Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

The Alamo (1960)

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
4 out of 10
Extras Rating:
8 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: Not Rated

Starring:
John Wayne as Col. Davy Crockett
Richard Widmark as Jim Bowie
Laurence Harvey as Col. William Travis
Frankie Avalon as Smitty
Patrick Wayne as Capt. James Butler Bonham
Linda Cristal as Graciela Carmela Maria 'Flaca' de Lopez y Vejar
Joan O'Brien as Mrs. Sue Dickinson
Chill Wills as Beekeeper
Joseph Calleia as Juan Seguin
Ken Curtis as Capt. Almeron Dickinson
Carlos Arruza as Lt. Reyes
Jester Hairston as Jethro
Veda Ann Borg as Blind Nell Robertson
John Dierkes as Jocko Robertson
Denver Pyle as Thimblerig (the Gambler)

Special Features:
"John Wayne's The Alamo" Documentary

Original Theatrical Trailer

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French Language
English, French, & Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 2 Hours 42 Minutes

Synopsis:
This is the 1960 version of The Alamo produced, directed, and starring John Wayne. It retells the true story of the Alamo and its role in the independence of Texas.

In 1836, General Santa Anna and the Mexican Army march into Texas to break a rebellion by the locals. In order to buy time for Sam Houston and his troops, Col. William Travis decides to make a bold stand against the Mexicans at a small mission fort, the Alamo. Facing impossible odds, Travis is supported by the legendary and brash Jim Bowie. He is also aided by Davy Crockett and his Tennessee Volunteers. Together these 187 men face off with Santa Anna only to find that help isn't coming. Thus begins the battle that will slaughter them to the man but will inspire their fellow Texans to fight the Mexican Army and win independence.

The Alamo is not rated.

The Movie:
I had never seen John Wayne's The Alamo before, but I was pretty well read on the real life history of the Alamo. As a Texan, the story of it has been told to me for many years and I have visited the actual Alamo on several occasions. In short, I have high standards for any Alamo movie I might see, even if the legendary John Wayne is making it. Well, I know this is blasphemy, but after seeing it I wasn't terribly impressed with the film.

First of all, the movie is incredibly slowly paced. It is about 3 hours long and it is filled with scenes that aren't necessary to the story. It plods along very slowly and the real action doesn't even start until the last half hour or so. If you're mainly interested in the action (like I was), then you'll have to fast forward through a lot of it.

The movie is also filled with historical inaccuracies. Like almost all Westerns of the 60's, it whitewashes history to the point of being embarrassing. It makes the Texans seem like the heroes and the Mexicans seem like the villains. It has Jim Bowie fighting to the end when in reality he was incapacitated by an STD. (Not a terribly glamorous thing.) There were more women and children in the Alamo during the siege, yet this movie shows only one woman and two children. Then there are details about the siege that seem inaccurate. We see Crockett steal cattle from the Mexicans, blow up a cannon, and generally make the Mexicans look like fools. We also see Crockett attempting to woo a local woman. I know that there are many different versions of what happened at the Alamo, but this film is definitely at the conservative end of the spectrum.

Gripes about pacing and history aside, it is a good looking movie. The Alamo set looks great and the costumes are impressive. The big scenes of the battle at the end are cool and there is a lot of action during the final siege. It definitely has an epic feel to it. The quiet moments are well done also as Wayne captures some nice sunsets and beautiful Texas scenery.

John Wayne was never known for his acting and The Alamo reiterates that. He's mainly in top form when he's acting tough or killing bad guys. None of the other cast members particularly impressed me either. I didn't realize it at the time, but Denver Pyle (aka Uncle Jesse from The Dukes Of Hazzard) plays Thimblerig and a young Frankie Avalon plays Smitty. Keep an eye out for them.

The Extras:
This DVD originally came out in 2000 and is being re-released to take advantage of the hype surrounding the new Alamo film starring Dennis Quaid and Billy Bob Thornton. There aren't a whole lot of extras included on it.

The main extra is a 40 minute feature entitled "John Wayne's The Alamo". It is an in-depth look at how John Wayne got the movie made. It discusses his early battles with the studio, filming in Texas, choosing actors, and more. Surviving cast and crew talk about his directing style, favorite stories about the making of the movie, a set visit by John Ford, and other bits of trivia. Older interviews of some of the cast members are also included. The documentary shows vintage behind the scenes footage, too. All in all, I found this documentary to be more interesting than the movie itself.

The Bottom Line:
John Wayne's The Alamo is worth checking out if you're a fan of Wayne or Westerns, but don't expect a historically accurate film if you watch it. It's a good looking movie but it doesn't have much more to offer.

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