“Last Night at the Alamo” (1984) dir. Eagle Pennell

Before “Eastbound and Down” and the rest of Jody Hill’s brilliantly dark and funny oeuvre of delusional losers, there was Eagle Pennell’s funny and sad “Last Night at the Alamo.”  Written by Kim Henkel, the man who wrote the original screenplay for “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” and one of the best truly indie movies of all time, “Last Night at the Alamo” tells the tale of the Alamo’s (a Houston dive bar) last night in business. The regulars are an interesting bunch: William (aka Ichabod) is a hot-headed, but dim young man in his early 20s; Claude is a man whose blue collar world is threatened when his wife insists they move the suburbs and she subsequently throws him out for drinking too much; and then there’s Cowboy, the legendary BMOC at the bar, who has a big plan to save the bar … or go to Hollywood to become a cowboy actor.  There’s other regulars too, as well as assorted bartenders, girlfriends, wives, and former lovers, who fade in and out of the scenery, as the night continues.

The Alamo’s closing represents more than the closing of their favorite watering hole.  This is a place where all the men go to be big shots after difficult days on the job or in their lives.  It’s obvious the men feel small outside the Alamo, because they strut around and pathetically act like badasses within its confines.  The Alamo’s closing means that these men will now be reduced the lives they lead … with their favorite escape hatch closing behind them.

The film has some serious moments, but it’s also hysterically and profanely funny.  One of the best scenes in the film is the very first one, where William drives to the Alamo after work with his girlfriend and he rants and screams about everything from having to borrow an undesirable vehicle because his regular ride needs repair to his girlfriend complaining about his cursing and drinking, etc.  If the opening scene doesn’t grab you, the rest of the film won’t.

If you’re at all a fan of Jody Hill or Danny McBride, “Last Night at the Alamo” is an absolute must-see.

In addition, you must see the feature length documentary about Pennell, called “The King of Texas: The Life and Death of Independent Filmmaker Eagle Pennell,” a terrific but painful and sad documentary about the tragic life of “Last Night at the Alamo”‘s director.

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