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John Vickers finally tracks down one of the three men who killed his true love. Before he dies, the miscreant admits that his accomplices joined the cavalry. Vickers, a former officer himself, does likewise, after saving pretty Molly Quade from rowdy Sergeant O'Hara, who sets out to harass the new recruit. After incidents during a battle with the Sioux, Vickers is pretty sure O'Hara is one of his men. But can he reconcile his desire for vengeance with loyalty to the Army? Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Standard cavalry vs. Indian yarn with better action than usual.
Why would anyone watch an ordinary Western over and over? The story is hardly original. The tale of the Battle of the Little Big Horn has only been told a hundred times or more. As a matter of fact, the plot is very similar to "Bugles in the Afternoon", a better film about the same subject. The script ranges from average to dumb. The direction is uneven. However, the production has some fine moments.
The fight for their lives by star Edmund O'Brien's cavalry troop at an island in the river is outstanding. The entire scene carries an unusual degree of realism. The fighting is hand to hand as the Indians assault the troops on the island. Rifle shots and war whoops punctuate the frenetic action. You can almost smell the gunsmoke and see the sweat on the soldiers' brows. When O'Brien brings General Custer and the regiment to the rescue there is genuine celebration. In my opinion, this is one of the best action scenes in any Western. I am always sorry to see it end.
Unfortunately, the high standard set by the Battle of Nelson's Island (named after the bit character who dies early in the battle) is not maintained before or after. The movie gives us romance, fist fights, escape from Indians and two more battles, but it's all very familiar. Even the plot is transparent. John Vickers (played by O'Brien) is joins the cavalry to find his fiance's killers. It is obvious before the script mercifully reveals it that Sergeant O'Hara (played by Forrest Tucker) and Quade (played by Dean Jagger) are the culprits. Ultimately, both men redeem themselves, but their redemption is not credible. The romance between Vickers and Molly Quade (played by Polly Bergen) comes off better, but even that's predictable. A good cast is largely wasted.
Why do I like this movie? In addition to the spectacular action at the island, I enjoy Forrest Tucker. It is little wonder that we see him in similar roles in "Bugles in the Afternoon", "Sands of Iwo Jima" and "Flaming Feather". I even liked him in "F Troop". He wears that uniform well.>
The final reason I like this movie is Paul Sawtell's score. Paul Sawtell is hardly the most familiar composer in movie history, but he wrote some great tunes for Westerns. "Warpath" has one of the best cues from any Western musical score. It is used initially in the opening title and is repeated later in the wagon train sequence. When I watch this movie I use my Fast Forward button to get me to the good parts.
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