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Major Howell Brady and two non-coms are assigned to go to Indian territory and recruit peaceful Seminoles relocated from Florida to aid the army in fighting the larger, rampaging Kiowa tribe. Brady promises them better land than the subsistence reservation they have been assigned to. Maygro, their chief, although initially reluctant, finally agrees for the good of his people. However, Brady's superior, Col. Jackson Meade, is hostile to the idea and distrusts having Indians as allies. Beautiful widow Elaine Corwin, proves a pleasant distraction for Brady although her husband, a unrepentant Confederate whose body was never found, may still be alive and leading the savage Kiowas against the hated Yankees. Written by
You may yet turn out to be men, nobody will give you anything unless you fight for it
War Arrow is directed by George Sherman and written by John Michael Hayes. It stars Jeff Chandler, Maureen O'Hara, Suzan Ball, Noah Beery, Charles Drake, John McIntire and Henry Brandon. A Technicolor production with exterior location work at Agoura, California, it features cinematography by William Daniels and music by Joseph Gershenson. Story is based on real events and sees Chandler as Cavalry officer Major Howell Brady, who is dispatched by Washington to end the Kiowa Indian uprising in Texas. But his mission is made doubly difficult by the obstinate commander of the post Colonel Meade (McIntire), and his feelings towards Elaine Corwin (O'Hara), whose officer husband disappeared after a scouting mission.
A pleasant surprise, although mired in the formula than ran through many a B Western that featured Cavalry and Indians, War Arrow packs an intelligent punch and features acting to match. The strength in the narrative comes from Brady's coercing of the peaceful Seminole Indians to fight alongside the white man against the rampaging Kiowa. Having had to flee their Florida homes, the Seminole are willing to be trained by Brady and his crew on the promise of land and supplies from the government. With Brady meeting resistance from stuffy Colonel Meade, these promises are on shaky ground, but the training sequences are most interesting for their tactical value and the Seminole are nicely drawn as a race of people. The latter of which, unsurprisingly, is not afforded the Kiowa who are rank and file blood thirsty marauders, but the balance is right, and with the Henry Repeating Rifle the weapon of choice, the action and stunt work, particularly for the siege on the fort finale, is high on excitement.
They say that a wild plant doesn't live too long indoors
Into the mix is a romantic triangle, which isn't overplayed and creates a number of jealousies from both male and female characters. Either side of Brady is Elaine and Avis (Ball), with curmudgeon Meade pacing the edges of the triangle. Also enjoyable is the light relief that comes from the Sergeants played by Beery (Red River/Decision at Sundown) and Drake (Winchester '73/No Name on the Bullet), who are both excellent. Chandler offers up a big presence, while turning in one of his more committed Western performances, and O'Hara brings the class while Ball brings the smoulder. McIntire is suitably mean yet still giving Meade an elegant officious quality, and Brandon turns in a good one too. In named back up support are Dennis Weaver and Jay Silverheels. Daniels' (The Far Country/Night Passage) Agoura exteriors are pleasing, though the print of the film isn't doing it justice, and the prolific Gershenson (the go-to guy for Cavalry Vs Indians flavouring) scores it in standard, but easy listening, thematic beats.
With Sherman's (Chief Crazy Horse/Big Jake) direction unfussy, War Arrow, in spite of mixed reviews on the internet, is a B Western I personally recommend to like minded Western fans. 7.5/10
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