Ford's Bravest Coward
For me there is something quite comforting about watching one of the many westerns made during the 1950s and that feeling comes from knowing that these are going to be adventure movies with plenty of action. It doesn't matter that the storyline won't be that original or that the characters feel familiar to those found in other 50s westerns in fact that familiarity in a strange ways adds to their charm. And so it's no surprise that I enjoyed "The Man from the Alamo" a western which is in many ways generic with it's storyline of basically a loner trying to avenge a group of bad guys. But because you know that you are going to get action, adventure, a bit of romance and a final battle you can sit back and not worry about trying to follow the storyline but enjoy the action and performances especially from Glenn Ford.
As a small group of men try to defend the Alamo during the war for Texas independence, unrest starts to form between the local men who fear for the safety of their families and land. Deciding that one should return to protect them, they draw lots and John Stroud (Glenn Ford - Superman) finds himself the man who is picked. But as he leaves the Alamo he is seen as a deserter, a coward by the men who are unaware of what the local fighters have decided in secret. And to make matters worse his return to his land and that of his fellow fighters is in vain as a group of Guerrillas have already been, killing their families and burning their buildings down tot he ground. Despite being called a coward where ever he goes Stroud is determined to get his revenge and tries to infiltrate the band of Guerrillas who killed his family.
So as already mentioned "The Man from the Alamo" does have that feel of being a very standard 1950s western which traded on simple storylines with bursts of action and adventure. And so whilst we get this set up which sees John Stroud branded a chicken when he leaves the under attack Alamo to go and protect his and his fellow fighter's families what this all comes to is Stroud trying to get justice when he discovers the families have been slaughtered by Guerrillas working for the Mexicans. There is little more complexity to it than that and whilst you get the element of Stroud being hated by many who are unaware of his secret mission to protect the families it does pretty much boil down to him discovering who the American's are that are working as Mexican Guerrillas and then getting his revenge.
What this means is that "The Man from the Alamo" does follow a formula, there is an attractive woman who befriends Stroud, there is emotion and confusion and of course there is action. Now to be honest I have seen westerns with more spectacular action sequences and the initial attack on the Alamo which is so obviously shot on a sound stage lets things down. But they are entertaining enough, arriving in short bursts to pep up the drama of Stroud being hated and branded a coward by those he meets.
Now for those who need more than to just to be entertained by a movie then "The Man from the Alamo" does provide a look at what bravery means. On one hand you have the traditional sense as we watch the small band of men defending the Alamo risking their lives against a larger army; they even have enough honour and bravery that when their flag is shot down they risk their lives to put it back up. But then you have the bravery from Stroud's perspective, a bravery which comes from being silent, being branded a chicken when you know you're not. And so for those who do need something to analyse there is surprisingly a slight depth to this.
With "The Man from the Alamo" being what I call a standard 50s western, the sort which were churned out at a staggering rate of knots the actual characters are not that brilliant. To be honest every character from the attractive Beth Anders played by Julie Adams through to Lt. Lamar played by Hugh O'Brian are cliches, similar to countless others which filled the western genre and as such are pretty indistinguishable. Even the main focus John Stroud doesn't feel that different, the almost loner who goes about his business in a calm calculated way, the sort of role which Randolph Scott played so well. But here we have Glenn Ford taking on the role and Ford does bring something to it and that is his ability to express emotion without seeming to do anything. In a scene where he is branded a coward by Lamar, Ford doesn't say anything but the look does he gives does and in fact it says more than any words could as you can see anger deep with in.
What this all boils down to is that "The Man from the Alamo" is very much your stereotypical 1950s western with a storyline and characters which feel very familiar. But in that familiarity it works because you know what you are going to get and that is a relatively short movie which canters along at a reasonable pace pepped up by various moments of action till we get the big climax and all is basically put right. As such "The Man from the Alamo" will entertain but like so many other 50s westerns will easily be forgotten, blending in with the mixed up memories of cowboy heroes.