Friday, September 21, 2007

The Man from the Alamo

Walter Satterthwait weighs in with another movie review.

I watched THE MAN FROM THE ALAMO last night. This movie is what we professional reviewers learn to identify in critics school as "a piece of shit." It's a Budd Boetticher film, so I had high hopes for it. But the dialog is sappy and stilted -- everyone except Glenn Ford talks without contractions, in the kind of stiff, formal English that might be used by a prissy schoolmarm. Even the little Mexican peasant kid says things like "I'll not let you." What little Mexican peasant kid says stuff like that? What human being, at any time in history, says stuff like that?

The idea is that old Glenn, one of the besieged defenders of the Alamo, leaves the place to protect the families of his friends, and his own family, all of whom are threatened by the Mexican army under Santa Ana. In an amazing plot twist, it turns out that the families are all dead, so Glenn doesn't have a whole lot to do
. But naturally everyone in town -- especially Hugh O'Brian, who struts around in a skin-tight buckskin shirt -- assumes that Glenn's a yellowbelly for leaving the Alamo, and wants to string him up. The Sheriff tosses him in jail for his own good, as Sheriffs are wont to do.

Fortunately, in an amazing plot twist, Glenn's cell is occupied by Neville Brand, who's one of the Bad Guys who killed Glenn's family. In another amazing plot twist, just as the townspeople break into the jail and carry Glenn off to hang him, as townspeople are wont to do, Neville Brand's fellow outlaws, led by Victor Jory, ride into town and rescue Glen and Neville, as outlaw gangs are wont to do. In an amazing plot twist, Glen goes along with Vic and the boys because this will give him a chance to exact vengeance on the lowlifes who killed his family.

Meanwhile, the whole town leaves town, to avoid being killed by General Santa Ana, who apparently has nothing better to do at this point than attack civilians. Hugh O'Brian, still wearing his skin-tight buckskin shirt, leads the wagon train. In an amazing plot twist, Victor's gang attacks the wagon train, but Glen is able to warn the town of the gang's coming, and then, in an amazing plot twist, he joins the wagon train himself. This puts him in solid with Julie Adams, who looks great and who's the only person on the wagon train who doesn't want to lynch Glenn, except for the little Mexican kid, who continues to talk like Angela Lansbury.

Hugh O'Brian still doesn't trust the yellowbelly. (Julie does, though.) But then, in an amazing plot twist, Hugh is ordered, by a dispatch from Sam Houston, to leave the wagon train and come fight at the Battle of San Jacinto. In a flash, and for no reason that I could determine, Hugh decides that Glenn is an okay guy and lets him take over the wagon train. Glenn borrows some rifles from Hugh and his men, who apparently feel that they won't be needing any rifles in the upcoming battle. Glenn doesn't borrow any ammunition, but maybe he figures that the women who'll be using the rifles won't know how to shoot anyway.

As soon as Hugh leaves, Vic and the boys attack the wagon train. Boy, are they in for a surprise when the women on the train shoot back. And, boy, are they (and me) in for a surprise when the women reload with powder horns that no one's ever seen before.

In an amazing plot twist, Victor attacks the wagon train from the rear, but Glenn has foreseen that, naturally, and he and Victor end up, naturally, in a fist fight at the top of a picturesque water fall. Victor cheats a bit, of course, tries to drown Glenn in the rushing current; but Glenn proves that morality beats out villainy every time, and, with a classic uppercut, knocks Victor off the falls.

We end with Glenn leaving the wagon train and riding off to fight in the Battle of San Jacinto himself. Julie Adams and the little Mexican peasant kid are confident that he'll come back safe and sound, which is a pretty good bet, considering that Glenn is packing a revolver that won't be invented for another thirty or so years. He probably has a Gatling gun tucked away in his pocket

I forgot to mention that Chill Wills plays a guy who has only one arm, although everyone is way too polite to bring this to his attention, and although the missing arm serves no function at all in the story.
At one point, in the middle of an amazing plot twist, Glenn tells him to climb up a tree. Neither Glenn nor Chill thinks that this is in any way notable. A couple of times, when old Chill turns his back, you can see the outline of his missing hand beneath his back pocket.

Beotticher went on to make a couple of those great Randy Scott westerns, but this movie really doesn't work.


Cap'n Bob said...

I've seen this gobbler and agree with every point. As an Alamo freak, it was a sore disappointment. The sixguns appearing in 1836 was the real corker. At least they used muskets instead of Model 94 Winchesters.

Unknown said...

Walter is usually right (i.e., his opinions agree with mine).

moni said...

I love Western movies but I am forever amazed at the way the writers play with history. I know the stories are fiction, but still, times and events shouldn't be altered.

Unknown said...

You can bet that this one has little to do with history.

Anonymous said...

Kelly Lange said...
I agree with Bill that Walter is usually right, but that's probably because I'm crazy about Walter.

Unknown said...

As we all are.

Juri said...

Umm... I liked the film.

Elizabeth Foxwell said...

We must encourage the delightful Mr. Satterthwait in his movie reviewing career. More, more!

BTW, around my house, Hugh O'Brian was known as "Huge O'Brian," which may explain the tightness of the buckskin shirt.

Unknown said...

I'm trying to encourage Walter. As for "Huge O'Brian," well, I have no comment.