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As Lt. Jed Sayre struggles to prevent pre-Civil War tensions and a racist commanding officer from triggering war between the U.S. Cavalry and Navajo Indians, he finds his efforts are being undermined by the machinations of Confederate sympathizers. Written by
Fort Union, Territory of New Mexico. January 1861.
Column South is directed by Frederick de Cordova and written by William Sackheim. It stars Audie Murphy, Joan Evans, Robert Sterling, Dennis Weaver and Ray Collins. Music is scored by Joseph Gershenson and photography by Charles P. Boyle.
The Breach Between The North And South Was Rapidly Widening. A Grim Spectre Of Civil War Hovered Over The Land. It Was A Time of Crisis. . .A Time For Choosing Sides.
Story essentially involves Jed Sayre (Murphy), a friend to the local Navajo Indians, relinquishing his command of Fort Union to Captain Lee Whitlock (Sterling), who after arriving with his sister Marcy (Evans), demands changes to how the Fort is run and expects Jed to end his friendship with the Navajo. When a prospector is discovered murdered it is presumed the Navajo are the guilty party, so setting in wheels in motion for Jed to try and quell the impending war with the Indians and thus having to fight his friend Menguito (Weaver) In the mixer is the impending Civil War, with deserters, traitors and political shenanigans at HQ also taking a hand in proceedings. While Jed and Marcy dance around the inevitable with their love/hate relationship.
In spite of dangling some interesting narrative threads, Column South sadly doesn't rise above being a routine Cavalry Vs Indians Western. But it's never dull and Murphy fans get the usual committed performance. What is of most interest here is the location for the shoot, shot in Apple Valley, California, it's an appealing Oater location with its surrounding hills and craggy rocks that are formed down in the valley. To my knowledge, Apple Valley was only used in one other Western film, Richard Carlson's Four Guns to the Border in 1954, which is a shame because as I say, it's both a looker and carries a harsh edge that some of the great Western movie photographers really could have done great work with.
As it is, Column South is better than average, and certainly an easy film to while away the time with. But the running time doesn't allow the interesting factors in the story to get expanded, thus leaving the film with unfulfilled potential. 6/10
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