July 10, 2020

"The Valley of Peace", the movie Franco would have wanted to shoot

A trip to the mountains of Madrid, stunning cliffs and a huge cross. The locations that producer Samuel Bronston, a man who had fallen in love with Spain, wanted to film for the exteriors of "El Cid", had them in front of his eyes. The landscape was perfect, but nevertheless, something "spoiled" the environment.

Bronston, liberal and independent, was fascinated in the early sixties with an image that would no longer be erased from his memory. The Valley of the Fallen. Those mountains of the Risco de la Nava, in the mountains of Madrid, were the ones he had in his head to film a part of the history of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar. Everything perfect … except the cross. Take the images from the side that was your silhouette slipped into the frame.

Another, if any, would have given up. For Bronston, the building deserved a movie by itself, he thought. Hence the idea of ​​setting it on its head. There was a movie there. In front I had non-disposable material. The script of the work that would later be known as "The Valley of Peace" was written by Jim Bishop and directed by Andrew Morton, who had participated, for example, in "Ben-Hur" or "King Solomon's Mines", two clasicazos.

The argument was none other than the memories of a young priest, first abbot of the Valley of the Fallen, who evoked his two uncles, both killed during the Civil War on each side and buried at the foot of the monument. He was advised by Fray Justo Pérez de Urbel, who tells this real story, clergyman and medievalist.

It was necessary to find an actor who gave life to the priest, for this, José Antonio Mayans was chosen, who had already worked with the producer precisely in “El Cid” and in “King of kings,” both of 1961 and whose command of English opened the doors of the documentary. Later his filmography would be linked to those of Jesús Franco and Paul Naschy.

The young actor was acclimatized to the role immediately, although he had to live for a season in the community of the Valley of the Fallen and dress the Benedictine habits so that his character was as credible as possible.

The NODE on filming includes the producer and the scriptwriter in the only set that was used in the filming, since everything “had been shot in natural settings”. “The lighting has demanded an impressive technical deployment. All details are carefully attended to. The altar boys become familiar with the cinema ”, the time is heard that several scenes of the filming are collected, the plot of which is explained“ is developed around the first mass of a Benedictine novice ”.

Once mounted the documentary itself Samuel Bronston, accompanied by the then Minister of Information and Tourism, Manuel Fraga Iribarne, presented the final work to Franco in the small movie theater of the El Pardo Palace. And he made a very special gift: that it was the general who gave him the title.

After the viewing and taking into account the conciliatory spirit that distilled the Franco project, it was clear what the title would be: "The Valley of Peace", title with which it was registered in the Legal Deposit of the time, although finally it had to be exhibited as "The Valley of the Fallen" since there was already another previous Yugoslav production, of 1956, with the same name . The documentary was shown in movie theaters replacing the mandatory NODO.

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