|Page 1 of 3:||  |
|Index||22 reviews in total|
There are not very many films depicting the 2nd Seminole War of 1835-1842, in Florida. This is unfortunate as this was not only America's longest, but its bloodiest Indian war as well. Other films relating to this conflict include Seminole, and Naked in the Sun. Due to the sparsity of Seminole War films I will admit a bias for this film despite its ridiculous plot, bargain basement Hollywood surplus wardrobe (The soldiers are in a mix of fanciful fringed pants and ca. 1898 Spanish-American War hats and shirts etc.), and anachronistic armaments(the soldiers are using M-1873 Trapdoor carbines, the Seminoles the full length M-1873 rifle-both sides used flintlock weapons in 1840). A large chunk of the plot surrounds Cuban gun runners supporting the Warriors. In truth, despite 7 years of naval blockade of the Florida Coast, the US Navy never proved the fears of such a trade from Cuba...I could go on and on... True, this is nothing more than a transplanted "western" in the Swamps of Florida, although I detect a great deal of Director Walsh's previous Objective Burma in this flick (compare the gator pit in the Seminole village with the similar scene in the Japanese held village in Objective Burma) The true star of this one is the scenery, as, almost alone amongst the few Seminole War films, this one takes full advantage of the wildly beautiful Florida Wilderness. Other comments note the great underwater battle scene, but I am spellbound by the cypress swamp and saw-grass settings as well. You won't learn much about the War from this movie, but it does have some basis in fact. By 1840 the army was relying on small patrols like Cooper's in the film to track down hostile Seminoles for removal to the west. Thats about as close as it comes to the history books, but it is still an exciting action film with an O.K. musical score.
United States Pictures which released Distant Drums through Warner
Brothers was I think Gary Cooper's own production company. Looking at
The Films of Gary Cooper book, I noticed about three others with same
credits in the Fifties of which Distant Drums was the first.
The film was shot on actual location in the Everglades, I think Gary Cooper must have gotten some taste of what Bogey and Hepburn were enduring doing The African Queen. Too bad the story didn't rate the same as The African Queen.
Cooper is an American Army captain on duty with the army of General Zachary Taylor, played by Robert Barrat, who lives on his own island and doesn't dress in any army uniform. Zach Taylor had a reputation for informality, but that was carrying it a bit too far. The only other guy who had his own private island during war was Lt. Commander Quentin McHale and his PT Boat crew.
Anyway Barrat gives Cooper a mission and a Navy lieutenant played by Richard Webb to carry it out. To attack an old Spanish fort and go by boat across Lake Okechoobee. An early type of amphibious warfare. The attack goes off as planned and some civilian prisoners are rescued from the renegades using the fort. But the Seminoles are in hot pursuit of Cooper and the whole bunch through most of the film.
I can't believe by the way that a director like Raoul Walsh had the army and the Seminoles fighting with repeating rifles and six shooter revolving pistols. Stuff wasn't invented yet.
For the early years of the republic, Florida under Spanish rule and loose rule at that, was a thorn in our side. Pirates like the ones you see here used it as a haven for raiding purposes. But it was also a refuge for runaway slaves. Our southern states wanted Florida acquired to put an end to that. The indigenous tribes to Florida, the Seminoles did offer refuge for runaway slaves. So a war there was inevitable, especially when southern presidents like Andrew Jackson were in the White House.
Maybe one day someone will do a proper film on the early history of Florida, but this ain't it.
I saw "Distant Drums" for the first time when I was 10 or 11 years old
and I recall it was a great film for me. Then I saw it as an adult and
though it was not the great film I remembered it was still very good as
an action and adventure sort of western. Since I'm not from the USA I
didn't notice some historical mistakes -mainly the use of guns and
rifles not yet invented by the time of the action- I learned about
after reading some reviews here; I think those are major flaws in a
However, I think my little knowledge about the Seminole wars in Florida give me the possibility of judging the film just at what it is: an adventure film. That established, "Distant Drums" appears to me as a highly entertaining and well done movie as well as a very original film mainly because of where the action is located. Is has great color, beautiful photography and incredible open wide sceneries in the Everglades. The plot -although kind of standard (a bunch of soldiers chased by savage Indians through the swamps- is however very well handled by director Roul Walsh and he keeps action going all along without major bumps. The sequence at the Seminole village is most impressive and tense as it is the final underwater knife duel between Captain Wyatt and chief Okala.
Gary Cooper (Wyatt) is very good as the leader of the escaping troop and shows the presence and self confidence a leader should. The rest of the cast brings a good support too, mainly Arthur Hunnicutt (Coooper's sidekick) and Ray Teal (one of the troopers), and Mari Aldon does a credible work as Cooper's romantic interest. Seminole chief Okala looks mean enough and a proper match for Cooper. Perhaps the less impressive performance is that of Richard Webb kind of dull as a navy officer involved in the mission.
In all this a decent action/adventure film, most entertaining and worth seeing for those who enjoy the genre.
Army Lieutenant Tufts (Richard Webb) is assigned a dangerous mission by
General Zachary Taylor (Robert Barrat). He must accompany captain
Quincy Wyatt (Gary Cooper) along with a scout named Monk (Arthur
Hunnicutt with his usual raccoon skin hat ) into the Everglades to rout
the Seminole Indians who are threatening the early settlers in Florida.
After destroying a Seminole fort , people is rescued from Redskin
captivity , then the command is forced to get away . The small band of
American soldiers and their rescued companions ( Mari Aldon among
others )tries to stop and must face the dangerous Everglades and
hostile Indians in order to reach safety and battle against risks.
This exciting Western packs thrills , noisy action , spectacular struggles and lots of gutsy adventure . Brawling , sprawling , almost primitive action, teeming across the screen . Impressive images when Wyatt and Seminole Chief Oscala square off in a breathtaking climax . Raoul Walsh demonstrates a special talent for making the densest action sequences seem uncomplicated and uncluttered and his characters , like the scenes distinguished , often have an unfettered , raw power . Gorgeous Mari Aldon as a ballerina from Savannah who bears a dark past , she does an enjoyable and prominent debut though didn't have a notorious career . Good secondary cast with familiar hearted features as Richard Webb, Robert Barrat , Arthur Hunnicutt , Ray Teal and uncredited Darren McGavin as Navy Lt. The picture was photographed by Sidney Hickox in the heart of the Florida everglades , at Silver Sprags and at Castillo of San Marcos in the Southeastern nation , monuments through the courtesy of the United States Department of Interior National Park Service. Thrilling as well as emotive musical score by the classic Alfred Newman .
The motion picture produced by Milton Sperling is well directed by Raoul Walsh . From his starts in the silent cinema he achieved successful films until the 50s and forward , early 60s , when he was less dominant , but is still stayed lots of lusty adventure , stories of comradeship and friendship , and Raoul makes the most of plentiful action scenes . Walsh was an expert director of all kind genres but with penchant in Western as ¨Colorado territory¨ , ¨They died with their boots on¨, ¨Along the great divide¨, ¨Saskatchewan¨, ¨King and four queens¨ , ¨The sheriff of fractured jaw¨, ¨A distant trumpet¨ ; Adventure as ¨Thief of Bagdad¨, ¨Captain Horatio Hornblower¨, ¨World in his hands¨, ¨Blackbeard the pirate¨ , ¨Sea devils¨ ; Warlike as ¨Objetive Burma¨ , ¨Northern pursuit¨, ¨Marines let's go¨ ; and Noir film as ¨White heat¨, ¨High Sierra¨, ¨They drive by night¨, ¨The roaring twenties¨. Rating : Fairly straightforward movie and above average . This interesting Western and action film makes it of the finest of Raoul Walsh genre entries.
Great looking locations and color photography with daredevil action
reigns over this boy's own adventure, the style Warner Brothers has
always been very good at. The characters are mostly left undeveloped,
except Cooper's group leader Zachary. His past is well documented by
his friend, played by Arthur Hunnicut in his usual relaxed manner, and
it's mostly his destiny we are to care about. It's notable how larger
than life Cooper appears to be even on television screen. His
characterization, which is a combination of a western hero and Tarzan,
doesn't offer very much range in acting but makes it interesting enough
for this kind of adventure flick. Mari Aldon gets dragged through all
the dangerous and beautiful scenery without having her make-up smeared
and sometimes completely steals my attention from what is going on
around her. Her role doesn't have much else to offer either. But I
guess, by what I just said, her role work serves its purpose the way it
Almost everything you expect from a jungle adventure set in Florida is here including alligators, snakes and wild cardboard Indians. A great plus are the beautifully shot underwater scenes, short but crystal clear, crowned by a final duel under surface. This isn't one of the best movies from the director Raoul Walsh, but as a classic adventure and action for a more empty-headed moment it works truly well.
See it - They don't make 'em like they used to. Gary Cooper brings us another great action classic. It's the story of American soldiers who attack a fort in the everglades during the Seminole Wars in the 1800's. They are then chased by Indians through swamps for the rest of the movie. The movie delivers every possible action scenario that you could imagine in a setting like that. It's very similar to the first half of the classic film "Davy Crockett." Remember when Davy Crockett fights the Indians in the swamp? Well that's what goes down this entire movie. You don't watch a movie like this for its plot. Yes, it's old. But it's Gary Cooper at his best. There is plenty of battles, including a cool underwater fight scene at the end. What do I mean by that? Well you'll have to watch it and find out. 4 out of 5 action rating
This adventure is a good film that has reliable Gary Cooper for star power and he doesn't disappoint in a rousing cavalry-Indian yarn that unfolds in the Everglades during the Seminole War. Cooper's men battle gun runners, jungle rot, dangerous reptiles and savage Indians as the military aims to quell the Seminole menace for good. Most of the film has the soldiers trying to stay one jump ahead of the pursuing Indians while being slowed by hostages, including striking Mari Aldon, who supplies the romance for Cooper later on. The action lags here and there but the clashes between the soldiers and the Indians pack a wallop, especially the final siege and confrontation at Cooper's island refuge at the finish. The camera work is fine and Max Steiner again contributes a nice score. This film is perhaps Cooper's least-known western adventure but it's a winning feature with a solid cast.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When one thinks of westerns one typically thinks of things like wide
open plains, scrubland and the cavalry in a wooden fort... here we have
swamps, jungle and the Indians in a stone fort... this is a Florida
Western! The story opens with US Navy Lieutenant Richard Tufts arriving
in Florida with a small boat which he has taken overland to Lake
Okeechobee. He travels separately and meets up with Capt. Quincy Wyatt,
who will lead the mission against an old Spanish fort on the opposite
side of the lake which is being used by the Seminole Indians. One would
have expected this mission to be the main part of the story but it is
all over fairly quickly; the real story is about how they, and some
rescued prisoners, escape through the alligator infested Everglade
swamps with the Seminole chasing after them. Not all of them will make
it; some will die at the hands of the Seminole, others to the
The Florida setting certainly gave this film a different feel to just about every other western I've seen; usually the worst natural danger in a western is a rattlesnake but the alligators here were more frightening and there saw a surprising amount of blood shown when one of the men was killed by one. There was a decent amount of action including a knife fight that takes place underwater! The acting is okay but lead Gary Cooper is nowhere near as good as he was in 'High Noon'; I guess this is down to the material he had to work with. Love interest Mari Alden looks pretty but her character isn't particularly interesting; we learn that she isn't quite the Southern lady she makes out to be but that revelation hardly affects her character. I'm not sure whether this will appeal to fans of conventional westerns; I think it is more likely to appeal to fans of adventure stories.
Good sets and use of the everglades.Cooper is once again the ipitome of what a hero should be ,underplaying ,but shows what a superb cinema actor he was by seemingly doing very little but conveying through facial and body language all that is necessary. Good filmic acting is so different from the stage and this man had it!
Distant Drums is directed by Raoul Walsh and stars Gary Cooper, Richard
Webb, Mari Aldon & Arthur Hunnicutt. Known as a "Florida Western," the
film is set during the Seminole Wars in the 1840s. It's written by
Niven Busch and Martin Rackin, photographed predominantly on location
in the Florida Everglades (in Technicolor) by Sidney Hickox and Max
Steiner scores the music. Plot sees Cooper playing an Army captain who
after destroying a fort held by the Seminole Indians retreats with his
party into the Everglades where many of natures dangers lurk as the
Seminole pursue them.
Not one for fans of Cooper, Walsh or Busch to get excited about. The story is as conventional as it gets, complete with a romantic angle, and the dialogue is boorish and lacking imagination. Were it not for the excellently constructed action sequences (check out the under water scenes) and the lush location photography, then this one would be consigned to the "please steer away from" pile. Busch is the main culprit since his writing is confused as to what it wants to achieve. The Seminole Indians are painted as savages, thus giving a one sided feel to a War not often seen in movies, yet other Native Americans are handled more sympathetically via the portrayal from Cooper. All in all we learn nothing about the War and the people involved as the film winds up as a jungle like adventure built around a number of set pieces.
Cooper is rugged and watchable as an Alligator Dundee type and Hunnicutt as always leaves a favourable impression as the scout. Mari Aldon is pretty but pretty one dimensional, while Richard Webb just seems out of place in the perilous locale and therefore unconvincing. But as previously mentioned, nobody here is helped by the tepid script. It's believed that this movie features the earliest known use of the Wilhelm Scream sound effect, a technique used to vocalise a character being torn to shreds by an alligator. A standard film it is then, one that really should have been a fine entry into a sadly untapped in to topic. It's like getting a beautifully wrapped birthday present that when opened reveals nothing but strips of mouldy old newspaper. 5/10
|Page 1 of 3:||  |
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Official site||Plot keywords||Main details|
|Your user reviews||Your vote history|