Friday, September 25, 2020

Spain Becomes Moviemakers Mecca [archived news article]


El Paso Herald Post

By Helen Gibson

August 29, 1970

ALMERIA, Spain (UPI) This southern Spanish film city, Hollywood’s fastest growing rival began its 150th movie in August with a classic shoot-em-up.

     The filming of “The Hunting Party,” a big-budget Hollywood production with Candice Bergen and Briton Oliver Reed, marked an anniversary in the history of this former dull little Andalusian port.

     Almeria started on its road to film-location fame when a modest Spanish movie “The Cursed Mountain,” was made in 1954.

     HOW IT HAS GROWN into a minor metropolis with good restaurants, first class hotels, high rise buildings and the resort atmosphere of a slightly second-rate French Riviera.

     For years, Almeria had the reputation of being one of the hottest hell-holes on earth among film people – a desert of sand, bare earth and spectacular, but even barer, mountains.

     The money poured in to the city, however, has transformed it into an oasis.

     A FEW MILES FROM Almeria, the epulent little town of Aguadulce has sprung up with a luxurious hotel and apartments that cater to passing filmmakers and vacationers from Europe and the United States.

     In Almeria, there are no complaints, as in Hollywood, London and Rome of mass unemployment and empty, unused studios. In fact, there are no studios at all.

     Almeria was turned into a booming film-city because of its sheer spectacular landscape, year-round sunshine and very little else.

     THE LOCALS HAD to do with it. They just watched the filmmakers arrive and slipped the act of extras, drivers, cooks and landlords. The estimated 10,000 local gypsies are in great demand as Indians, Mexicans for Westerns. Roman legionnaires, cowboys and soldiers of most armies of the world are portrayed by the rest of the population.

     Even the Spanish Army chips in, as it did with troops for “Patton,” when the town can not produce enough extras.

     PRODUCERS LEVY, Gardner and Laven decided to use Almeria as a setting for their Texas-1890s saga because of its Southern Californian climate without the smog. Within a 25-mile radius there is desert, mountains, canyons, plains, coves, coast, inlets and a sea stretching away to Africa.

     “This country looks more Western than the West,” said Candice Bergen, who in “The Hunting Party,” portrays a rich girl kidnapped by a mob of rough outlaws led by Oliver Reed.

     ALTOUGH THE FIRST film was made as far back as 1954, Almeria had a slow start . Only 12 films were made during the next nine years. The big boom started in the mid-1960s. The Americans arrived on the scene with Charlton Heston in “El Cid” and Britain made it triumphal debut it 1962 with “Lawrence of Arabia” starring Peter O’Toole.  

     After this, a whole spate of Westerns and films such as Stanley Kubrick’s “2001, A Space Odyssey” and “How I Won the War” with John Lennon were made.

     THE NEW HOLLYWOOD and vine of the movie world is the bar of the Gran Hotel in downtown Almeria.


[Thanks to Michael Hauss for the article.]

1 comment:

  1. Almeria, Spain. What a great place to make Westerns. And beautiful too.