Take a look at this video. Then read on…. (Tip: Much better with sound)
You will have almost certainly seen the film. The late, great Eli Wallach´s character Tuco, finds himself in Sad Hill cemetery where he searches frantically for one specific grave. Can you remember whose grave it is?
Sad Hill Cemetery
I had heard some 16 years ago that the Sad Hill cemetery scene was filmed somewhere just north of Madrid. Well in fact it is a fair bit north of the capital and difficult to find. But find it we did.
The site is in the province of Burgos. Almost in the middle of nowhere, between the small towns of Santo Domingo de Silos and Contreras. In 2014 a group got together from all the small local towns in the area with the idea of preserving – or in the case of Sad Hill, unearthing – several locations in the area used by Sergio Leone for his trilogy of films that became known as the Spaghetti Westerns.
Sad Hill was literally just left after filming. Totally abandoned and forgotten about. Over the years the grass and plants just grew and the place was unrecognisable. But the group painstakingly restored the site to its former glory. The goal was to have the site ready for 2016; the 50th anniversary of the film. People came to help from all over the world at one point once they heard what was going on. Such is the popularity of Leone’s films. There are plenty of items on the internet about this and the place has become famous once again..And now, here is another article about it….
Oddly, the film is called El Bueno, El Feo y El Malo in Spanish (literally The good the ugly and the bad). Either way it is as famous in Spain as in any other country. After all, the three main spaghetti westerns were all filmed here. Eli Wallach passed away fairly recently in 2014 and Lee Van Cleef died way back in 1989. Only Clint is left of the three title characters.
The film is not just good. It´s great. Everyone who has seen it would probably agree to that. One that has stood the test of time. Over 50 years of time. Half a century! The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was first shown in 1966. Blimey. I was not even as old as Dani back then. There were two men from Texas there when we first arrived. Both about my age I guessed. It had taken them 3 hours to find the place also. They both agreed that when Dani is older he will love the film and look back on the photos of his first visit to this location. I think he will appreciate it in about a year or so.
Getting there is not easy. It is about two and a half hours drive from Madrid. Even then you need to know where you are going. The road from Contreras is a rough track and lasts for some 4km. It’s hard to imagine how the site was first constructed. Back in 1966 this would have been barely even a donkey track.
It is an amazing site. There is nothing ugly about the place now. OK, it is hard to get to but I suppose that makes it all the more appealing and definitely worth the effort when you arrive. It must have been in a really bad state when they started work on the restoration. Almost a total reconstruction.
When we arrived Arch Stanton´s grave was not in the best of states. Naturally I repaired it like any true fan of the film would do. Poor old Arch. Nobody left to tend his resting place. In the film, the grave marked ´Unknown´ at the side of Arch was full of gold. And that was the prize the three main characters were after.
Before and after shots of Mr. Stanton’s grave…
Now you know the story behind the location for that famous scene. Now it´s time for the remake. Starring Dani in the role of Tuco. Sit back and enjoy…