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The brother of a notorious outlaw is put in a charge of a stagecoach line way station in dangerous Apache territory. A stagecoach arrives at the station with a valuable box of cargo, and the outlaw brother soon shows up, though denying that he's planning to take the cargo box. Soon, however, rampaging Apaches attack the station, and the station manager, his brother and a disparate group of passengers and employees must fight them off. Written by
Apache Trail is directed by Richard Thorpe and adapted to screenplay by Maurice Geraghty from a story by Ernest Haycox. It stars Lloyd Nolan, Donna Reed, William Lundigan, Ann Ayars, Connie Gilchrist and Chill Wills. Music is by Sol Kaplan and cinematography by Sidney Wagner.
Ernest Haycox's "Stage Station" was put together as Apache Trail and ended up being a better than average "B" Western. Set essentially at the Tonto Valley Station, story finds Nolan and Lundigan as polar opposite brothers caught in the middle of the Apache's ire on account of Nolan's dasatardly ways. Also at the station are a roll call of familiar 1940s Western characters, gruff men of honour, some lovely women causing sexual friction and a token Indian guy working for the whites.
This small group of people will have to defend the Station (come Fort) against what seems like 300 Apache's; that is unless they agree to give up Nolan, who of course has "not" exactly endeared himself to the group during the siege. While there's naturally the "brother" angle hanging heavy in the air, something which almost detracts from the love triangle sub-plot as the "honest as apple pie" Reed (playing a Latino!) and "smoking hot but questionable in morals" Ayars conspire to put hero in waiting Lundigan in a choice situation.
The production is a mixture of poor rear projection and stage work with gorgeous exterior location work (Tucson, Arizona), while the acting is exactly what it is, a group of actors either contracted to the studio, working for food or hopefully taking the first steps on the ladder to better opportunities. The photography is very nice, but the poor racist bravado of the era is not, while Thorpe's staging of action is indicative of his career in how he makes a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Accept it for the time it was made and this is a decent and enjoyable film. It was loosely remade in 1952 as Apache War Smoke, suffice to say that even then, ten years later, the material still didn't advance to anything out of the ordinary. 6/10
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