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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Betterville Prison Camp from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" to be Rebuilt

Our friends at Asociación Cultural Sad Hill, best known for restoring Sad Hill Cemetery, are now rebuilding the Betterville prison camp from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in Burgos, Spain. The reconstruction will be carried out with junipers that were affected by the 2022 fire in the Sabinares del Arlanza-La Yecla Natural Park.

Conde Nast Traveler
By Maria Sanz
February 15, 2024 

For a few months in 1966, Burgos was the United States. Its arid land was used to recreate the American Civil War, the backdrop for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It's no secret that director Sergio Leone was on the plateau shooting one of the most famous spaghetti western films. That for a few years now it has been possible to walk through the cemetery where the final scene takes place, either. Starting this spring, you will be able to visit Betterville, the prison camp where Rubio (Clint Eastwood) and Tuco (Eli Wallach) end up. 

The Betterville de Burgos will be located in the place where it was originally built for the film, in the municipality of Carazo, about 6 kilometers east of Santo Domingo de Silos, the town where the Sad Hill cemetery is located. Both towns are located within the Sabinares del Arlanza-La Yecla Natural Park, which in 2022 saw fire devour hundreds of its hectares. 

This information is important because it will be precisely with the trunks of some of the junipers that were affected by this fire that the prison camp will be rebuilt. 

The idea of recreating it had been on the minds of the members of the Sad Hill Cultural Association, responsible for the reconstruction of the cemetery in 2014; as well as the mayors of the three towns from which the cemetery is reached: Santo Domingo de Silos, Carazo and Contreras. They were looking for a way to spread the interest that Sad Hill arouses among moviegoers and thus reduce the tourist pressure suffered by some of its accesses. 
It was finalized at the end of 2023 in a meeting with Beatriz Cabezas, director of the Sabinares del Arlanza-La Yecla Natural Park. "The director of the Natural Park proposed to us last year to leave six hectares so that the trunks of the junipers could serve as a palisade for the prison camp because we know that in the original construction, they used junipers," Sergio García, a member of the Sad Hill Cultural Association, which this year celebrates its tenth anniversary, explains to Traveler.es. 


The project has about 50,000 euros of public funding and this time it will be a company that will be in charge of the construction work, it will not be a matter of volunteering, as when the Association embarked, back in 2014, on the reconstruction of the cemetery. 

"Machinery is going to be used, the two-meter poles are going to be moved and we can't do it with volunteers," explains García, who takes the opportunity to clarify that nothing similar to the initiative to sponsor graves that they had a decade ago and that exceeded all their expectations will not be done either. 

 "We've valued it, but it's chaos. We have calculated that about 2,500 juniper poles may be needed. Imagine if we sponsor a Betterville pole – another 2,400 emails." 

What they will do is a presentation day when the works have been finished, which will include decoration and cleaning work, for which they will call for volunteers. "A foundation has to be made for the supports of the palisade and maybe the area will be a little dirty. It will be necessary to collect any remains that may remain from this intervention and decorate. Trying to put rags, old ropes..." Summarizes. 

Of course, step by step. First, construction, something that has not yet been able to begin due to the rains that have been recorded in the area. "The idea is that in mid-February we can start the first phase of cutting the junipers and at the end of February or beginning of March begin the installation of the palisade." An expected date for completion? "I think by May." 




Today, all that remains of the prison camp is the landscape and the moat that surrounded the palisade on which the footbridge through the prisoners had been built. "In this first phase, that wooden walkway and the palisade are going to be rebuilt. Later on, we will be contemplating the installation of at least two towers," says García. 

Of the cabins and huts that can be seen in the midst of all that hodgepodge of soldiers, prisoners and musicians that appear in the scenes filmed in Betterville, for the moment, there will be nothing. There are in mind, at some point, to pay tribute to the extras who made these scenes possible with their participation and, especially, to the music band, four of whose members are still alive and in contact with the Sad Hill Cultural Association.

When its reconstruction is complete, Betterville will be added to the Sad Hill Cemetery and the two can be visited covering a six-kilometer route. "We want to encourage the route that connects the prison camp with Sad Hill, which leaves from the town of Carazo. It's the most beautiful of the three, but it's not very popular because it's not done by car," says García, who is also a member of the Burgos Film Commission, an institution that seeks to capture audiovisual production and develop what is known as screen tourism. 

Access to Betterville, as with Sad Hill Cemetery, will be free. 


With Betterville in Burgos, there will already be two locations of the film recovered from the four that were shot in this province. In the Arlanza Valley, two other moments of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly were recreated: the battle of the Langstone Bridge, with the mythical blasting; and the San Antonio Mission to which Tuco takes Rubio to recover and during that time try to extract information about the money. 

Does this mean we're on track to see these two scenarios come to life? Garcia sees it as complicated. 

In the case of the former, because a bridge like the one in the film would hardly meet the safety standards that, today, the Douro Hydrographic Confederation would demand, it would be tremendously expensive and one like the one seen in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly could not be replicated. "What we have contemplated that would be feasible to do is that we have located a pier, a support for the bridge and that could be rebuilt." 

In the second, the part of the Monastery of San Pedro de Arlanza in which the Mission of San Antonio was recreated is sunken and those dependencies no longer exist. The façade is still standing, from which you have the same perspective as from the room in which the Rubio recovers, with a church in the distance in the landscape. 

"Maybe we could reconstruct what the monks' cell is, with a mattress, with a crucifix as it appears in the film, which could serve as a bit of tribute. But we are talking about the fact that the Monastery of San Pedro de Arlanza belongs to Heritage and any intervention permit is complicated," sums up García, pointing out that, although it is an idea, there is nothing concrete.


1 comment:

  1. Of 2 Minds, on this news. On the one hand, fairly interesting -- tho equivalent to a Theme Park. Since all the topsoil will be moved and/or stripped away, it won't be like one is Touching the Same Earth that LVC et al trod upon. Sorry, but GPS location & Physical Soil just aren't the same.