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
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
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
- Nicholas Sheffo