MAN FROM THE ALAMO, THE
(director: Budd Boetticher; screenwriters: D.D. Beauchamp/Steve Fisher /from the novel by Niven Busch & Oliver Crawford; cinematographer: Russell Metty; editor: Virgil W. Vogel; music: Frank Skinner; cast: Glenn Ford (John Stroud), Julie Adams (Beth Anders), Chill Wills (Fred Gage), Victor Jory (Jess Wade), Hugh O’Brian (Lt. Tom Lamar), Jeanne Cooper (Kate Lamar), Howard Negley (General Sam Houston), Butch Cavell (Carlos), Arthur Space (Colonel Jim Travis), George Eldredge (Sheriff of Franklin); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Aaron Rosenberg; Universal International; 1953)
“Budd Boetticher directs a superior no-nonsense action-packed traditional ‘B’ Western.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Warning: spoilers throughout.
Budd Boetticher directs a superior no-nonsense action-packed traditional ‘B’ Western. It’s based on the story of Niven Busch & Oliver Crawford, and is co-scripted by D.D. Beauchamp and Steve Fisher. Russell Metty’s stunning photography of the wagon train attack is a classic in how to shoot such a scene.
The taciturn and strong-willed John Stroud (Glenn Ford) is among the 200 Texas men defending Fort Alamo from Mexico’s General Santa Ana’s overwhelming forces, along with their leader Colonel Travis and legendary folk heroes Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie. Stroud is chosen after drawing the black bean, by a small group of his hometown friends, to leave the Alamo and return to protect their ranches and families. This will brand him as a coward, as no one is expected to survive the Alamo attack to confirm this. General Houston has sent his messenger Lt. Tom Lamar (Hugh O’Brian) to tell them that he will not send reinforcements, as his wish is that they hold the Mexicans off as long as possible so that he can have time to recruit an army and attack on his terms. Stroud can’t tell the messenger why he demands a horse to leave, or else the other men might also want to go back to look after their families.
When back home Stroud learns from the only survivor, a young Mexican ranch hand boy named Carlos, that his wife and child were killed by white renegade soldiers posing as Mexicans. They also killed Carlos’ folks. These criminals are led by a hateful man called Jess Wade (Jory), who sold out the free Texas Territory by taking Santa Ana’s offer of recognizing his authority for the right to settle the land. Taking Carlos to the nearest town, Franklin, for his safety he arranges for him to go along with the wagon train leaving town as a single pretty lady, Beth Anders (Julie Adams), volunteers to look after him. He also learns his Alamo friend’s families were also slain and everyone in the Alamo died, so his mission was futile.
Lt. Lamar is back in his hometown of Franklin and recognizes Stroud as a cowardly traitor, as Stroud offers no words of defense. Word spreads quickly about Stroud as a deserter, and the sheriff has to stop a lynch mob from stringing him up. In jail, he’s in the same cell with one of Wade’s men, Cavish, whom Carlos identifies as one of the men who killed his family. Stroud ingratiates himself with Cavish and is asked to join the gang, as they execute a jailbreak and take him along.
Wade’s gang attacks the wagon train carrying the town’s money. The soldier escorts have left to join Houston’s army attacking Santa Ana in San Jacinto, so those left are the women and children and the town’s one-armed crusty old timer Fred Gage (Chill Wills). There’s a great scene of Stroud proving he’s no coward as he uses ingenuous fighting tactics and displays bravery in defending the wagon train, as he wins over the hostile Texans and the heart of Ms. Anders and at last clears his name.
It was not possible for Boetticher to keep this from being anything but a straight western plot. But Glenn Ford as the alienated hero does his best to remind one of Boetticher’s ultimate western hero of the 1950s–Randolph Scott.
REVIEWED ON 12/1/2003 GRADE: B