Plomo sobre Dallas (1970)
Written and directed by José María Zabalza
Photography by Leopoldo Villaseñor
Music by Ana Satrova
Among the three overlapping, all-Spanish westerns Zabalza made for Procensa, Plomo sobre Dallas was the second to start shooting and the first to get shown. It is also the worst of the three, making it unsurprising that Spanish commentators should make bad but understandable puns on its title, which literally translates as “lead over Dallas.” As in his preceding crime movie Homicidios en Chicago, Zabalza here favors a criminal investigation structure, here combined with the typical motif of a stranger riding into a town dominated by unscrupulous barons. In this case, what initially motivates our hero, Dave Brice, (played by an almost dormant Carlos Quiney) is the search for a rancher named Ralston (Luis Induni), also the son of a deceased miner friend of the hero’s, who bequeathed the ownership of a mine between his father and Brice himself, of whom the dead man was a close friend. However, on arriving in Tombstone, Brice finds none of the town’s inhabitants willing to give him any information about Ralston’s whereabouts or even acknowledge any familiarity with him. Being assaulted by men telling him to mind his own business does nothing but further kindle his curiosity, and Brice soon finds himself uncovering a conspiracy by local ranchers, whose land speculation activities are duly advanced by the thugs in their employ.
For the most part, Zabalza is happy to capture the action, which would be better if the action itself were more tightly controlled. As it is, seemingly filming on a one-to-one basis, he appears to content himself with the actors’ first rendition of the script, not bothering to adjust their efforts for pacing. The extremely attractive Claudia Gravy, in the role of a saloon singer, looks as if similarly hampered by one-shot filming as, during her musical numbers, she is visibly still struggling to play in synch with the pre-recorded songs. There is also Zabalza's characteristic, patent repetition of set-ups, either from scene to scene (the saloon musicians) or within the same scene, as is the case with some reaction shots of Claudia Gravy, obviously filmed in one go and inserted at different moments with little attention to continuity: Zabalza had already done the same with María Luisa Rubio in the back alley sequence of Homicidios en Chicago.
Late in the story, when the townsfolk start to awaken from their conformity, Zabalza himself seems to awaken from his slumbers and offers us some well-staged, well-composed scenes of the villainous henchman wreaking havoc in assorted homes. This just represents, however, a few minutes in a languorous film with slapped-together editing, in which only the face of Guillermo Méndez (in his usual sheriff role) shows any signs of life. The relaxed, whistled theme cue by Ana Satrova, is, for the record, pleasant enough, which is not always the case with the music she composed for her director husband. Also for the record, one of the film’s chief villains (played by Juan Cortés) is, by coincidence of design, named Terry Morse, like the American journeyman filmmaker best remembered for the additional scenes of the U.S. release of Honda’s Godzilla and for the various Ronald Reagan vehicles he helmed in the 1930s.