Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Road to Fort Alamo, The (1964) - 2/5

When I order a Spaghetti Western, I expect a lip smacking pasta dripping with tomato sauce, covered in parmesan cheese accompanied by a buttery breadstick on the side. When all I get is a plate full of plain noodles I get a little distraught especially if the dish is cooked by a master chef such as Mario Bava. I seriously got excited to finally sit down and watch a Spaghetti Western that was directed by one of Italy's finest and after finishing the film it's easy to see why Bava is nicknamed the "master of the macabre" and not "master of the western."

We open with a lonely soul (Ken Clark) coming across a dead wagon train of Union soldiers with orders to pick up a load of cash for payroll. He teams up with an outlaw gang and attempts to get the money while wearing the dead soldiers' uniforms. All backfires when the gang turns against him and his buddy and they are left for dead only to be rescued by another Yankee wagon train heading through dangerous Ozark Indian territory. Torn if they should take the money and run, they predictably decide to stay and protect the women and children from the Native onslaught.

"The Road to Fort Alamo" was made right at the dawn of the Spaghetti Western cycle being released the same year as Sergio Leone's trend setting "Fistful of Dollars." Sadly Leone's trademark styles of the genre are mostly missing here and the film is far too similar to an American western for my taste in both plot, characters and approach. Even Mario Bava's eye-catching style is downplayed which is a damn shame considering what a keen eye for style the man has.

To top it off with its tame is the film is over-all made rather shoddy. The night backdrops look like sets complete with poorly painted backgrounds and the absolute most fake looking cactuses I have ever laid my eyes upon. The Indians are also a joke as they are all highly decorated with bright, and very plastic looking bird feathers.

Ken Clark (better known for playing Dick Malloy in Italy's James Bond knock-off "Agent 077" trilogy) plays the stoic hero well but he's far too much of a goody two-shoes for my taste in a Spaghetti Western. He's all about protecting the women and children John Wayne style and righting his wrong decisions. A little more rugged "Clint Eastwood" anti-hero approach to the character would have been much appreciated.

Though tame for the genre, it still has its moments of Spaghetti Western goodness as it does fair a little more in the violence area than American westerns, especially during the robbery scene when a gang member brutally shoots an elderly woman for screaming. Hardcore!

After finishing the film it's easy to see that Mario Bava's heart wasn't into the project as it's definitely just a 'director for hire' gig. No doubt he would have much preferred to be on the set making a moody horror picture or Giallo than just another "spaghetti western". Out of his entire filmography, "Road to Fort Alamo" is one of the more obscure films of his no doubt because it's not that good... not horrible but only worth hunting down for the most die-hard Bava fans. Wild East released the film on DVD in a double feature with the Spanish western "A Place Called Glory" for those interested in seeing the picture.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

No comments:

Post a Comment