10 December 2003 | rmax304823
Sam Elliot is one tough pecan in this movie. He snarls, shouts, is shot off his horse (twice), and defies all dissenters whether superiors or subordinates. His is the only memorable face or performance. The names of some of the other characters are familiar from other sources -- Bowie, Travis, and Crockett and Deaf (pronounced "deef", as in the peanut butter) Smith -- but the actors are background whether than figures in this inexpensively made film. (Katherine Ross does what amounts to an uncredited cameo.)
I can't comment on the historical accuracy of the story but it seemed convincing enough to a complete outsider. Well, not complete. I once saw Sam Houston's signature on the register of an inn in Monterey, now converted to a museum.
I also had something of a problem keeping the movement of the various forces straight. When Houston orders a certain bridge to be "cut down" I only know that this will hinder any possible retreat of his own men because one of his staff tells him so. I don't know where the bridge is, or where Santa Ana is in relation to it.
But I suspect the battle scenes are at least as realistic as in John Wayne's "Alamo." In the Wayne movie all of the usual conventions of the old-fashioned Western are adhered to. (One of our men can kill five of theirs, etc.) Here, at least, the viewer learns what scholars have known for years from diaries kept by ordinary Mexican soldiers that happened to surface after the battles. Not all the Texicans fought to the last man at the Alamo. Some surrendered and were executed, including possibly Davey Crockett. And the wounded were bayoneted to death by the victorious Mexicans. It was a hard war. Early on, when one of Houston's staff reveals that he paroled several hundred Mexican soldiers with a promise never to fight against Texans again (it was a common practice at the time), Houston chews him out and declares they'll be back again behind Santa Ana. We presume that what Houston is saying is that the Mexican prisoners should have been executed. At the final battle of San Jacincto, Houston's forces defeat Santa Ana's and take hundreds of prisoners, but we see plenty more fleeing Mexicans being deliberately shot and bayoneted, including an unarmed teen-aged drummer boy. As Robert E. Lee was supposed to have said at Frederickburg, a quarter of a century later, it is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we might come to love it. Fewer John Wayne's dying heroic deaths and more harmless teen-agers deliberately executed might remind us a bit more accurately of what war was (and is) all about.