Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Torrejón City film review

 La Abadia de Berzano

By Santiago Aguilar

June 20, 2023

Synopsis: Tom the Good and Tom the Bad, whose physical features are identical, are in Torrejón City, a town in the far West.

Original title: Torrejón City

Year: 1962 (Spain)

Director: León Klimovsky General Production Manager: Esther Cruz

Screenwriters: Rafael J. Salvia, Manuel Tamayo, Ramón Barreiro, Antonio de Lara "Tono", José Antonio Verdugo Torres, León Klimovsky

Photography: Manuel Hernández Sanjuán

Music: Gregorio García Segura

Cast: Tony Leblanc (Tom Rodriguez, the Good / Tim Rod, the Bad), May Heatherly (Ruth), Antonio Garisa (Uncle Sam), Beni Deus (Doug), Venancio Muro (the prosecutor), Francisco Morán (Mac, the owner of the saloon), Mara Lasso (Peggy), Mary Begoña (a girl from the saloon), Xan das Bolas (Hawkeye), Luis Sánchez Polack "Tip" (the undertaker), Esther Cruz "Himilce" (another girl from the saloon), José Canalejas (a Mexican), Simón Arriaga (Vulture), Antonio Moreno (Sheriff Morris), Antonio Peral, José Luis Zalde, José Luis Heredia, Luis Alonso, Agustín Bescos, María Álvarez, Enrique Núñez, Víctor Iregua...

At the beginning of the sixties, sandwiched between the classic aftertaste westerns shot in Spain by Michael Carreras or Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent and the emergence of spaghetti-western, we find the handcrafted pieces of the genre invoiced by Ricardo Blasco, Ramón Torrado, José María Elorrieta or León Klimovsky. They are, for the most part, films of Indians and cowboys that transfer to the screen the topics of the novels that José Mallorquí and Marcial Lafuente Estefanía kiosk —saving the distances— and supply the product to the growing number of theaters with programs in continuous session that cover the leisure offer in new and old neighborhoods of the cities of developmental Spain.

Klimovsky, who has developed his career in Spain during the fifties based on comedies with some estimable incursion into the field of intrigue, will make between 1962 and 1964 two westerns for the producers of Emilio Lárraga and Esther Cruz: Tyrys Films and the Carthago Film Cooperative. The Argentine filmmaker did not have them all with him. The mythology of the frontier was totally alien to him. So the first of them, Torrejón City (1962), points directly to parody, and the second, Fuera de la ley (1964), aims to transcend the legend of Billy the Child:

I think the solution I found, Klimovsky explained years later, was to give depth to the film, that is, to forget the myth for children, the western for big children, and make a deep film that referred not only to the American western, but that could also happen among the blacks of Africa. And I think that, in this sense, I succeeded. That is, universalizing the subject, the problem. I think it was a good action movie[1].

We cannot agree. If something has gone down in history Outside the law is because it served as an excuse for the construction of the West town Lega-Michelena in the Dehesa de Navalvillar, in the municipality of Colmenar Viejo[2]. The clichés accumulate: ranchers who put barbed wire to protect their lands, villains who murder in cold blood whoever is put in front of them, venal sheriffs, horseback riding worthy of a serial ... Daniel J. White's unfortunate score reinforces the parodic tone of the ensemble. And yet, it is not a parody, like his first western. Klimovsky sticks to the falsilla without any irony.

The most reliable clue about the origin of Torrejón City must be sought in the populous poster dedicated to the plot and the script in the credits. Among the six accredited librettists are the humorist Antonio de Lara "Tono", one of the fathers of New Humor back in the twenties and founder of La Codorniz, and the now forgotten film parodist Ramón Barreiro. Tono serves as a link with Eduardo García Maroto's short pre-war parodies Una de... (1934-1936) —with the collaboration of Miguel Mihura in the literary part—, resumed in 1954 with Tres eran tres, which weaves parodies of monsters, Spanish and western, with Xan das Bolas doing the Indian and Manolo Morán in the role of cowboy who will end up putting a ventorro with organ in an Arkansas meadow that looks suspiciously like Madrid. Country House.

For his part, Barreiro has perpetrated in the mid-forties three tapes dedicated to parody the serial of oriental adventures, pirate movies and, of course, the western. Don Buffalo Bill's Nephew (1944) plays with the same tricks as The Marx Brothers in the West (Go West, Edward Buzzell, 1940): the plane of the gold mine, the contrast between the saloon singer and the good girl, the corruption of the powerful, the naïve hero, a secret from the past... The difference is that the eccentric humor of the Americans is exchanged in the Spanish film in subversion of the common places of the genre, with an abundance of anachronisms and puns. We thus approach the universe of the musical revue and this is where the double prominence of Tony Leblanc in Torrejón City comes into play. During all the fifties the Madrid actor has combined his film career with the magazine. For what interests us here is fundamental I have formal mummy, semi-improvised musical comedy premiered at the Teatro Fontalba in 1952 and in which Leblanc shares the stage with Miguel Gila and José Luis Ozores. Other milestones in this decade are Lo verá y lo cantarás in 1954, Luis Escobar's revue Te espero en Eslava, from 1957, and the return with Gila already in 1960 with Este y yo... Limited Company.

As is often the case in the magazine since the premiere of La Gran Vía at the Teatro Apolo in 1886, today plays a major role in this type of show. In 1953 commercial and military agreements were signed that allowed impoverished Spanish society to access US economic aid in exchange for the military giant establishing a quadruple bridgehead in the Mediterranean, thanks to the bases euphemistically called "joint use" of Morón, Rota, Zaragoza and Torrejón de Ardoz. In this air base near Madrid, Ike Eisenhower – the first president of the United States to visit Spain – will land in December 1959 so that Franco can take a mass bath touring all of Madrid in an open car in his company. The arrival of the US military to the capital has meant a small convulsion in customs and the appearance of a neighborhood around Doctor Fleming Street and the emblematic Corea building that will become a symbol of modernity and dishevelment.

This contrast between tradition and modernity is at the base of Torrejón City. Leblanc stars in a story full of westerniles clichés where anachronisms compete with the continuous allusions to Spanish daily life: the portrait of Abraham Lincoln shares a wall with that of Cúchares, the clients of the saloon play mus and in Alcalá de Henares, where Tom el Bueno, democracy is a dispute between Cánovas and Sagasta.

The emblematic films of the genre, such as Assault and robbery of a train (The Great Train Robbery, Edwin S. Porter, 1903) or Alone in the face of danger (High Noon, Fred Zinnemann, 1952), share criteria of referentiality with what Tom the Good reads "to catch the dream", an adventure of "The Guardian of the West", one of the comics that included the comics of the Águila Blanca collection of the editorial of the Mexican newspaper La Prensa. That is, a hodgepodge of aúpa with which, nevertheless, the spectator of 1962 could feel fully identified. Another thing is the arrhythmias that produce such heterogeneous samples in the story and that today considerably unbalance its narrative effectiveness. The comedian is weighed down by the twist that occurs when Tom the Good and Tim the Bad fall in love with the same girl (May Heatherly) and the latter renounces her:

"Goodbye, may you be very happy.

"It turns out he was better than any.

"Nonsense! The good guy is the one who stays with the girl. It doesn't fail.

"And where do you plan to go now, cousin?"

"I will return to the land of my ancestors... To the Torrejón for real. Do you think I have a future there as an American?

"How would I tell you!

Xan das Bolas and Tip —who were already in Tres eran tres— put on the Indian chief's plume and the undertaker's hat respectively. Mary Begoña, vedette of Antonio Garisa's magazine company, is one of the girls of the saloon. The presence of Garisa in the role of the uncle of the girl – Uncle Sam, there would be more – relates Klimovsky's commitment to An Island with Tomato, a path that Leblanc will travel again in his increasingly numerous television interventions, but that in the cinema will hardly have an echo in The dynamite is served (Fernando Merino, 1968), taking as iconographic reference Bonnie and Clyde (Bonnie and Clyde, Arthur Penn, 1967).

Santiago Aguilar

[1] Antonio Gregori: Spanish cinema according to its directors. Madrid: Cátedra, 2009, p. 18.

[2] In the foundation of the town of Hoyo de Manzanares at this time have to see three other parodic westerns co-produced by Eduardo Manzanos and starring Walter Chiari and Raimondo Vianello: El sheriff terrible / Due contro tutti (Antonio Momplet [and Alberto De Martino], 1962), Héroes del Oeste / Gli eroi del West (Steno, 1963) and Los gemelos de Texas / I gemelli del Texas (Steno, 1964).

1 comment:

  1. Torrejon City has two Toms but no Jerry. LOL