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Charlton Heston plays an Indian-hating scout very loosely based on famed frontiersman Al Sieber (who, in reality, was a German immigrant who not only didn't hate Apaches but often lived with them and spoke fluent Apache dialects; he spoke almost no English because he detested American whites and refused to learn any more English than he considered necessary). He goes up against Jack Palance, an Apache he knew from his boyhood who is returning from several years at an Indian agency school that is supposed to have "civilized" him (also based on fact; many Indian children were forcibly sent to such a school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania). Heston, unlike the local military and civilian authorities, doesn't believe that Palance has been "civilized" and suspects that he's secretly planning to lead the Apaches in attacking and massacring the local white population. This is a tough and, for its time, brutal little western, well written and directed by Charles Marquis Warren, and pulls no punches in its depiction of racism on both sides; Palance hates whites as much as Heston hates Indians, and both have no compunction about killing those on the "other" side they've known for years simply as a matter of course. Palance and Heston are suitably intense in their roles--Heston perhaps a bit too much so--and the action scenes are handled very well, although the final confrontation between Heston and Palance is a bit of a disappointment. A good supporting cast of veteran western actors--Milburn Stone, James Anderson, Robert J. Wilke (not playing a villain for once), among others--contribute greatly to the film's pace and atmosphere (although the rivalry between Heston and army officer Brian Keith over a girl at the post is a bit superfluous). Well worth your time.
It's a shame that the world has gone so Politically Correct these days that a straight-forward film like ARROWHEAD is so maligned and probably couldn't be made today. It starts off with Charlton Heston as a very despicable and prejudiced cavalry scout who hates Apaches with a passion (he's grown up with them and claims to know their ways), and continually foils any efforts at peace talks between the Indians and the white men. When his bigotry results in the killing of a group of Apaches as well as his own people, he is fired and his boss Brian Keith wants nothing more to do with him. But even while ousted from his duties, nobody is spared Heston's personal wrath -- not even his pretty half-Mexican, half-Apache laundress (the beautiful Katy Jurado).
When the respected Indian Chief Toriano (Jack Palance) arrives on the frontier to make peace, Heston still warns not to trust him. And in an old-fashioned turn of events (by today's standards that is), everything Chuck has tried to impress upon his men from the very start actually turns out to be true... Toriano and his followers are in fact planning an ambush. So in a very bizarre twist, Heston's hateful character is hired back to help the fight and turns into the hero.
Not a "great" film, and a tad long at 105 minutes. But it's a strong depiction of the personal animosities and prejudices from both sides that often get in the way of progress. The performances of Heston, Palance and Keith are all good. Those who wish to change history and act as if these things never really happened should remember that this film was based on factual, real events. *** out of ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Any film with Jack Palance as the villain is intense and strong... This
great actor is unique and classic in this respect!
His order to his braves: 'There will be no more fighting until Bannon has met Toriano!,' marks a summary of the entire motion picture: Toriano against Bannon!
But who are these two men?
Ed Bannon (Charlton Heston) is the Chief of Scouts for U.S armed forces fighting Apaches in the post Civil War... He despises Apaches: 'Anything Toriano for, I'm against!'
Toriano (Jack Palance) is the son of the Old Apache Chief Chattez (Frank Dekova). He rejects permanent confinement and refuses to accept how his warriors are gathered like cattle in their reservation...
Apache Wars were among the fiercest fought on the frontier... The U.S government attempted to limit their territories and movements...
In the film we learn that an Indian cannot touch, harm or kill a man if he comes unarmed into their encampment; an Apache leader can be mystified through the Great Spirit by ritual drum beat; when an Indian and a white man are blood brothers, the only way to break the bound was for one of the two to die This explains why Toriano and Bannon assigned the time and place to meet in a single combat to death at the end of the picture...
The pretty Katy Jurado is Bannon's lover, a young girl, half Indian, half Mexican, who admires Toriano as a true leader...Wanting to serve him, she keeps an eye on Bannon, spying all his moves...
Shot in Technicolor, with good directing and strong supporting cast (Brian Keith in his film debut), "Arrowhead," overcomes as a good-looking Western by the excellent acting of its stars...
As opposed to the politically correct people here, i think this movie
portrays the Indian more realistic than the politically correct image
will have it. Fact is it wasn't only the white man who broke treaties
and peace initiatives. It's not good to show this down the politically
correct memory hole. That's why I think this kind of movies are
important and should of course be shown on TV. Of course, I
wholeheartedly disagree with the notion that this movie should be
banned like some reviewers have hinted upon.
A strong performance by Palance and a fine Heston plus a very interesting storyline makes this one of my favorites.
Considering the vast amount of Cavalry-vs.-Indians Westerns made during
the genre's heyday, this emerges as a reasonably engaging entry
thanks to the pleasant Technicolor hues but, even more so, the
scenery-chewing antics of its two stars (Charlton Heston and Jack
Palance). I'd owned a copy of the bare-bones Paramount DVD for quite
some time, but found the perfect opportunity to check it out now in
tribute to Heston's recent passing.
He plays a maverick scout who, in the past, had spent some time with the Apaches; he knows them inside out and is, therefore, indispensable to the Cavalry because he can anticipate what their next move will be. The tribe has ostensibly capitulated and is heading towards the reservation but, when the current chief's son (Palance) arrives on the scene having undertaken an education merely to fulfill a prophecy which would make him the savior of his people! the attacks start anew, thus confirming Heston's skepticism of the whole deal (and which had practically ostracized him from his office). The film, whose title remains unexplained throughout, generally delivers in the action stakes (even if Heston and Palance's long-awaited showdown, the 'war' being resolved in single hand-to-hand combat between them, is a disappointingly hasty affair) but is let down by a couple of obligatory romantic rivalries: Heston is torn between half-breed Katy Jurado, who's wasted, and Mary Sinclair, the widow of the Fort Commander who's also desired by his successor (Brian Keith).
Heston made a number of such minor genre fare (which, I have to admit, I had all but ignored all these many years) including another Western penned by Charles Marquis Warren, PONY EXPRESS (1953) before carving a niche for himself playing larger-than-life roles in a myriad big-budget spectaculars. Having mentioned the writer/director, I recently acquired another Western of his the well-regarded and, reportedly, noir-tinged LITTLE BIG HORN (1951) which, naturally, revolves around Custer's infamous Last Stand.
Arrowhead, the mere mention of it in Western circles sometimes induces
a sharp intake of breath, even a furrowed brow or two. Starring
Charlton Heston and Jack Palance, directed by Charles Marquis Warren;
who also adapts the screenplay from W.R. Burnett's novel, Adobe Walls,
Arrowhead rewrites the Indian Wars and firmly paints the Apache as
Based in essence on real life Indian scout, Al Seiber, with Heston in the role but named as Ed Bannon here, story is set in Texas 1878 at the Fort Clark Cavalry post. Peace has been brokered and the good old Cavalry boys have arranged for the Apache, led by a newly educated Toriano (Palance), to be dog tagged and whipped off to some arid land in Florida. However, the pesky Toriano has been plotting a revolution and is ready to lead his people in an all out assault on whitey and to hell with the treaty. Only white dude who smells a rat is Bannon, who with some Indian blood coursing through his veins, hates the Redskins and will never trust them. But the Cavalry hate Bannon as well, because he is in the way, causing friction, a hindrance to their wonderful ideas for piece.
No surprises for guessing what happens next! If Warren and the big wigs at Paramount Pictures were aware of the racist overtones here in 1953? Is cause for debate. I tend to agree with the theory that puts this as a sort of anti-communist allegory, but of course that doesn't excuse the xenophobic narrative whoever is on the receiving end! Yet surely the makers were genuine in trying to make a good old Cavalry versus Indians actioner? That the picture often meanders and is not carpeted with action, is a little moot, but it is well put together, well acted and looks nice with its actual real Bracketville location filming (Ray Rennahan on cinematography). Paul Sawtell does one of his robust thematic musical scores, and fine acting support comes from Robert Wilke and Brian Keith.
It's a solid routine Oater, and can be enjoyed if you can forgive it its sins? Forgive them for they know not what they do...or something like that! 6/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When the late Charlton Heston (RIP) stated that if he could do his
career over again and not do certain films, he must have had this
tough, unpleasant little western in mind, which he himself cited as not
being among his best. In fact, the only real praise he could offer for
the film, made and released about three years before "The Ten
Commandments" made him a star, was the typically intense performance of
the late Jack Palance as his nemesis. Now from a cinematic standpoint,
Heston is best remembered for his contributions to the epic (both
historical and biblical) and cult science fiction genres, so it's not
surprise that his contributions to the western/cowboy genre is often
overlooked. In the case of this particular film though it's probably
just as well that most people outside of his fan base don't remember it
too well. "Major Dundee" and "Will Penny" were considerably more worthy
efforts, the latter in particular.
Plot in a nutshell: Heston plays a grumpy, mean spirited cavalry scout, and ex-confederate to boot (VERY loosely based on a real man), who is so deeply possessed by his hatred of Native American Indians, especially the Apache, that it threatens to ruin just about everything around him. If he were any less civil towards the immediate soldiers in the fort, led by Brian Keith, none of whom want anything to do with the surly prick, he'd probably be voted out Survivor style. When an apparently "domesticated" Indian, played by Palance (back when it was considered politically correct and practical to take a white guy and essentially "paint" him to look like some other ethnicity) presumably to barter peaceful relations, Heston continues to badger everyone not to trust him. In the long run, Heston turns out to be correct as Palance's character rallies together his fellow Indians and goes on a killing spree, massacring every white person unlucky enough to get his line of sight (including a mild mannered fellow who was actually his 'blood brother' as children). This gives Heston's character the chance to step up and play the hero, as much as the character is capable of such.
Heston does the best he can with a thoroughly unlikable character who never really grows or learns or in any way redeems himself. Palance delivers the kind of quietly intense performance that put him on the map in better films such as "Shane". But the climactic clash between the two legendary tough guy stars is surprisingly underwhelming and disappointing. Brian Keith arguably gives the best performance of the film. Some okay action scenes and nice Technicolor help but not enough. Of interest primarily for western fans and fans curious to see earlier works for Heston.
Paramount had a box-office hit with this fine cavalry-Indian adventure starring Charlton Heston. The dry, dusty adobe country of southwest Texas comes to life as the soldiers battle the Indians in several hit-and-run skirmishes until the troopers are forced to rely on a disliked army scout to rescue them from disaster. The picture doesn't explain why the scout, who was raised by the Apaches, hates them so much. The movie's theme of racial animosity against the Apaches is unpleasant for many viewers although the picture claims to be based on the life of an army scout. The film has great action scenes, believable characters, beautiful color cinematography and a brooding score by Paul Sawtell. Heston as the scout is well-matched against Apache leader Jack Palance and the supporting cast is solid, namely Brian Keith and Milburne Stone. In spite of its subject matter, this western was one of the best of the 1950s.
Arrowhead is one of that batch of films that Charlton Heston did
between his two DeMille pictures, some good, some mediocre. Arrowhead
kind of falls between both categories.
It is one of the most uncompromising films in terms of the place of the American Indian. It's point is that the more we get rid of, the more room for the whites. So either pack 'em off to reservations or kill them. At least Charlton Heston's character feels that way.
Now there apparently is some justification for Heston's feelings at least as far as this group of Apaches are concerned. He was raised among them and knows them well. And knows that the young warrior prince. Jack Palance, is not going to go quietly off to a reservation.
None of which is really explored in the finished product. I have the feeling the editors left a lot of this film on the cutting room floor. Also Heston's relationship with Katy Jurado who acts as a spy while living without benefit of clergy with him is similarly untouched. But for that I blame the Code. What there is is quite daring for its time.
The ending is kind of silly also. When he has the drop on Palance, Palance asks Heston why he doesn't shoot him. Good question Jack, I can't figure it out either. More I won't say.
The film was shot on location in Texas and done very well. Palance, fresh off the acclaim he received from Shane, has the best role in the film. This is also an early film for Brian Keith and he acquits himself well as a young cavalry officer.
But Arrowhead could have been a whole lot better.
This is a western told from a very angry and bitter point of view. The story is about Ed Bannon (Charlton Heston), a scout who hates the Apaches. He keeps warning the soldiers that want to make peace, and when Toriano (Jack Palance) who is an Apache that went to school in the east, comes back, all of Heston's warnings seem to materialize. At a certain moment when they are being humiliated by being given name tags, not in an dignified way, Heston does not show any feelings, on the contrary, he still provokes them. He is far from being a "good guy" so you can't say this film is racist, it just shows two sides at war with each other. Katy Jurado is a sexy Mexican, half Apache. Charles Marquis Warren, who directed, wrote one of my favorite westerns "Only the Valiant".
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