A Town Called Hell (1971) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
24 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Implausible And Blood Thirsty Story
Theo Robertson21 May 2005
I'm not going to write a synopsis for this movie because

1 ) Unlike many reviewers I don't normally write a synopsis

2 ) I'd have to understand a movie in the first place

The problem with A TOWN CALLED HELL is that lot of things happen but none of them seem to tie in with the plot . The film opens with a bunch of Mexican revolutionaries attacking a town in 1895 then the story jumps forward to the same location ten years later where the revolutionary leader is now a priest and someone who the audience has no knowledge of rules the town in a similar manner to Mr Kurtz in HEART OF DARKNESS . A woman arrives offering a bounty for the body of the man who killed her husband . Other things happen that make little sense and the story is made even difficult to follow by characters continually appearing and disappearing . For example did Don Carlos live or die ? Your guess is as good as mine . We are also shown a lengthy flashback sequence and it only becomes obvious that it's a flashback after the fact

This is a badly developed , badly edited and confusing movie but not one that is unwatchable . Indeed it's a fairly entertaining movie if you can stomach the sadistic attitude and what a lesser film this would have been without Telly Savalas executing everyone who gets in his way with the most memorable sequence being the hanging scene . Just a pity we never find out his fate for certain . Also of worthy note is the sentry getting killed via barbed wire and LOVEJOY's side kick revealing himself to be a mean assassin . Does this all sound very silly ? Of course but it's also entertaining in a morbid sense

As a footnote this movie was often screened on British television under the title A TOWN CALLED BASTARD and the town is referred on screen as " Bastardo " so that title would be more accurate but I guess TV companies get a lot of complaints and now call it A TOWN CALLED HELL to save on the switchboard staff
15 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Grim, Brutal, Mean Spirited Euro Western Oddity
Squonkamatic14 June 2010
Not quite sure yet about A TOWN CALLED BASTARD as the widescreen version from Greece I saw was titled. It sure is something else, one of the most brutal, vicious, mean spirited films to come out of the Spaghetti Western years. A British and Spanish co-production, the film took the form of the languid, surrealist Italo Western and corrupted it into something else. The only film I can equate it with would be THE DESERTER, a similar British-Spanish co-production from the early 1970s that likewise is one of the most vicious and bloodthirsty Westerns ever made.

I quickly lost track of the story: Telly Savalas plays some sort of crazed Cossack Mexican officer who drifts into a small border town, takes it hostage and proceeds to kill just about everyone, usually by hanging. They don't just hang the people however, first they are adequately (and often perversely humorously) humiliated, then swung out on a rope overhead from a massive scaffold that would have been right at home in a Hammer Horror Frankenstein movie. The hangings aren't just dramatic, they are staged with a flourish that is beyond theatrical to the point of absurdity. The chilling, disturbing crowd reactions of the captives below forced to watch become far more potent after a while.

And speaking of horror movies the film has a decidedly strange, gloomy bent to it that has far more in common with a Spanish horror tragedy than any comic book Spaghetti Western with guys shooting their hats off. The film specializes in the Quick Cold Killing, where both supporting and lead cast members are dispatched with sudden cruelty and often without a seeming purpose. Other than piling the bodies up, which at the end of the film stretch across the screen with smashed rubble, burning debris and the survivors wandering around in a daze.

There's some decent talent involved however. Robert Shaw steals every scene he's in as a principled gun runner turned priest, Martin Landau as a conflicted Mexican officer who's zeal for killing is a fragile mask of sanity, Stella Stevens as the woman with the past to whom they are all connected, and the great 70s character actor Al Lettieri, buried under makeup to the point that I wasn't quite sure what part he was playing. Plus a smattering of the great Euro genre film actors: Aldo Sambrell, Georges Rigaud, Charley Bravo, Chris Huerta, and Waldo de los Ríos provides the bizarre musical score that manages to incorporate Johnny Horton singing "Battle Of New Orleans" which likely resulted in a soundtrack rights issue that has kept the film more or less out of print in North America. But its a great song and the film's sole light hearted moment.

And that's the thing. As the guy who I watched it with summed things up best, what would have been the audience for this film? Which is a question I also asked myself after suffering through THE DESERTER. Here is a film that is simply too vicious and cruel to be enjoyed as a time killer shoot-em-up, let alone watched by a general audience. It has more in common with the adults oriented cynical disillusioned 1970s American westerns like SOLDIER BLUE, who's commercial success likely inspired the producers to decide on making a sick, ultra-violent Western with a body count in the thousands.

Something was lost at the production stage, however, and the film's story is too oblique to resonate beyond the on screen carnage. There might be a pretty interesting Zapata style Mexican Revolution Spaghetti here at its core, with lots of requisition flashbacks + larger than life grudges held by larger than life characters. The film also serves as an interesting counterpoint to the "Trinity" inspired comedy Spaghetti Westerns that dominated the industry after 1970. Its well made, has a perverse sense of macabre humor, and its always great to see Martin Landau & Robert Shaw, two of my favorite actors. Plus nobody ever said a Western had to be a fun, uplifting party movie. Its just that sometimes it helps.

11 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Confusing yet rewarding movie, straight out of the bargain bin
marc-36629 July 2005
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.
16 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Outlandish British-Spanish Western filmed in Spain with robust casting
ma-cortes5 July 2007
This offbeat film starts with a violent attack on a town by a revolutionary group , they murder a priest and his Christian followers . Later on , the leader (Robert Shaw) appears like a boozy-addicted priest in the town called Bastarda . There arrives on a hearse , a beautiful woman named Alvira (Stella Stevens) suited in black and lying into a coffin , the carriage is driven by a strange deaf-mute gunfighter named Espectro (Dudley Shutton) . The widower attempts the revenge from her husband's murderer named Aguila and offers to Carlos (Telly Savalas) , a violent ruler , a reward if he hands over her the killer . Then , the town is invaded by the Mexican army ruled by a cruel colonel (Martin Landau) , he also intents to encounter Aguila and threatens to hang and shoot inhabitants , unless he's delivered . Meanwhile , it is narrated a rare flashback with Paco (Michael Craig) in some sequences of hall dance and catching music , being pursued by the revolutionary character (Robert Shaw), posteriorly become priest .

The film contains Western action , shootouts , tortures , disturbing characters and lots of violence with strong hanging . It's developed on impressive sets , an enormous and old ruined fortress-town . Good performance by Robert Shaw as priest with a dark past , Martin Landau as a ruthless colonel , a mysterious Stella Stevens with a strange flashback like a vampire dreamed by the priest and Telly Savalas at a cynic and violent characterization , promptly finished for execution by one of his own henchmen , Al Lettieri . The movie gets usual Spaghetti Western elements , as greedy antiheroes , violent facing with revenger roles , quick Zooms and excessive close-up . Besides , appearing in secondary roles , habitual in Italian western genre , thus : Fernando Rey as the old blind man , Aldo Sambrell (Sergio Leone's ordinary) , Tito Garcia , Cris Huerta , Antonio Mayans , among others . Inclusively the starring Telly Savalas , though in a short-role , played various spaghetti (Pancho Villa , A reason to live a reason to die , Land raiders , Criminal story of an outlaw couple) . Colorful cinematography by Manuel Berenguer , he's a customary cameraman of US productions filmed in Spain (King of kings , Son of gunfighter , Pyro , Krakatoa). Cheesy and inappropriate musical score by Waldo Rios , he composed fine soundtracks (Murders in Rue Morgue , Bad man's river , Island of damned) until his early dead , but he committed suicide . The motion picture was regularly (it contains some cuts , flaws and gaps) directed by Robert Parrish . He was an Academy Award winning , film editor , won an Academy Award for ¨Body and soul (1947) and directed numerous films of all kind of genres , Sci-Fi (Doppelganger) , Western (Saddle the wind , The wonderful county) , action comedy (Casino Royale) and warlike (his main success : Purple plain with Gregory Peck) .
9 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
HELL yeah!
Coventry23 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
An early 70's western, entirely financed in Europe (more particularly Spain) AND starring Telly Savalas as a sadistic crook?? Yes, please! It already starts out terrific, with a merciless massacre of an entire town by vile looking bandits. Without knowing why, you see how women, elderly people and even a priest get butchered in a small church! What an intro!! The story continues with eerie images of how a young beauty (Stella Stevens) lying in a hearse is driven into the same town by a deaf-mute gunslinger… The coffin she brought with her is reserved for the person who killed her husband, but she still has to find out who that is. "A Town called Hell" is a western in the purest sense of the term. It's rough and ugly looking, the unbearably hot climate reflects through the screen and it's filled with despicable characters that cannot be trusted. Everyone in this town (also referred to as "Bastardo") betrays everyone and the smallest conflict is resolved with a gunfight. Telly Savalas is excellent as the bandit without a conscience, but even the whiskey-addicted priest (great role for Robert Shaw) and the greedy colonel (Martin Landau) are prominent madmen. As the story develops, "A Town Called Hell" becomes very complex and messy and it's likely that you'll be more confused than satisfied when it ends. Yet, it remains fascinating because the character drawing is disturbing like you've never seen it before in a western. This definitely isn't a movie for the squeamish, as the camera zooms in on vile hangings and nasty bullet wounds every five seconds. Too bad that most of the editing and elaboration is so bloody awful; otherwise this would have been a most wanted gem among western fanatics.
10 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"Then let me welcome you to Bastardo"
les-11923 June 2005
When I see a late night film with 'bastard' in the title, I'm inclined to tape it and find out what it's about. (I've taped this twice and lost both, found it on DVD, seem to have lost that too). Yes it was listed as "A Town Called Bastard" by the BBC.

If you're one of those people who think a good Western needs Mexicans (e.g. The Wild Bunch) this has plenty: sombreros, moustaches, guns, tortilla-preparation, cruel laughter etc. A lot of these Mexicans die, perhaps somewhat gratuitously. So if you like guns and death in sunny Mexico, and you'd like to see Telly Savalas as the Mayor of a town called Bastardo - you'll love this.

e.g. "Who killed my husband?" demands the pale blonde: cue an old woman to shout the name from a high building - gun out, excellent shot (like shooting ducks at a fairground), another one bites the hot dry dust...

The rest has already been well covered by other user comments, worth watching if this is your sort of thing.
8 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Incomprehensible but enjoyable western with Tinker out "Lovejoy".
johnwaynefreak4 December 2002
An incredibly confusing collaboration between Spain and Great Britain, starring Robert Shaw, Stella Stevens and Martin Landau. Stevens is the widow who arrives in the town of Bastard out to get the man who murdered her husband; Shaw is the priest who clearly knows more about the murder than is prepared to let on; Landau is the Mexican army Colonel, intending to have the murderer executed in Mexico City. The only lead the hunters have is a single name: Aguila. That said, the plot is really difficult to follow and the film needs at least two viewings.

"A Town Called Hell" contains some good, tense moments and striking images: Stella Stevens sleeping in a coffin, driven in a hearse through the Spanish desert by Dudley Sutton (Tinker from the BBC's "Lovejoy"). As with most foreign westerns, the dubbing is atrocious and there are some laughably awful moments - a dead soldier, killed with barbed wire, takes a few steps as the wire fence is pushed to the ground. The script is, unusually, quite intelligent with many possibilities, unexplored themes and good ideas. The relationship between Shaw and Landau is both well written and well played out. The music is simple but effective, especially the religious tones in the scenes with Shaw in the church.

Overall, the complexities of the plot aside, the film is very good. With strong performances from Shaw and Landau, it holds interest and is well paced by the director - and any film starring Telly Savalas (killed off early on here) as a Mexican bandit can't be all bad...
12 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Who In Hell Is Aguila?
FightingWesterner26 September 2009
That's the question viewers continually ask themselves while watching A Town Called Hell.

Mexican Colonel Martin Landau wants Aguila captured, while former revolutionary Robert Shaw, now a priest knows what Aguila looks like but he's not telling and Stella Stevens thinks Aguila may have murdered her husband (when not lying in a coffin, pretending to be a corpse!), offering twenty thousand dollars to the person who points him out.

Macho posturing, a great all-star cast including Telly Savalas as the towns sleazy mayor, and strong visuals are all wasted on a confusing script and bad editing in this wannabe spaghetti western made by British filmmakers in Spain and set during the Mexican Revolution.

Everything's cleared up in the film's weird final scene, but by that time the viewer is so mentally exhausted as to no longer care! However, I'll grudgingly recommend this strictly for the action sequences and an odd dance-hall scene featuring a soundalike cover version of Johnny Horton's hit song "The Battle Of New Orleans", featuring a few verses I've never heard before!
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A movie called confused
JasparLamarCrabb2 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
There are some really terrific ideas in this violent movie that, if executed clearly, could have elevated it from Spaghetti-western blandness into something special. Unfortunately, A TOWN CALLED HELL is one of the worst edited movies imaginable! Scenes start and end abruptly, characters leave for long stretches, the performances (and accents) of the actors are pretty inconsistent, etc.

Robert Shaw is a Mexican(!) revolutionary who, after taking part in wiping out a village, stays on to become a priest(!)...ten years later the village is being run by "mayor" Telly Salavas. Stella Stevens arrives looking for revenge on the man who killed her husband. Colonel Martin Landau arrives looking for Shaw. They all yell at each other A LOT and they all shoot each other A LOT. Fernando Rey is in it too (as a blind man). The performances aren't bad, but they are mightily uneven. Savalas has an accent sometimes as does Landau (who is really grating here). Shaw and Rey prove that they are incapable of really embarrassing themselves and Stevens looks pretty foxy (if a bit out of place amongst the sweaty filth).
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
But seriously...
heybhc4 March 2006
This star-studded British/Spanish co-production looks great, what you can see of it. I have three versions, two VHS, one DVD, and all are terribly cropped, so badly that it looks as if buildings are having conversations with each other. Few films suffer as badly from pan and scan as this one, as director Robert Parrish seems to have been so enamored with the widescreen process that he tended to use both sides of the screen at once, neglecting the middle. Another user comments that we see the entire inhabitants of a church massacred at the beginning; not in any of the copies I have. There are some abrupt cuts of peasants firing their rifles, one Mexican officer is shot, Shaw and Landau celebrating, and that's it. We never find out why Shaw has become a priest (if he really is), we never find out what happens to Don Carlos (Savalas) although I suspect he was called home to star in Kojak, as his departure seems arbitrary. And there is a strange flashback sequence where Michael Craig (Mysterious Island) is dancing around in a bowler hat and bad suit in the great old English music hall tradition to the 1960 hit BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS, not sung by Johnny Horton here but with some lyrics I've never heard before. On the plus side, the location is great, a huge old ruined fortress with Escher-style stairs leading nowhere, some nice scenery-chewing by Robert Shaw, and good performances by Stevens, Landau, Lettieri, and Telly Savalas as Telly Savalas. I didn't really like this film, but I haven't exactly seen it. I will seek the widescreen version and make my decision then.
6 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"The devil has the largest congregation."
classicsoncall14 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
If the movie leaves you somewhat confused the first time around, you might try fast forwarding through it a second time like I did to pick up the pieces. That might clear up a a thing or two, but you'll still have to put up with some of the unresolved issues the flick has to offer. Most notable of these is the fate of Telly Savalas' character Don Carlos. In keeping with the erstwhile religious backdrop of the story, Don Carlos is crucified and left hung out to dry after being shot by one of his own henchmen. But what ever became of him - did he die? Interestingly, Savalas' entire screen time in the first half of the movie was played shirtless, but it did look pretty hot out there.

There's a great scene of Stella Stevens in one of the Priest's (Robert Shaw) dream-scape recollections, that of an angel of death bearing a dagger. It's too bad nothing ever came of that tidbit. Alvira (Stevens) arrives in town seeking the one who murdered her husband, tricked out as a coffin sleeping vampire wannabe. But again, the astonishing symbolism is allowed to fritter away to nothing, even after someone offers - "Now do we kill the witch girl?"

One thing for sure, the movie never goes where you think it might. Martin Landau appears as a Colonel on the trail of the mysterious revolutionary Aguila/the Eagle, and with the help of a blind man, identifies Robert Shaw's Priest as the one who killed the man in the Montes grave. The Priest concocts a story for Alvira Montes that he helped her husband kill himself so his name would live on as a martyr for their revolutionary cause. I say concocts, because if you study the flashback scene with the young and hairless faced Shaw, a man who looks like Alvira's husband in a picture shown earlier simply dies from bullet wounds, and quite unceremoniously at that. I'm open to other interpretations however.

If the picture wasn't surreal enough, you'll find yourself going 'huh?' right as it breaks into a party scene to the tune of "The Battle of New Orleans". It's not Johnny Horton's voice, and it's got additional lyrics compared to the commercial version. Dropped in where it is makes it seem like a mid film intermission.

But hey, if you're not in too serious of a mood, you might have some fun with this one, even as it teeters precariously on the traditional spaghetti Western fence. I can say this at least with some certainty, it's the only movie I've EVER seen where a character picks his nose on screen (a Mexican near the beginning of the film). The title of the movie would probably have been better served up as one of Clint Eastwood's spaghetti classics, but "High Plains Drifter" sounds a whole lot cooler.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Town Called Bastard (Robert Parrish and, uncredited, Irving Lerner, 1971) *1/2
Bunuel197626 February 2006
This British-Spanish co-production is one of the countless films shot in Spain in the wake of the unexpected phenomenal success enjoyed by the Italian "Spaghetti" Westerns and, as is typical of such genre efforts, features an eclectic assortment of established and emerging international stars: Robert Shaw, Telly Savalas, Stella Stevens, Martin Landau, Fernando Rey, Michael Craig, Al Lettieri, Dudley Sutton, Antonio Mayans, etc. Ironically, however, this incoherent mess of a movie serves as a shining example as to why that most American of film genres became a dying breed in the 1970s and is nowadays practically (or is that officially?) extinct.

I really wanted to like this film, not only because the Western is one of my favorite types of movies but also because it had all the qualities, including an intriguing premise, to be a good one - not to mention the fact that my father had purchased a paperback edition of A TOWN CALLED BASTARD's novelization following its original release! As it is, the film's sole virtue (if, indeed, it can even be called that) is its sheer eccentricity: for instance, Stevens, playing a widow out for revenge on the man who betrayed her revolutionary husband, sleeps inside a coffin(!) driven around in a carriage by her dumb manservant(?) Sutton; Savalas, as a blood-thirsty renegade, who at first appears to be the film's main villain, is unceremoniously dispatched by his own henchman Lettieri very early on in the picture; the villain of the piece, then, turns out to be Landau who, in the film's very first scene, is seen pillaging side-by-side our legendary hero-turned-priest Shaw!; Fernando Rey, playing a blind peasant, is the only one who can identify rebel Shaw who, in the end turns out to have been merely a front for...well, nevermind! As you can see, the plot is very confusing and it gets stranger from there! The production team responsible for this film were also behind other Western fare around the same period of time, like CUSTER OF THE WEST (1967), BAD MAN'S RIVER (1971), CAPTAIN APACHE (1971) and PANCHO VILLA (1972).
3 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Incomprehensible Mess!
bsmith555219 March 2007
"A Town Called Hell" (aka "A Town Called Bastard"), a British/Spanish co-production, was made on the heels of Clint Eastwood's success in the Italian made "Man With No Name" trilogy. The template used in most of these films was to hire recognizable American actors, whose careers were largely in decline and dub their voices. This film is no exception except for the fact that they used some British actors as well.

It's difficult to summarize the plot, but here goes. The story opens with rebels or whatever, led by Robert Shaw and Marin Landau raiding a church and killing everyone inside, including the priest. Fast forward to the subject town a few years later where the Shaw character is masquerading as a priest. The mayor of the town (Telly Savalas) is a brutal leader who thinks nothing of meting out justice with his gun.

Throw into the mix a grieving widow Alvira (Stella Stevens) who is searching for her husband's killer. Add to this the fact that she rides around in a hearse lying dead like in a coffin for God knows why. After the mayor is murdered by his henchman La Bomba (Al Lettieri) the town is invaded by a federale Colonel (Landau) in search of a rebel leader (I'm sorry but the name escapes me). The Colonel takes over the town and begins summarily executing the townsfolk to force them to reveal the identity of the leader.

Even though they opened the film side by side, its difficult to tell from the dialog that the Landau and Shaw characters know each other. A blind man (Fernando Rey) claims he can identify the rebel leader by touching his face. He does so and..............................................

I'm sure the principals regretted making this film. It's just plain awful and well deserving of my dreaded "1" rating. Shaw spends most of the film fixating his trademark stare at whomever is handy. Even Landau can't salvage this film. The beautiful Ms. Stevens is totally wasted here too. Having just made Peckinpah's "The Ballad of Cable Hogue" the previous year, I found it odd that she would appear in this mess of a movie. Savalas made several of these pictures, ("Pancho Villa" and "Horror Express" come to mind) during he pre-Kojak period.Michael Craig is also in it somewhere as a character called "Paco".

Fernando Rey appeared in many of these "westerns" although he would emerge to play the villain in the two "French Connection" films. Al Lettieri would also emerge with a role in "The Godfather" (1972) and go on to other memorable roles before his untimely death in 1975.

In all fairness, the version I watched ran only 88 minutes rather than the longer running times of 95 or 97 minutes listed on IMDb, however I can't see where an extra 7 or 8 minutes would make much difference.

Avoid this one.
5 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Speaking of hell, who the hell is Aguila?
Wuchakk17 September 2016
Released in 1971 and directed by Robert Parrish, "A Town Called Hell" (originally titled "A Town Called Bastard") is a Euro Western about a Mexican town in 1915, which is more of a stone fortress than a conventional Western town, where everyone is seeking a man called Aguila, a mysterious revolutionary who massacred members of the town a decade earlier. Robert Shaw stars as the priest, Martin Landau as a brutal Mexican colonel, Stella Stevens as a vengeful widow and Telly Savalas as the corrupt mayor.

While Italians had nothing to do with this movie it smacks of a Spaghetti Western. Thankfully, it's thoroughly austere and lacks the goofiness of some Italo oaters. The grim atmosphere is palpable with dust and heat. Typical of Euro Westerns, the score by Waldo de los Ríos is notable. There's a constant sound in the background, almost like the chirping of crickets, but obviously manmade, which I've never heard in a movie before. The cast is great, highlighted by Stevens' beauty. Speaking of whom, why does she sleep in a coffin like a corpse?

The story's another matter, however. The first half of the movie involves everyone looking for this guy named Aguila. Then shortly after the midway point we discover who he is but, no, he's not really Aguila; and so the search continues as the movie shares flashbacks. At the very end one of the characters seems to find Aguila and shouts out his name, but who cares? I'm sure if you re-watch the movie and pay close attention you might be able to put the pieces together, but the mumbling dialogue (with no subtitle option) would make it a difficult task. Still, the solemn ambiance, quality cast and interesting score make "A Town Called Hell" worth catching for those who favor creative Westerns. Unfortunately, just because something's creative doesn't mean it's good.

A UK/Spanish production, the film runs 87 minutes (some prints run about 5 minutes longer) and was shot in Spain.

GRADE: Borderline C/C- (4.5/10 Stars)
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Redemption in Bastard Town
Filmfandave6 June 2015
Robert Shaw, Martin Landau, Stella Stevens and Telly Savalas star in this spaghetti western mystery drama about a Mexican-revolutionary- turned priest (Shaw) who becomes haunted by his past when a mysterious vengeful white woman (Stevens) arrives in the isolated desert town he is residing in. The woman has returned to seek revenge against her husband's killer years ago, and for reasons unexplained, she knows that he must be in town. Savalas plays Don Carlos, a sadistic town bandit leader who gets in the widow's way as he tries to threaten her stay in the town. Matters become complicated when the Colonel (Landau), Shaw's revolutionary comrade now a military officer, and his men, returns to the town to search for a fugitive named Aguila – the same man wanted by the mysterious widow. Who is this mysterious Aguila? Will the widow get her revenge? What will happen to the townsfolk, who have been terrorized for years by Don Carlos and his henchmen? And what will happen to the Priest?

A Town Called Hell is a slow-paced but quite interesting spaghetti western. Some subplots are not resolved, which leave viewers scratching their heads, like what happened to Don Carlos? What made Shaw become a priest and live in the same town where he ruthlessly killed the town priest? Who is the real Aguila? Despite these unanswered questions, the film is still worth a look especially if you like Shaw, Landau, and Savalas.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Not bad
BandSAboutMovies5 June 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I always say that Italian westerns bring the world together. Take this one, which is an Italian western by form, but really a co-production of the United Kingdom and Spain.

Directed by Robert Parrish -- one of the many hidden hands that made Casino Royale -- this is an example of one of my favorite subgenres of the cowboy movie and that would be the horror western.

Ten years ago, a group of Mexican revolutionaries led by the revolutionary leader Aguila murdered a priest and his followers. Now, a widow - Stella Sevens - has come back looking for revenge.

Talk about a cast! The town is now ruled a priest (Robert Shaw!) who may be Aguila. Stevens hires a sadistic Mexican outlaw (Telly Savalas!!) named Don Carlos who promises to help her in exchange for gold. And soon, an army colonel (Martin Landau!!!) arrives in an attempt to find Aguila himself.

The same team made Pancho Villa, another British and Spanish western that Telly Savalas was involved with. They also made Horror Express and hired Savalas, who no doubt used the paycheck to cover his partying and gambling lifestyle. I say that not as an insult. If I could have been one person other than myself, Savalas seems like a great choice.

I'd like someone to explain to me why Stevens sleeps in a coffin - is she a ghost? - and exactly how the filmmakers arrived at setting the dance hall scene to Johnny Horton's "Battle of New Orleans." It's not the best western, Italian influenced or not, I've seen, but it's certainly one of the more interesting, in theory if not in actual filmed practice.

This is also a tremendous spolier, but Savalas' death scene took me by major surprise and I love how he's as shocked as I was. He keeps trying to figure out what to do when he's emasculated by losing his trigger finger and never gets it together. As always, a wonderful performer.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Right look and feel, but wrong script
Wizard-825 August 2017
This isn't a spaghetti western as some people have labeled it to be, seeing that there was no Italian involvement. Instead, it was a co-production between the United Kingdom and Spain. However, it all the same looks and feels just like a spaghetti western despite having an American (Robert Parrish) in the director's chair. Parrish certainly gives the movie a nice gritty feeling. Unfortunately, he seems unable to do much with the script. The story starts off making a reasonable amount of sense, but eventually starts to get very confusing thanks to the multiple characters and the various twists and turns. It doesn't help that a lot of the dialogue is poorly recorded, making it hard at times to figure out what the characters are saying. In the end, the movie becomes somewhat boring due to the confusion, as well as the fact that there is a lot less action than you might think. It also wastes a very interesting cast, who all seem to know they are stuck in a lesser movie and give half-hearted performances as a result.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Great disappointment!
RodrigAndrisan25 April 2020
What a huge pleasant surprise to discover this film with this super great cast, several actors I love: Robert Shaw, Telly Savalas, Al Lettieri, Fernando Rey! And the beautiful Stella Stevens, which I fell in love with when I first saw her in Sam Peckinpah's excellent "The Ballad of Cable Hogue" (1970). Plus Martin Landau and Dudley Sutton... What a cast! But, the film is just a waste of time unfortunately. Trivial, predictable script, forced roles, incredible, all lamentable.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An entertaining mexican western with an all-star cast
MovieMan-11219 March 1999
"A Town Called Hell" is a wonderful western that takes place in Mexico, circa 1905. Telly Savalas plays a memorable role as a villain looking for a mysterious man named "Augila". There is some good footage of hanging people. Telly Savalas's death scene is hilarious as it is brilliant. Martin Landau plays a jewish/mexican colonel who gets to wear a funny-looking brown mexican uniform, but no beanie. Robert Shaw, known for his classic performance as Quint in "Jaws", plays a priest.... or is he? Stella Stevens, a has-been, plays a blond prostitute. There are some good action scenes and Johnny Horton's "The Battle Of New Orleans" can be heard in the soundtrack in a flashback scene at a mexican dance party. A man hiding underneath a deck tries to obtain a fallen coin above with a stick. A satired attack on a church opens up the film. Everything in it is fabulous. This is a hard to find film, along with 2 other mexican western classics, "Blood and Guns" and "Villa Rides". See it, you'll laugh yourself silly.
2 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Welcome to Bastard, try the tortillas
Chase_Witherspoon29 January 2011
Shaw stars as a mysterious Padre of a small fortified town affectionately called Bastard, initially ruled by bandit Don Carlos (Savalas) until he's deposed in a mutiny by his right hand man (Lettieri). Widow (Stevens) and her minder (Sutton) are searching for the man who killed Stevens' husband, a notorious but elusive revolutionary named Aguila. Army colonel (Landau) rides into town with his outfit also in search of Aguila and the townspeople are made scapegoats until Aguila's true identity is revealed.

Confusing plot twists, erratic narrative continuity, cropped cinematography and banal dialogue are elements of director Parrish's film that are evidently lacking. Stevens is cute but fails to carry-off the 'black widow' portrayal, Savalas is fun to watch but not nearly nasty enough to warrant the knee-trembling reputation he has amongst his posse, while Landau's crazy eyes and expression get a good work-out. Michael Craig also appears sans his own voice as a double-crossing freedom fighter in a very strange flashback. Other recognisable faces include Fernando Rey in a key supporting role as the man who can identify Aguila and subsequently save his townsfolk from the hangman.

There's a number of quirks that make this film memorable, notably Shaw's cherub-cradling preoccupation with mending everything that's broken and his final soliloquy of Shakespeare esque proportions that has no place in a western let alone a film of such dubious quality. There's a couple of laughs, some reasonable action sequences and a few deep insights to ponder and if perchance you discover Aguila's identity then that's a bonus that will make it all the more worthwhile viewing.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A town called E*X*C*I*T*E*M*E*N*T
cupid6661 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is a triumph of the spirit, if by "triumph of the spirit" you mean "I have no idea what's actually going on with this movie." However, it creates obsessions. Have you ever seen that movie "SIEGE" where a group of Nazis called "new order" take over a gay bar? Neither have I though I would have liked to.

My first exposure to this amazing piece of cinematography came shrink-wrapped from a junk store in New Hampshire next to blood and semen-stained ALF sheets and a shrunken goats head. Back then it was known as "SIEGE," and with a plot like SIEGE's, who would not want to see it? Expecting fascist gay bar follies, and being stoned, I was taken aback to find Telly Savalas ruling the screen. . . ruling the town, really.

This movie has no plot. Strike that, it has 17 plots, all of which last for two minutes. If you do the math though, I think the actual movie is longer than that. Due to the fact that the opening screen clearly said "SIEGE," the electrifying introduction of this movie, which I understand has Mexicans, is lost forever in the sands of time.

Telly Savalas is clearly the mayor of a town called Bastard, and frankly, it's about friggin time. He's crucified five minutes later. He's replaced by a Mexican who find's Telly Savalas' barechested, muscle-bound shoes too !LIVE! to fill. I can't remember if the Mexican dude is bumped off, but a general comes in five minutes later. I'm pretty sure the general is also a Mexican.

A woman rides in on a hearse. There is also a priest.

My mind explodes.

If you want E*X*C*I*T*E*M*E*N*T, "Speed 2" can't touch "A Town Called Bastard" with Ernest Borgnine's weenis at the end of a ten foot pole. Period. I love when somebody writes the word period after a sentence they want to emphasize. It really doubles up the finality of it all. Period.

p.s. the guy from jaws is in this movie.
3 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
It seems not one person undestands this movie
kdavidbushnell1 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The priest is actually a sort of corrupt revolution leader. He has followers and the people loved him. That explains for why they don't give him up while they are being hung, and it also explains for all the organized action scenes on the military or police led by him. It's actually a great lead character role and story, plus the details of the story and movie are actually pretty impressive. But its down fall is: 1, it is made pretty poorly; bad editing, poor audio in some parts, and out dated even for its time. 2, It is a bit confusing because they don't explain any of the stories details but you can understand by paying attention (and its actually a really cool and original story.) 3, Its misleading with the previews and marketing, posters etc.

It realllly is the kind of movie I think would be a great remake. Change the time period a little earlier and make it more comprehensive with better writing and directing. Add some good lead and supporting actors. My friends we would have a golden contemporary western film. I give it the 8 because of the story and the characters, and the details of the movie, like art direction and dialogue. But everything else besides the acting sucked.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Off beat and wacky. Great cult movie.
dfddwm-106-3368106 August 2021
It must have seemed sensible enough on paper and I imagine the main ingredients of revolution, conscience and betrayal must have ticked boxes when it fell into the hands of Robert Shaw noted actor of stage and scteen, author, playwright with profound Left Wing republican ideals and sympathy for the underdog.

I would have loved to see his reaction to the final cut!

With a plethora of stars and memorable scenes and moments this is up there with Captain Apache for watchability and due to its level of violence and almost saidistic brutality possibly more current. Above all the director creatively plays with the whole spaghetti (paella - it was shot in Spain?) western and its codes. The unforgettable drunken bar scene introducing the nefarious people's traitor Paco, played by Michael Craig, to a furious and diabolical up tempo Southern ditty has lived in my imagination since I first saw the film.

If a film can have that effect and a director can execute something as mesmerising as that then it rates highly in my book. One could bemoan the squandering of such spirited actors on what appears smallish stereotyped almost "bit" parts: but the overall effect is greater than the sum of its parts.

Throughout alternate flashes of Shaw's psychopathy and turning on the boyish Irish charm offer continuity against a bewildering, and fast moving bizarre montage.

Did he know what he was getting into?
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
right recipe, wrong cook
parachute-41 April 2007
There really is no substitute for a Sergio Leone to make this style of film work properly, and even "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" could have bombed out badly if there had been any uncertainty about the direction and editing.

That seems to be the problem with "A town called Bastard". The theme has great potential, and the cast are just the ticket for the job. The locations and sets are pretty good and much of the camera work is impressive. However, it somehow just doesn't seem to integrate as it should. Too many loose ends maybe.

Leone would have been more diligent about making sure the audience knew in what direction the film was heading, even if the destination was not revealed until the very last scene.

Parts of the film are quite memorable and it does help to watch it at least three times; but the point is that you shouldn't have to if the director is doing his job properly. Robert Shaw and Martin Landau play their parts faultlessly and at least the director gives these masters of their craft a free hand to develop their characters; but good acting alone doesn't make a successful film.

Overall a disappointment but still good to view again from time to time. Could be well worth a remake to get it right. Maybe Tarantino could do something with it ?

R. B.
2 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed