The year is 1895, the place is a small town in revolutionary Mexico and a gunman leads his men on an assault on the soldiers there, killing them all. Then they break into the church where the villagers happen to be and massacre the lot of them, leaving the priest to die last as he knocks a statue of a cherub from the wall. Ten years later, and the town is run by Don Carlos (Telly Savalas) who lords it over his criminal fellows, but the local priest is now the man who led the massacre all those years ago (Robert Shaw). Approaching town is Alvira (Stella Stevens) in a horse-drawn hearse, and she has unfinished business to attend to...
Also known as A Town Called Hell, A Town Called Bastard is a far more amusing title for those who discover it while idly browsing through film guides or websites. What looks like a Spaghetti Western, sounds like a Spaghetti Western (that dubbing!), but isn't a Spaghetti Western? It's a British production shot in Spain, with the sort of cast you'd expect presumably wanting a nice, sunny holiday with the bonus of being paid for it thrown into the bargain. Written by Richard Aubrey and producer Benjamin Fisz, it is a gothic-tinged tale that is obsessed with death, in fact the body count is generally high even for a western along these lines.
Before Alvira arrives, Don Carlos (Savalas having difficulty making up his mind whether to wear his coat or not) interrogates two government agents who have been dragged in behind the horses of two of his men. They refuse to say much, so the priest is recruited to read the letter of introduction found on them and reveal their origin. They, surprise surprise, are shot dead while trying to escape, but there are more pressing matters to attend to as Alvira has just rode into town accompained by her deaf mute sidekick (Dudley Sutton) who is pretty handy with a shotgun. Bastard can't get many visitors other than those tourists posing for photographs by the roadsign.
Alvira informs Don Carlos that she is looking for the man who murdered her husband, and that man is the legendary revolutionary known only as Christina Aguilera - no, wait a minute, as Aguila. She is prepared to offer a handsome reward in gold to the man who kills Aguila for her, so Don Carlos sets about finding someone who will track the mystery man down. He doesn't look very far, however, and ends up hanging one of his own men and his sister in an attempt to pass them off as those who killed the revolutionary. However, his Mutley-like sidekick doublecrosses him and abruptly the soldiers arrive, led by a face familiar to the priest.
Displaying a casual attitude to storytelling, A Town Called Bastard has an enigma at its heart: who is Aguila? If you're accustomed to these types of films, then surely the glowering Shaw is the prime candidate as a man of violence apparently reformed. And so it is that that old reliable, the flashback, is employed to clear things up - to a point, anyway. The soldiers are headed by a Colonel (Martin Landau with a tendency to shout) who was the priest's accomplice in the massacre, and it is evident that no sins go unpunished. Sweaty, obscure and without much in the way of sympathetic characters, the film has intriguing trappings, but is too dour to appeal to any but the hardened Euro western fan. Music by Waldo de los Rios.