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The story of the famed siege of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution, in which a small band of soldiers held off an overwhelming army under the Mexican general Santa Anna long enough to allow the Texan army to gather its strength. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
THE ALAMO: THIRTEEN DAYS TO GLORY, James Arness' variation of his mentor John Wayne's 1960 classic, attempts to present the famous 1836 Texas siege in human terms, utilizing the more 'intimate' medium of television to make the story of the defenders more understandable. Eschewing the 'living legend' portrayals of the earlier film, a sincere effort is made to make the famous personalities of the battle more realistic, with both good and bad qualities, thus making their heroism more personal, and ultimately profound.
While this is certainly an admirable intention (it would also be the motivation behind the 2004 ALAMO), the TV-film fails, and isn't held in high regard by either Alamo historians or fans of the small collection of films concerning that pivotal moment in Texas history.
A major problem is that THIRTEEN DAYS TO GLORY is seriously miscast. Other than the inspired choices of Alec Baldwin as William Barret Travis, and Raul Julia, who nearly steals the film as Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (offering what is probably the most accurate portrayal of the 'Napoleon of the West', ever), virtually every actor is wrong for their role. Arness, at 64, lacks the dynamic, corrupt vitality of the historical Bowie, 40, prior to his physical collapse at the start of the siege (caused, historians now believe, by advanced tuberculosis, or another fatal lung disease). The filmmakers choose, rather, the LAST COMMAND approach to Bowie, injuring him during the battle, instead, and giving him enough energy to cling to a lamp and wall, and to die 'on his feet', his famous knife in his hand. Arness' portrayal is closer in spirit to his outdoorsman 'Zeb Macahan' in the TV "How the West Was Won", than the charismatic swindler/slaver. Even worse is Brian Keith, 66, as 49-year old David ('Davy') Crockett. The frail-looking, silver-haired Keith, while correctly emphasizing Crockett's heritage as a politician, appears acutely uncomfortable in the physically demanding role, and totally lacks the magnetism that made Crockett legendary. As for 68-year old Lorne Greene as 43-year old Sam Houston, the less that is said, the better. In trying to be more 'honest', the film chose acting 'legends', forgetting that performers of legendary status tend to make their characters 'larger-than-life'.
Shot at the '60 ALAMO movie set in Brackettville, Texas, in the 110-degree heat of late summer, the cold dampness of March, 1836 was never achieved. Compounding the problem was a budget that was too small to hire the 'army' of extras required to give lopsided battle some scope. Instead, the production liberally 'lifted' shots from 1955's THE LAST COMMAND, filmed at yet another location (with budget restrictions of it's own), and the differences of the sets, and the film stock, are occasionally jarring.
THE ALAMO: THIRTEEN DAYS TO GLORY, for all of it's ambitions, is, ultimately, no more than a 'B' movie with higher aspirations!
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