Once Upon a Time in Almería
01 September 2020

The Summer of 1970: Almeria becomes a global movie hub

The summer of 1970 was a boom season for international movie productions in Spain. A long list of stars passed through Madrid and, of course, Almeria. Yul Brynner was here in June for Adios Sabata, then off to Yugoslavia for another production, before returning to Spain for The Light at the Edge of the World with Kirk Douglas. Omar Sharif and Jack Palance appeared in The Horsemen, Rod Steiger and James Coburn in Duck, You Sucker (Sergio Leone’s final Western), Robert Shaw and Martin Landau in A Town Called Hell, Oliver Reed and Candice Bergen in The Hunting Party, Faye Dunaway in Doc, and Brigitte Bardot in Boulevard du Rhum. Even avante-garde German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder had been in Almeria in April to make his own twisted western. Meanwhile, Patton, shot in Spain the previous year, was winning accolades, and El Condor, with Jim Brown and Lee Van Cleef, opened in theaters over the summer, albeit to less acclaim.

Almeria was being touted as a global film destination to rival Hollywood. In late August, a UPI news item reported that this “southern Spanish film city, Hollywood’s fastest growing rival” had just begun its 150th production.

Now it has grown into a minor metropolis with good restaurants, first-class hotels, high-rise buildings and the resort atmosphere of a slightly second-rate French Riviera.

Hot and Bare. For years, Almeria had the reputation of being one of the hottest hell-holes on earth among film people–a desert of sand, bare earth, and spectacular, but even baere, mountains. The money poured into the city, however, has transformed it into an oasis.

The new Hollywood and Vine of the movie world is the bar of the Gran Hotel in downtown Almeria.

The picture was somewhat inflated. Almeria in 1970 remained one of the poorest corners of Europe, with few economic opportunities (outside the odd job dressing up as an Indian or a bandit). Filmmakers were drawn here for two reasons: low cost and convenient, undeveloped landscapes. Within a 25-mile radius one could find desert, mountains, canyons, plains, sand dunes, and ocean. “This country looks more Western than the West,” Candice Bergen told a reporter.

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