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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adventure > Swords > Western > Mexico > Stronghold (1951)

Stronghold (1951)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: C-     Film: B-



Excluding the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise due to supernatural and fantasy elements, the idea of doing a good swords and schemers film seems to elude Hollywood.  The new Zorro franchise with Antonio Banderas is too manicured to feel authentic not helped by Robert Rodriguez’s departure from the franchise before the first film arrived.  Peter Hyams’ The Musketeer (2001) was a martial arts film as much as anything, while Kevin Reynolds’ Count Of Monte Christo (2002) should have been a bigger hit and had some limits in its ethnic characters and characterizations.  Steve Sekely’s Stronghold (1951) is an interesting independent production that may be formulaic, but has its moments.


Veronica Lake was striking out on her own at this point, having seen her Paramount Pictures period end.  It was a smart move and an interesting role for her that offered less glamour.  Zachary Scott and Arturo DeCordova co-star in this U.S./Mexican co-production that is ahead of the more plastic tales of conflict in Mexico and over a decade ahead of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns.  When the script is held together by conventions, constructs and a few clichés, the look and feel of the production and excess of Mexican actors separate this from the Hollywood productions before and Westerns to come since.  Though this is about The Mexican Revolution in the 1860s, this is more of an action piece than a Western, though it could technically qualify in a secondary way.


Lake is a rich American woman caught in the conflict, so she is not in the kind of position Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar or her successors are, as she does not have to work for her wealth or is trying to build a new life.  She is kidnapped by the villain (DeCordova) and needs saving, so she is not too able-bodied.  No femme fatale role here, though she is supposedly only in the U.S. release version!  What follows is interesting and a comparatively more raw and realistic variant of this story that you would expect or get at the time.  It runs a good 72 minutes, though it has been listed at 10 minutes longer inaccurately as we understand.


The 1.33 X 1 image is a little soft and aged, but this is like one of the best prints in existence, as is often the case for orphan films like this.  There are even a few jump cuts where footage is missing, but know racism and ignorance is a reason a film with an ethnic cast like this gets neglected, even a B-movie.  The great Stanley Cortez, A.S.C, shot this in black and white earlier in his career.  He would eventually shoot Charles Laughton’s Night Of The Hunter (1955) and some Sam Fuller classics soon after.  This is almost as interesting.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also aged, but VCI has done their best to clean up what was available.  Extras are few, but include brief text on some of cast and trailers for other VCI DVDs.  Check out Stronghold for a good time.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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