Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Town Called Hell (1971)


Yet another unwatchable Western spat forth from the bowels of the low-budget European film industry, A Town Called Hell is one of those simultaneously moronic and pretentious morality tales filled with dialogue about vengeance, and imagery rife with religious significance, yet almost completely lacking in coherence. The confusing picture begins when two Mexican revolutionaries—played by Robert Shaw and Martin Landau, to give you a sense of how far the picture is removed from reality—storm into a town and slaughter the local church congregation. A decade later, for reasons that are never particularly clear, Shaw has become the pacifistic local priest, and Telly Savalas—groomed within an inch of his life and talking in a vaguely Noo Yawk diction that makes no sense for the context—has emerged as a brutal local warlord whose power apparently stems from his willingness to shoot anyone who crosses his path. Into this environment arrives a mysterious black carriage containing a glass coffin, in which rests a white woman (Stella Stevens) who is very much alive; it seems her husband was killed in the town at some point, and she’s come for revenge. Yet her revenge, for some reason, takes the form of hiding out in Shaw’s church while Savalas taunts her with threats of violence. Then, when Savalas’ men abruptly turn on him, he more or less disappears from the story to make room for Landau, now a military official, who wants to find a fugitive hidden somewhere in the town. None of this makes much sense, and none of it is interesting; it’s all just very sweaty and unpleasant. Shaw, a great actor when guided by a strong director, is awful here, glowering and screaming pointlessly, and Stevens is so lifeless it’s appropriate she makes her entrance in a coffin. Savalas postures to a silly extreme, strutting around shirtless for most of the picture, and only Landau tries to give a credible performance, though he’s handicapped by the incomprehensible storyline.

A Town Called Hell: SQUARE

1 comment:

greg6363 said...

A French-German-Yugoslavian co-production, the film's original title was "A Town Called Bastard". A hoot to watch.