Obscure but sweet-natured '70s Western starring a number of familiar faces, top-lined by singer-actress Ronee Blakley, fresh off her Oscar nomination for NASHVILLE (1975). Mission, Texas, 1913: Pioneer wife Willy Westall (Blakley) rushes to the bedside of her dying husband, rancher Pat (Dean Stockwell), while bandits burn the town. Oklahoma City, 1909: Businessman Pat, preparing to go homesteading with his pregnant wife, has one leg crippled in an accident. Webb County, Texas, 1911: Pat, using a crutch, and Willy work the farm together and raise their young daughters (Anna and Jennifer Jones). The family befriends drifter Bill Lester (Scott Glenn), who urges them to move to the Rio Grande Valley and later leaves with some mysterious Mexicans. The Westalls relocate to fledgling Mission, where the townsfolk fear raids by Pancho Villa (Tex-Mex singer Freddy Fender, who croons the title tune). Willy opens a general store and the Westalls soon discover that Lester is a gunrunner sympathetic to Villa, and that Mexican soldiers are dressing as bandits and raiding towns to discredit the revolutionary. Then Pat joins the cause, and tragedy ensues. Though the location shooting is muddy, the film otherwise makes a virtue of its miniscule budget: The unvarnished sets probably look more like real old-West buildings more than most films' more polished structures. And the picture's nicely low-key quality reflects the courtliness of the characters' class and time: Willy and Lester are attracted to each other, but don't dare even mention it. Stockwell rises above the ambling, episodic material with a naturalness that suggests improvisation; Blakley, however, maintains the same kewpie-doll gaze throughout. Titled TEXAS IN FLAMES on the box (but not the actual print) of its apparent direct-to-video release, it's based on a 1943 novel by Cleo Dawson, who was born 1902 in Oklahoma City and raised in Mission; she appears as an extra in a party scene.
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- Released: 1978
- Review: Obscure but sweet-natured '70s Western starring a number of familiar faces, top-lined by singer-actress Ronee Blakley, fresh off her Oscar nomination for NASHVILLE (1975). Mission, Texas, 1913: Pioneer wife Willy Westall (Blakley) rushes to the bedside of… (more)