A Town Called Bastard is a British-produced Western that was shot in Spain and which was obviously designed to capitalize on the popularity of the Spaghetti westerns of the two Sergios, Leone and Corbucci. When the movie was released in the United States, the title was changed to A Town Called Hell because it was felt that Americans would find the word “bastard” to be too offensive. I’m not sure how naming your town Hell is somehow an improvement on naming a town Bastard but apparently, that was the thinking. Actually, the town is called Bastardo is both versions of the film so the American title makes less and less sense the more you think about it.
Of course, how you can expect a film to make sense when the opening scenes feature Martin Landau and the very British Robert Shaw as two Mexican revolutionaries who, in the year 1895, ride into the town town of Bastardo and murder almost everyone that they see. Ten years later, Robert Shaw is still living in the town but he’s now a priest and he’s renounced his formerly evil ways. The town itself is ruled by a ruthless outlaw played by Telly Savalas, who doesn’t bother to hide his New York accent despite playing a Mexican outlaw.
One day, a black carriage arrives in town. Inside the carriage is a glass coffin and inside the coffin in Stella Stevens, who is very much alive. Stevens’s husband was among those killed by Shaw and Landau back in the day and she offers gold to anyone who can avenge his death. Savalas is interested in the gold but then his character literally disappears from the film. Instead, Martin Landau rides back into town. He’s now a colonel in the Mexican army and is searching for a fugitive.
A Town Called Bastard has potential but it’s done in by poor casting and Robert Parrish’s inconsistent direction. The story is told so messily and the editing is so sloppy that it often feels like major scenes were left on the cutting room floor. (Just try to figure out what’s going on with Telly Savalas’s character, for example.) Stella Stevens has one or two good moments as the vengeful widow and her entrance into the town is one of the few interesting moments in the movie but both Savalas and Shaw overact in an attempt to hide just how miscast they are while Martin Landau’s main concern seems to be to get his paycheck and move on to the next movie.
In the end, A Town Called Bastard goes straight to Hell.