The Road to Fort Alamo: western between Peplum and Horror

The Road to Fort Alamo 
western between peplum and horror

The first of three westerns directed by Mario Bava (the other two being Ringo from Nebraska and Roy Colt and Winchester Jack), made at a time when the Leone style of film making was still in the future and Italian directors were trying to emulate American westerns. Not surprisingly, the movie has a storyline that was very popular in Cavalry westerns from the fifties set in post-Civil War days: a Southern renegade first turns to brigandage but comes to his senses and redeems himself during the Indian wars. Eventually all people involved are forgiving and realize that the war is over and the North and South are One.

Ken Clark is Bill Mannesey, a man whose properties were destroyed during the war. He joins a group of southerners who all suffered considerable losses during the war and want to get even - if only financially - with the Union. Dressed up like soldiers, they try to convert a check that was given to Bill by a moribund soldier (the only survivor of an indian attack), but at the bank things go horribly wrong when an innocent bystander is killed by Carson, the leader of the gang. Bill and Carson fall out and after being tortured, Bill is left for dead in the desert with his only friend within the gang, a young man called Slim. They're picked up by a cavalry regiment on the road to Fort Alamo and treated as two of their own. A sergeant discovers the truth, but the wise old man also realizes that Bill is the only one who can safely escort them to Fort Alamo ...
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Ken Clark needed two doors to enter a room ... one for every shoulder ...

The idea for this movie must have been a cavalry western in the style of John Ford. There's the arrogant commanding officer, the experienced lieutenant, the wise old sergeant and the audacious but good-natured young side-kick. Add the names of Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Ward Bond and Harry Carey Jr. to the right type and you've got yourself the perfect line-up for a Ford western. Ken Clark's character seems by the way modeled after another Ford character, the Ringo Kid from Stagecoach; he redeems himself by saving a group of travelers and finally 'erases' his past by eliminating his former outlaw friend (with a little help from his love interest, the proverbial tart with a heart). It's often said that Bava didn't have any love or feeling for the western genre; this movie seems to confirm this idea. As a western, it feels both second hand and second rate, but  there are a couple of nice scenes - obviously filmed on sound stages - set in a spooky lit grotto complex that will give you the odd idea that the western went astray and ended up somewhere between peplum and horror. 


* Clark's love interest is played by French actress Jany (Janet) Clair, a lovely voluptuous redhead. I thought she was also his co-star in Ringo del Nebraska, but that lady was played by another actress, Yvonne Bastien, also a voluptuous redhead. Bava clearly fancied the type ...

1964 - I/F - Original title: (I) La Strada per Fort Alamo, (F) Arizona Bill - Director: Mario Bava - Cast: Ken Clark (Bill), Jany Clair (Janet), Michel Lemoine (Carson), Adreina Paul (Mrs. Collins), Alberto Cevenini (Slim), Antonio Gradoli (Captain Hull), Gustavo De Nardo (Sergeant Carter), Gérard Herter (Mr. Silver) - Music: Piero Umiliani

Bava definitely fancied voluptuous redheads ...