Elvis Presley is almost always associated exclusively with movie musicals. However, he did stray from the genre to make a Western in which he didn't warble one lyric. The film is Charro!, which is available from Warner Bros. Just as seemingly every actor tried to get on board the spy movie phenomenon of the mid-1960s, by the end of the decade they were attempting to similarly capitalize on the spaghetti western genre. This 1969 film is non-descript as a western - not among the best of the era but far from the worst. It does merit special consideration because perhaps more than any other of his films, Charro! exhibits a persona that Elvis had never been able to reflect onscreen - thanks to Colonel Parker's iron-fisted control over his career and his insistence that The King appear in outdated teen musicals. The razor-thin plot has Elvis trying to distance himself from a murderous gang he used to ride with. Gang leader Victor French isn't the kind of guy you quit on so he frames Elvis for crimes he didn't commit then tortures him into participating in an audacious plot that finds them stealing a giant cannon from the Mexican army and using it to blackmail a town.
The movie has competent but pedestrian direction from old hand Charles Marquis Warren and the supporting cast is largely unknown with the exception of Ina Balin who makes an enticing romantic partner for The King. Where Charro! distinguishes itself is in presenting Elvis with one of his few mature film projects. You keep anticipating the moment in which he starts leading a conga line of senioritas through the sagebrush but the film is happily devoid of songs, save for the title track that had been released as the flip side of Elvis' classic Memories. Elvis looks terrific, wearing a scruffy beard in true Eastwood/Leone style and gives a subdued but thoroughly convincing performance, including performing some fairly rough stunts. The mind reels at what Elvis might have been capable of in terms of his film roles if he had not been under the thumb of The Colonel. By the time Charro!was released, Elvis' movie career had virtually ended. Ironically, just as he was getting with the times, he had lost most of his film audience. The movie was supposed to be even more adult: it was originally titled Come Sundown, Come Hell and originally featured a nude scene by Ina Balin. Rumors continue to surface that prints of this version still exist, but the scene was cut before general release.
Charro! isn't high art - it's not even a top-notch western, but it is pleasing entertainment one of Elvis' best film roles.
Extras: The only extra included on the Warner Brothers DVD is an original theatrical trailer which tried to emphasize this was not your big sister's Elvis movie, but an entirely new persona for The King.