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  Man from the Alamo, The Coward Of The County
Year: 1953
Director: Budd Boetticher
Stars: Glenn Ford, Julie Adams, Chill Wills, Hugh O'Brian, Victor Jory, Neville Brand, John Daheim, Myra Marsh, Jeanne Cooper, Marc Cavell, Edward Norris, Guy Williams
Genre: WesternBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: The mid-eighteen hundreds and in Texas, trouble has erupted as a war between the States and Mexico over who controls the territory, the key position being The Alamo, a fort where the Americans are holding out against an army of Mexicans. The men there are feeling their doom closing in, but there is no way they are not about to go down fighting, yet they are justifiably concerned about their families who are in peril from bandits and evildoers, left behind when the head of the household went off to battle. With this in mind, they decide to draw lots to see which man among them will leave the fort and try to rescue their families before death happens for them as well, and John Stroud (Glenn Ford) is the one who draws the short straw - so off he goes.

The fantasy that someone survived the massacre at The Alamo was what fuelled the plot of this effort from director Budd Boetticher, just as he was hitting his stride as the more than competent helmer of low budget Westerns. He had a bit of budget to stage some action sequences here, more than in his Randolph Scott pictures, and if this was not up to the standards of his cult classics, it was certainly an assured indication he had found his metier and was able to bring out intriguing themes and observation through the medium of genre. He was not the only one, but something about nineteen-fifties Westerns that made this genre more than most one to generate thoughtful themes in amongst the trappings of desert landscapes, horse riding, six shooters and the like.

Ford was well-cast as the grimfaced Stroud, reluctant to admit why he had left his post at the fort even when his life depends on it since he reasons that there's not much point, the mob have made up their minds he has committed a crime of extreme cowardice and nothing he can say will change their minds no matter how wrong they are about him. We in the audience are well aware he is a noble character, and Ford stuck with stoic in his interpretation as if he had ended up as shaky as he was perceived to be, we would have our doubts about Stroud as well. It was a decent performance well aware of what it needed to do, and he was backed by a collection of reliables doing much the same, though child actor Marc Cavell was perhaps unconvincing as a Mexican who knows Stroud is honourable.

Julie Adams, however, was a stalwart leading lady of Westerns who would forever be best known for a horror picture, she was the beauty loved by The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but she was just as at home as the woman who initially joins in the general revulsion at Stroud, only to realise she was badly mistaken and he is actually the victim of a miscarriage of justice. Not that there is a trial - the town he winds up in break into the jail holding him brandishing a noose and eager to string him up. It is only a chance attack from Victor Jory's bandit leader, white men dressed as Mexicans to emphasise the lesson that things may not be as they appear, that rescues Stroud, and he goes along with them, which causes more confusion as it looks as if he really is criminal, when actually he wants his chance to kill the leader for murdering his wife and child. It all ties in with a wagon train, Hugh O'Brian as the righteous but misguided community head, and tense sequences that create a very substantial B Western. Music by Frank Skinner.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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