La Bataille de San Sebastian
|La Bataille de San Sebastian|
French film poster
|Directed by||Henri Verneuil|
|Produced by||Jacques Bar
|Written by||Serge Gance
Ennio De Concini
James R. Webb (English screenplay)
|Based on||A Wall for San Sebastian
by William Barby Faherty
|Music by||Ennio Morricone
|Editing by||Françoise Bonnot|
|Studio||Compagnie Internationale de Productions Cinématographiques (CIPRA)|
|Running time||111 min ([US)|
La Bataille de San Sebastian (English title: Guns for San Sebastian) is an 1968 French/Italian/Mexican international co-production action-adventure movie, based on the 1962 novel A Wall for San Sebastian, written by Rev. Fr. William Barnaby "Barby" Faherty, S.J. The film is directed by Frenchman Henri Verneuil, it stars Anthony Quinn and Charles Bronson. The score is by Ennio Morricone.
In 1743, a womanizing atheist outlaw, Leon Alastray (Anthony Quinn), is pursued by the Spanish military. Given sanctuary by an altruistic priest (Sam Jaffe), he is taken to a village terrorized by marauding Indians.
When the priest is killed, Alastray is mistaken for a priest himself. This he at first denies but, finding the love of a village woman, and encouraged by the persuasive power of a fake miracle, decides to take on the role and thereby organize the villagers against the predatory raids of the Yaqui Indians.
Teclo (Charles Bronson) is a half-breed leader of marauders who pretends to side with the villagers but is really in league with the Yaqui. When Alastray attempts to make peace with the Yaqui, Teclo intervenes and foments a conflict. Whilst Alastray organises the men of the village to build a dam to increase the amount water of the area and have a higher yield of corn, the Yaqui attack and massacre many of the inhabitants of the village. The angry villagers order the priest out, but Alastray returns to the provincial capital and obtains a large amount of muskets and a cannon for the village.
Just before a battle, the villagers ask Alastray to hold a mass. At this point he confesses to the villagers that he is not a priest. They nonetheless accept him and together they defeat the Yaqui. Alastray flees the military again, this time accompanied by the woman he loves.
Though panned as somewhat pedestrian by most critics, several attributes separate this from many spaghetti westerns of the time. It is an excellent showcase of the talents of Anthony Quinn and Charles Bronson in their prime. While the cinematography is not on par with other contemporary members of the genre (like The Magnificent Seven), the authentic Mexican set and above average performances by the supporting cast (especially Sam Jaffe as the priest) contribute to a realism in which some westerns fall short.
Differences between the novel and the film
The original novel by Faherty had the hero a former soldier who became a Jesuit Friar, as opposed to the film's depiction of the hero as an army deserter and atheist bandit. The Indians in the novel were Comanche rather than Yaqui and the half-breed character played by Charles Bronson does not appear in the book.