Mutiny at Fort Sharp Review
An early Italian western, set in the Deep South, but not in a border town disputed by Mexican and American bandits, but within an army fort, the Fort Sharp from the English title. The Italian title, Per un Dollaro di Gloria, must have been an afterthought. It would’ve been nonsense for a Italian director to use the word 'dollar' in the title of a movie emulating a Hollywood type of cavalry-versus-Indians western, unless he wanted to jump on the bandwagon set in motion by Sergio Leone’s first dollar movie, A Fistful of Dollars (*1)
The film tells the familiar story of marauding Indians, hard-working soldiers and an unwise commander, a man who won't listen to any reason. There's also a group of French soldiers - the story is set in Maximilian days - who have accidently crossed the border, risking a border incident with their American neighbors. But they have saved a Southern Belle and her Indian maid (who had survived an Indian raid) and decide to bring the two women to Fort Sharp before returning to their base in occupied Mexico. While the French are inside the fort, the Indians launch a first attack and the two groups of soldiers will now have to cooperate in order to fight off the Indians. The French have also discovered that a wagon train coming from the fort, carrying all women and children, was attacked, but think it's wiser not to demoralize the soldiers with stories about their slaughtered relatives. But then one of the Americans discovers a plaything of his daughter among the belongings of a French soldiers ...
The character of the head-strong, dogged commander was no doubt inspired by Henry Fonda's martinet Owen Thursday from John Ford's Fort Apache (1948). A terribly overweight Broderick Crawford plays the type in the style of a walrus, dragging his feet along, sweating heavily, looking drunk most of the time. The other actors, notably Valdemarin as the thoughtful French lieutenant, do their job quite well (*2). The screenwriters have turned the Navajo into fierce warriors (*3), more in the style of Geronimo’s renegade Apache, while the only Apache - the Indian maid - is presented as a paragon of virtue and servitude (she becomes an innocent victim of a racist fury when the soldiers discover what happened to their wives and children). There’s little or no authenticity, but for an early, more 'americanized' eurowestern this is not a bad movie. The characters are well-drawn and all have a story to tell (as a result the movie may feel a little talkative and slow-moving) and the story-line is rather unpredictable. It’s also refreshing to notice that the Indians are redeemed in the end and that the French are presented as the true heroes.
- (1) However there is a small chance that the dollar in the title is a reference to the Italian title of Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo, called Un Dollaro d'Onore in Italian. Rio Bravo was an immensely popular western in Italy that has influenced several Italian film makers, among them Sergio Leone, who also might have found his 'dollar' in the Italian title of the movie.
- (2) It's Valdemarin's only appearance in a spaghetti western, but he somehow looked familiar. Only when I read Phil H’s comments on the movie’s thread, I realized where I had seen his face before (or rather: not seen before).
- (3) I watched the Italian version of the movie; according to some sources, the Indians are called Wichita in other language versions
Dir: Fernando Cerchio - Cast: Broderick Crawford, Elisa Montés, Julio Peña, Mario Valdemarin, Umberto Ceriani, José Canelejas, Hugo Arden (Ugo Sasso) - Music: Carlo Savina