Way back then, there were two types of Western movies. There were the pretty classy 'A' Westerns... High Noon, The Hanging Tree and the post-Second World War feature Bad Day at Black Rock.
Then there were the 'B' movies, made without apology to run before the main feature in the days when it was standard to get two movies for the price of one.
The Man from the Alamo is a 'B' movie which most certainly needs no apology - well, almost no apology. It's about John Stroud, a taciturn, unbelievably self-contained rancher who is at Fort Alamo alongside Colonel Travis, Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, standing firm against the Mexican insurgency.
The men at the Alamo are all doomed, and they know it. They are just buying time until the American forces outside the Fort can regroup and counter-attack. Travis asks his men to stay with him; to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the future. All say yes. All except John Stroud. He grabs a horse and rides out just as fast as he can.
Now, here's the improbability. John Stroud, played by Glenn Ford, has a good reason for going. He has drawn lots with a band of friends who come from the same corner of California. One man will leave, to look after the families of all the others. They draw lots. Stroud wins... or has he lost?
Stupidly, Stroud doesn't explain to the only other man to leave the Alamo, Lieutenant Lamar (Hugh O'Brian), why he is leaving. Lamar has to leave to carry important despatches. In a moment of 'B' grade imbecility, Stroud is happy to leave the Alamo, knowing that Lieutenant Lamar thinks him a coward, and that he will carry that message far and wide.
But then, without that improbability, there could be no story. And once you accept that flaw in the plot, it's a good tight ride, as Stroud rides out a pariah, gets almost lynched, but finally (not exactly a spoiler since it could not end in any other way) proves that he is just what we always thought - a courageous, if rather stupid, hero.
It's fun spotting the other actors. Hugh O'Brian became one of the biggest Western actors of early television, as Marshall Wyatt Earp. Chill Wills cropped up in just about every 'B' grade Western made. There's even an early appearance of Dennis Weaver, who became Matt Arness's deputy in Gunsmoke and achieved a sort of celluloid immortality as the lead in the 1971 made-for-TV Spielberg thriller of man-versus-truck, Duel.
Glenn Ford, in real-life a particularly obnoxious character, plays the inarticulate rancher with real conviction, and there's hardly a lesser actor in the entire film. Director Budd Boetticher keeps a tight rein; there's no flab at all, and there's no need to add a minute to the concise 75-minute running time.
This is a great representative of the type of movies that had the Jaffas rolling down the aisles at matinee sessions right across Australia - straight after the Superman or Batman and Robin serial and newsreel, and right before the main feature. Good escapist fun, well crafted in the best Hollywood dream-factory tradition.
The movie was shot in 1953, the same year as the introduction of Cinemascope, and would have been one of the last Westerns to not be given widescreen treatment.
But there's nothing to get upset about in this treatment. It's in its original aspect full-frame, and the transfer appears to have been struck from an immaculate print. Colours just glow with wonderful lustre and depth, and there are almost no scratches or upsetting artefacts, just the occasional mild blemish to remind us that we're back in the land of real celluloid.
The two-channel mono soundtrack is as fine as the image. There's nothing dramatic here; nothing to really exercise a top sound-system.
But dialogue is clear and undistorted, the sound of hooves drumming across dry mountain trails (very important in a Western) is deliciously precise, and you just need close your eyes, imagine some audience noise, and you're back home in your Saturday matinee. Wonderful thing, time-travel.