This 1972 western starred James Coburn, Telly Savalas, and Bud Spencer in the main roles. Set in the middle of the Civil War, it revolves around Fort Holman, a fortress in the Southwest that commanded the Santa Fe Trail.
The film opens with the arrest of two men for looting. The commander of the Union forces recognizes one of them as an old friend, Colonel Pembroke(Coburn). The second was Eli Sampson(Spencer). Pembroke had commanded Fort Holman, only to surrender to Confederate forces led by Major Ward(Savalas) without a shot being fired.
No one knew why Pembroke had done such a thing, but he’d been through a court-martial, found guilty, and now that he’d been captured, was due to be hanged. His friend wants to know why he surrendered so easily, but instead of telling, he puts forth a plan to retake the fort and convinces the Major he can have all the credit and possibly a promotion to General for it.
His choice of men is limited to a group scheduled to be hanged of charges ranging from horse stealing to poisoning a number of soldiers with bad drugs to murder of an officer and the rape of his wife. They are given the choice of hanging or risking their lives for a pardon of all crimes. The only one he seems to be able to trust is his old co-looter, Sampson.
They are no sooner away from the fort than they are already talking of taking off for Mexico. Along the way, Pembroke drives off the horses when they are asleep with the excuse that they are entering Confederate territory and the horses are U.S. branded. Then he tells them the real reason they are after the fort.
Five hundred thousand in buried Confederate gold that Ward doesn’t know about and a hidden entrance to the fortress that only Pembroke knows.
Spencer is to be their inside man when they find a dead Confederate with papers identifying him as a Rebel spy ordered to the area.
This film doesn’t have much action until the climactic battle where we learn Pembroke’s REAL reason for attacking the fort. But it builds so nicely and good acting jobs all around that it’s a very good watch.
A simple revenge tale with fine music(By Riz Ortolani) of fuzz guitars and a small orchestral arrangement.
Directed by Tonino Valerii from a script by Rafael Azcona and Ernesto Gastaldi, he handles the action sequence well with Gatling guns and dynamite heavily used. Some have called this a spaghetti western Dirty Dozen and I can see that.
Recommended. It has also appeared in the U.S. under the title Massacre At Fort Holman.
Here’s the Italian trailer. It will give a taste of the film: