In 1872, Indian fighter Johnny MacKay is appointed peace commissioner for the California and Oregon territory but he faces tough opposition from the renegade Modocs led by their brutal chief Captain Jack.
When the South loses the war, Confederate veteran O'Meara goes West, joins the Sioux, takes a wife and refuses to be an American but he must choose a side when the Sioux go to war against the U.S. Army.
President Grant orders Indian fighter MacKay to negotiate with the Modocs of northern California and southern Oregon. On the way he must escort Nancy Meek to the home of her aunt and uncle. After Modoc renegade Captain Jack engages in ambush and other atrocities, MacKay must fight him one-on-one with guns, knives and fists. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Catch the two great bookend sequences. They may be the most memorable part of this nicely produced Western purportedly based on fact. That opening sequence with McKay (Ladd) walking in unchallenged to meet President Grant is based on the historical fact that presidents have only been removed from the public in later times. Citizens back then could essentially walk in and talk to the president without a dozen pre-screens.
Also, for this Bronson fan, that jail cell ending may well be the high point of his acting career. He shows more unforced good humor and naturalness there than any scene I've seen him in. In fact, he easily steals the movie from the rest of the cast, positioning himself as a real Hollywood comer.
This is an A-production from Warner Bros. For example, scope out the well stocked cavalry troop. No corner-cutting there. Then too, lavish use is made of Sedona's familiar red rock locations adding real scenic value. Also, there's a much larger than usual supporting cast of familiar faces, even down to bit parts. Producers Daves and Ladd (uncredited) do a bang-up job assembling the many components.
Surprisingly, for plot developments, the Indians actually get to win a battle and rejoice on- screen. However, the film's impact is damaged by being over-long, probably to accommodate a romantic interest to broaden audience appeal. Then too, Ladd, the actor, appears not nearly as interested in the film as Ladd, the co-producer. Frankly, he looks glum throughout the nearly two-hour running time, and I don't think it's from under-playing the part. Plus having him over-power the muscular, extremely fit looking Bronson is quite a stretch.
Despite these several drawbacks, it's still a good scenic, action flick, the first of director Daves' series of superior Westerns.
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