Leon Alastray (Anthony Quinn) is an outlaw in 18th century Mexico who is given sanctuary and hidden from the Spanish authorities by a kindly priest, Father Joseph (Sam Jaffe). In return, Leon agrees to escort the priest to a peasant village that is under siege from the Yaqui Indians. During the journey, Joseph dies and when Leon arrives at the village, he is mistaken for the priest. Even though Leon’s an atheist and a womanizer, he pretends to be a man of God and tries to broker a peace with the Yaqui’s bloodthirsty leader, Golden Lance (Jaime Fernandez). Standing in the way is Teclo (Charles Bronson), a mestizo rebel who wants to keep the Spanish and the Yaqui at war.
Because it features a score by Ennio Morricone and co-stars Charles Bronson, Guns For San Sebastian is often mistakenly referred to as being a spaghetti western. Instead, it was a big budget American-French co-production that was filmed, on location, in Mexico. (The majority of spaghettis were filmed in Spain.) While revolution in Mexico was a popular backdrop for many spaghetti westerns, none of them were as sympathetic to the church or the government as Guns for San Sebastian. If Guns For San Sebastian were a true spaghetti western, Teclo would be the hero.
Guns For San Sebastian is an above average western that starts out slow but gets better as it approaches the exciting final battle between the villagers and Yaqui. Morricone provides another great and rousing score but the main reason to watch Guns For San Sebastian is to see Anthony Quinn and Charles Bronson, two legendary tough guys, acting opposite each other and competing to see who can be the most intimidating. In the movie, Quinn may win but you can still see the determined presence that led to Bronson becoming an unlikely movie star in the 70s.