Tomb of the Pistolero Review
Tomb of the Pistolero (La Tumba del Pistolero)
Among the earliest Paella westerns, it was apparently shot in the cold winter of 1963 (its release was postponed), and supposed to be a coproduction with Italy. Because of the extreme weather conditions, the Italians refused to cross the Alps, and the Spaniards had to do it all by the themselves. It was also supposed to be a thriller, but was turned into a western. Amando de Ossorio, better known for his horror movies, accepted to direct it because he reckoned this would improve his chances to develop some of his own plans in the future.
George Martin is Tom Bogard, a young man who studied law in Boston. He travels West to investigate the death of his brother Jack. Both Jack and his best friend Brandon were in love with the same girl, Liza. Jack was shot by the sheriff after he had killed Liza, who had told him that she and Brandon were to be married. Tom can't believe that his brother is a murderer, and soon finds out that several people are getting mighty nervous because of his arrival in town. When he opens the grave of his brother, the coffin is empty ...
Even if the original script was turned into a western, the finished product feels like a mystery movie. The story is typical detective stuff, almost in Agatha Christie fashion, with a lot of unexpected twists and a killer whose identity is only revealed in the last moments. The intricate mystery story is one of the film's major assets. As a western, it feels pretty traditional, even a bit corny, but occasionally De Ossorio shows some visual flair, with a good use of the landscape of Hoyo de Manzanares, near Madrid. Some characters like the town drunk (who was too drunk on the fatal night to remember what happened) and the tart with a heart, as well as some story details (a gang called the Black Riders for example) create a deliciously mellow atmosphere. With its town setting, the emphasis on fistfights rather than shootouts, and peaceful ending, it almost feels like a protracted episode of a TV western like Bonanza or Gunsmoke.
The cast isn't bad, with George Martin as the new man in town and a lot of future supporting actors from the spaghetti western putting in an appearance (Aldo Sambrel looks terrific with his woolen cap - yes it was mighty cold!). Jack Taylor was an American actor who lived in Spain and appeared in all kind of genre movies; he's still working today. The two actresses, Alonso and Solar, are good-looking. Apparently it was never dubbed in English, but the songs (there a few, one sung by the saloon lady) are in English.
It's often thought that the film was shot in black and white, but actually it wasn't. However, the copy shown on television in Spain and Italy had almost entirely lost its colors, and when it was cleaned, it was decided to remove the last traces of the original color photography. It looks quite good in black and white. Some think it was shot back to back with De Ossorio's second western, Rebeldes en Canada, released two years later and also starring Martin, but this seems unlikely since Rebeldes was made with a much bigger budget, and in collaboration with the Italians (who had found a few elephants to cross the snow-capped Alpes).
Tomb of the Pistolero is by no means a great movie, but thanks to an effective script, it's quite enjoyable.