A Town Called Hell: An Underrated Gem
Updated: Mar 15
A Town Called Hell or also known as A Town Called Bastard is a 1971 western starring Robert Shaw, Martin Landau, and Stella Stevens. Honestly, I never even knew this film existed until a month ago. I was in the mood to watch a western starring Robert Shaw, so I googled westerns and Robert Shaw and this film popped up. The title instantly hooked me so I watched it and it became a new favorite film of mine. I’d recommend it if you are a fan of westerns.
A Town Called Hell is a fucked up film. The first two minutes involve a town massacre. Robert Shaw’s character leads a revolution like battle and kills a bunch of people. It had my attention from the very beginning. From then on this film is filled with death. The town the revolution takes over literally becomes hell. Once the Colonel comes into the story, the film really gets fucked up because he kills a lot of innocent people. I couldn’t believe how far the film went. It’s a fascinating story really.
At first, the film looks like the film is going in a certain direction, which was a good direction. But then it takes a certain turn into a mystery that I wasn’t expecting. I liked that aspect about the story. The mystery is engaging and I kept wondering who Aguila was. The resolution felt right in the end.
Robert Shaw is one of my favorite actors. He’s perfect in EVERYTHING. He’s great in this film, no surprise. I really liked his character. He plays an ex-soldier for the revolution but then he becomes a priest to the town he helped take over. I love the idea of a bad person finding God to help cleanse their soul. Shaw's character faces a true challenge when Martin Landau's character comes into play. I really liked that aspect of his character and the story. Shaw is very quiet and reserved in this. His eyes tell his story. It’s absolutely perfect acting.
Martin Landau plays the Colonel and he’s the perfect over the top antagonist. He commands every scene he’s in. His character has a goal of finding someone named “Aguila” and he won’t stop until he completes his goal. He plays an awesome villain.
I liked the direction, the sets, costumes, music, and cinematography. The film is beautifully shot. It has all the typical western landscape shots I love. The film feels dirty, blazing hot, and scary. The music fit the film well. The characters sleep in the dirt of this awful town. There’s no hope or safety. I felt all of that just from watching this film. It’s brilliant. This film is full of closeups and I think they added a lot to the anxiety that is spread throughout this film.
This is a short review but I don’t want to give much away. I use the term “underrated gem” a lot but in this case this film really is an underrated gem. I have never heard of this film and unfortunately not a lot of people have either. Only 320 people have watched this according to Letterboxd. If there’s any film I’d recommend, especially a western, it’s this one!