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The Alamo

A labor of love more than 10 years in the making, it took John Wayne every ounce of Hollywood clout he had to produce The Alamo, and even then it almost never happened. Wayne stars in this tribute to Texican freedom fighters (written by Patrick Ford, son of John Ford) as legendary Tennessee Congressman and frontiersman Davey Crockett, who winds up in the Mexican territory of Texas with his rowdy, buckskin-clad entourage looking for a fight. And as it happens, Texas has one handy — Gen. Sam Houston (Richard Boone) is trying to raise an army to wage a war of independence from Mexico, and in the meantime he's charged Col. William Travis (Laurence Harvey) to keep the Mexican Army occupied by defending a small Catholic mission-turned-military outpost, The Alamo. Travis — a formal, officious sonofabitch — is prepared to start a war, but he's not sure what to make of the wily Col. Crockett, nor of Col. Sam Bowie (Richard Widmark), as both men favor unconventional warfare and don't take orders very well from superior officers. Clocking in at over two and one-half hours, The Alamo takes its sweet time getting to the final battle, but many small delights can be found in the episodic plotting. Harvey — who, as a trained Shakespearean actor, must have been wondering what he was doing on this shoot — has the most complex role as Travis, a man with as much fighting sprit as Crockett and Bowie, but who never bonds with his troops they way his wild-and-woolly counterparts do. Widmark, as Bowie, delivers a humanistic portrayal of the frontiersman, who loved drinking as much as fighting but found it hard to get along with anybody. But of course its Wayne who gets the most screen time, and even if he never had much dramatic range, his Crockett is a worthy anchor to the tale — part gentleman, part soldier, and all Duke. MGM's DVD edition of The Alamo features a clean anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with audio in a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Also includes the 50-minute documentary "John Wayne's The Alamo," compiled in 1992 and loaded with information about the complicated shoot. Theatrical trailer, keep-case.

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