Until the last few years I have been not much of a fan of the Western Movie… Their not really bad movies, as a matter of fact they are actually really quite good, I just never really gave this genre much of a chance, seeing as how I really didn’t know about them.
Now a few years back my wife and I got in to a kick of watching old movies, especially those that Steve McQueen made. Such movies as The Great Escape (1963) with James Garner (The Rockford Files), Richard Attenborough (Doctor Dolittle) and Donald Pleasence (Halloween) among others! We actually picked up a box set of these movies, which two of them happened to be The Magnificent Seven (1960) Junior Bonner (1972).
We actually ended up liking these movies so much that we began exploring other Westerns that might be out there, such movies as Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969) with Paul Newman and Robert Redford (Both of The Sting)
With that said, my wife has now moved on to other genre’s and other things, but I have actually enjoyed these movies so much that I decided to continue my journey in to these truly classic Western movies with an awesome film called A Town Called Hell.
Written by: Richard Aubrey (Le Guerriere Dal Seno Nudo) and Benjamin Fisz (Battle Of Britain) and Directed by: Robert Parrish (The Blue Bayou) and Irving Lerner (The Royal Hunt Of The Sun) and starring Robert Shaw (Jaws), Martin Landau (Alone In The Dark), Stella Stevens (Wacko) and Telly Savalas (Genghis Khan).
A Town Called Hell begins in 1895. During this time, Mexico is undergoing a very violent revolution. Where no one that can fight is spared, and where even the smallest town can be attacked by either the rebels or their oppressive government!
This is ultimately what happens in the Town of Bastardo (No kidding, that is really what it is called!) Bastardo is a quaint little village of mostly poor people… This is until an Irish Man who has joined with the rebels and will later be designated as The Priest (Shaw) and a Mexican man who will later be designated as The Colonel (Landau) come in.
At this time both The Priest and The Colonel are good friends and are leading a raid in to the small town of Bastardo, where in they just massively slaughter just about every one in a truly lopsided gun fight… The reason that I say this is the fact that at present most of the town is actually at the local church for Sunday service.
With that said, now we have to cut 10 years later to 1905… The Town of Bastardo is a broken shell of a town. Most everyone their are now in some way affiliated with the gang that controls the town, or live in fear of them…
Now here is where the story really begins to take off…
You see a couple of the gang members come riding back in to town and drop off a pair of interloping Americans in front of their leader, Don Carlos (Savalas). Carlos being the sociopath that he is decides to show them some mercy for a bit… (Of course while doing so, his men are taking all of these two trapped individuals possessions!
Once this is done though, he send the two men off to be taken care of.
At this point is when we cut to a hearse that’s headed toward the town. This hearse is delivering a warm body to the town in secret you see. This woman goes by the name of Alvira (Stevens) an American woman who was tracking down her revolutionary husbands killer!
When the hearse finally arrives in town, and Don Carlos discovers what is inside the hearse, Don Carlos decides to screw with her, shows her to her husbands grave. At this point Alvira offers 20 thousand dollars in gold to Don Carlos if he will be willing to find her husbands killer.
Well this peeks ole Don Carlos’s interests a bit, but as strongly as it peeks his interests, his sarcastic side ultimately overwhelms his more greedier side, and he continues to harass the woman until she ultimately discovers that it was this almost mythical revolutionary figure that goes by the name of ‘Aguilar’ and that at the present only the Priest seems to know who this Aguilar is.
That evening though, while both Alvira and her driver/body guard are sleeping inside of the hearse, the bandits decide to strike! The first bandit is taken out by the body guard who strangles him. This leads Alvira and the bodyguard in to a gun battle that will ultimately lead them to seek sanctuary inside of the church…
After this is done and with Alvira and her protector caged up inside of the church, it is discovered that not only does the priest know who Aguilar is, but that he also knew her husband as well! During this time, Don Carlos is trying to reason with the Priest, even so far as to offer him a portion of the 20,000 for Aguilar himself!
This prompts his greedy Lieutenant La Bomba (Played by: Al Lettieri) to betray him, and shoot Don Carlos in the shoulder, and take over the gang! When this is done La Bomba has him strung up on a pole, where La Bomba continually pushes Don Carlos in to informing the woman who Aguilar is…. This happens till the Colonel (Landau) comes back in to town with Government troops!
You see, although it is true that at one point The Colonel was a revolutionary, at some point he changes sides and in the process ends up loosing his soul in the interim…
With that said, like just about everyone in the movie thus far, he is also looking for Aguilar as well… This prompts him to cordon off all of the citizenry that are unwilling to help him find Aguilar. He then begins to have one person after another executed, until with the help of a blind former Lieutenant of Aguilar’s, he can find the man himself!
Now the stage is set… The Military is looking to arrest Aguilar. The gang that used to control the town, seems almost ready to hide Aguilar. The strange American woman Alvira is also looking for Aguilar, and the only person The Priest who actually seems to know this ‘Aguilar’ seems to be willing to let the town go to arms before he will tell anyone, anything about Aguilar. In A Town Called Hell, the man with the knowledge is King’
Now what I like about this movie, and what I gotta say truly does make this an awesome Western is the following:
1. Robert Shaw, we all know this man as Captain Quint, I mean this guy helped make that movie a legend with in its own right! With that said, I only knew of Mr. Shaw from Jaws! Getting to see him play a disgraced Revolutionary who turns to religion as his only salvation was not only AWESOME! But at some points were down right nostalgic for Jaws, and rather hilarious!
2. Martin Landau is another one that I gotta say is really awesome! Like most people of my generation, I grew up knowing him as playing Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994) or as Dr. Alvin Kurtzweil in the first X Files movie… Now in my opinion their is nothing wrong with those movies, I actually really enjoyed both films quite a bit. But being able to see him back when he was a younger man, and especially in a movie like A Town Called Hell, was not only a lot of fun, but to see just how powerful his performance is in that movie, and how he basically commands the scene is just pure joy!
3. I also wanted to say that each and every other cast member did an incredible job in this movie… From Telly Savalas as Don Carlos to Stella Stevens as Alvira to Al Lettieri as the traitorous La Bomba! I mean this movie just has a truly bang up cast to it!
4. I also wanted to say that the other part of this movie that I found to be a lot of fun is the fact that I can see the influences this movie had on The Usual Suspects (1995). But you’ll have to see it to find out what I mean…
The last thing that I wanted to say, and I thought you guys might get a kick out of this. As mentioned above, the town in this movie is actually called, Bastardo or in English ‘Bastard’ and so the movie is originally titled ‘A Town Called Bastard’ but was changed to ‘A Town Called Hell.’
With that said, if your looking for a fun some what different Western movie then what you are used to, then I highly recommend checking out ‘A Town Called Hell’ I think you might find this quickly becoming a fav, I know I did.