

Veteran director Mario Camus, whose “The Color of the Clouds” was one of 1997 ‘s better Spanish products, returns to genre territory with “The Return of El Coyote,” based on the popular fictional bandit created in 1943 by Jose Mallorqui. Pic, which opened locally in early August, is a shortened version of a three-part TV miniseries to be shown later this year, and it shows. Pacing is flawed, an otherwise OK storyline is over-compressed, and characterization is strangled, though production values are excellent. Latin American sales look a safe bet, but other offshore interest will be minimal.

Yarn is set in the 1850s, shortly after the Mexican war with the U.S., when California joined the Union and the state’s new owners set about staking their often dubious territorial claims. First 20 minutes are a confusing sequence of flashes back and forward, which, along with the complex political background, will alienate the young kids who might otherwise enjoy it.

Legends abound about the masked El Coyote, who 10 years previously ended a duel between American soldier Potts (Paul Codman) and Mexican-Californian Salinas (Ramon Langa). Meanwhile, Leonor de Acevedo (Chiara Caselli) is due to be married to Cesar de Echague (Jose Coronado), who is coming back from Cuba. His effeminacy and free-thinking are repugnant to his father, Don Cesar (Nigel Davenport), and to Leonor.

Little does everyone know that El Coyote is actually Cesar, and that he is about to return, as masked men tend to when the going gets tough. Cesar digs out the mask and false mustache again, this time to foil the dastardly plot of Gen. Clarke (Neil Boorman) to grab some of the biggest ranches around Los Angeles.

Perfs are adequate, and Davenport is good as Cesar’s cantankerous old father; but characters are unhappily located somewhere between comic-book stereotypes and real human beings, and thesps look uncertain how to play it. (Half the cast is dubbed.) Pic was shot in central and southern Spain, and spaghetti Western atmospherics are top-notch, as is period detail.

The Return of El Coyote



A Col/TriStar release (in Spain) of an Enrique Cerezo PC/Gonafilm production, in association with Antena 3 and Via Digital. (International sales: Enrique Cerezo, Madrid.) Produced by Enrique Cerezo. Executive producer, Juan Martinez-Gona. Directed by Mario Camus. Screenplay, Camus, Cesar Mallorqui. Camera (color), Jaime Peracaula; editor, Jose Maria Biurrun; music, Sebastian Marine; art director, Gil Parrondo; sound (Dolby), Julio Recuero. Reviewed at Cine Palafox, Madrid, July 29, 1998. Running time: 100 MIN.
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