Europe’s only desert is located at Tabernas near Almeria in Southern Spain. It’s an unforgiving desolate landscape, barren, hot, dry and dusty surrounded by mountains including the beautiful Sierra Nevada range. The region averages only three days of rain annually and temperatures can reach 118 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. For a 15-year period, starting in the 1960’s, this desert area was a mecca for filmmakers.
|The Main Street.|
It was this locality that was used for the external shots for dozens of Spaghetti Westerns including some of the best known A Fistful of Dollars (1964) For a Few Dollars More (1965) The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1968) Once Upon the Time in the West (1968) and also other well known Westerns like The Magnificent Seven (1960).
Also shot in this area were modern films like Sexy Beast (2000) Morvern Caller (2001) and Almodovar’s Talk to Her (2002).
After two previous trips to the region I finally got to visit the famous cinema studios at Fort Bravo known as Texas Hollywood. It’s basically a giant film set consisting of two differing styles.
|The Can Can.|
An American Old West set featuring a blacksmiths, jail, hotel, gallows and various other clapboard buildings including a full size saloon complete with stage and a functioning bar.
|The Western Set.|
The second set consists of a Spanish/Mexican set that includes a town square, a church and various typical houses of the period.
|The Spanish/Mexican Set.|
Both these areas feel and look very authentic, you fully expect a gunfighter to jump out any minute, which is exactly what happens. For your entertainment three stunt men stage a bank robbery, followed by the inevitable gunfight. A little later in the saloon bar a barroom brawl breaks out following a card game and two cowboys are laid ready for Boot Hill. All this takes place after a rather lack lustre Can Can display.
|The Sheriff foils the Bank Robbery.|
Your also treated to a ride in a horse drawn carriage on which you really experience the dust and the heat of the day.
The arrest of one of the bank robbers.
Around 1970 a stuntman called Rafa Molina bought the complete film set for a figure reputed to be around 6000 US dollars to improve his job opportunities if the set was used for filming. Realising that he could make money from allowing tourists and film fans to tour the sets, in the early 1980’s he opened the area to the public.
The villain is behind bars.
Believe me for a film fan that loves westerns this turned out to be a very exciting day out and one I would recommend if you’re in this very breath-taking part of Spain. You never know you may be lucky and actually see a film being made, as Texas Hollywood and the surrounding area remain an active film set to this day.
|The next step is the gallows and finally Boot Hill.|