Confusing yet rewarding movie, straight out of the bargain bin
This film starts in spectacular fashion as a gang of rebels gun down the entire congregation of a church, young and old, including the priest. The barbaric nature of this opening continues throughout "A Town Called Hell".
The majority of the movie is set in the Mexican town of Bastardo, which is under the leadership of Don Carlos (Telly Savalas). A hearse arrives at the gates, with an empty coffin and two passengers - Alvira (Stella Stevens), a blonde widower clothed in black, and her mysterious unnamed companion (Dudley Sutton). She is searching for the man that killed her husband, and offers Carlos gold if he will hand over the guilty man - who she believes to be named Aguila.
The town priest (Robert Shaw), who we immediately recognise as one of the leaders of the rebels that carried out the massacre in the first scene, appears to have a knowledge of Aguila's identity. When the town is overrun by the army, also looking for Aguila, the Colonel (Martin Landau - the other rebel leader from the prologue) threatens to execute all the town unless the identity is revealed. The Colonel advises the Priest that he swapped sides, as the army provided better rewards than the rebels could ever offer.
Much of the film centres on the strained relationship between Shaw and Landau's characters. Shaw's whiskey guzzling priest is particularly well played and likable, with a guarded past that is revealed throughout the film. Albeit a fairly short lived role (facing execution by one of his own men about half way through the film), Savalas' character is very enjoyable to watch, both calm but merciless. There are also small parts for Spaghetti regulars Fernando Rey and Aldo Sambrell.
Whilst the film is pretty barbaric throughout, with the town's inhabitants showing little honour or mercy for their own kind (just ask Don Carlos!), it also has a dark and mysterious feel - particularly well portrayed by the widow and her mute protector.
It is fair to say that I am often sceptical of a film's worth when I find a copy in a bargain bin or for £0.01 on ebay. I purchased "A Town Called Hell" for a single penny on ebay, and therefore thought it was likely to be a lesser western, and became even more sceptical when I discovered its British involvement (oh me of little faith, but I couldn't picture my homeland creating a western successfully). I was pleasantly surprised to find a well thought-out movie, with a well developed (if sometimes confusing) plot, and some great character acting. Well worth a view.
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