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In Oregon Country, 1868, several tribes of Native Americans have been placed on a reservation north of the Snake River. Here Doctor Holden has built a church, and many of the tribes have accepted Christianity and Christian names. Sgt. Emmett Bell is in charge of maintaining order here. When the cavalry, under the command of Col. Stedlow, arrives, building a bridge across the river and intending to open a road across the reservation to areas north, some of the tribal chiefs feel their treaty has been violated. As the cavalry column advances into the reservation, Kamiakin vows to lead the tribes in battle against the encroaching white men. Written by
Jeff Hole <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One of the few westerns where the Indians actually ride bareback or on blankets instead of a blanket over the saddle. See more »
During the big battle the Colonel orders that cannon #1 be fired. When fired the cannon did not show any recoil. The force of the firing should have sent the cannon back on its wheels a bit. When Cannon #2 was fired there was too much smoke to say it did not recoil. See more »
The pillars of the sky Doc, they were sacred to the tribes long before you came with the word of God.
Pillars of the Sky (AKA: The Tomahawk and the Cross) is directed by George Marshall and adapted to screenplay by Sam Rolfe from the novels "Frontier Fury" & "To Follow a Flag" written by Will Henry. It stars Jeff Chandler, Ward Bond, Dorothy Malone, Keith Andes and Lee Marvin. A Technicolor/CinemaScope production, photography is by Harold Lipstein and music is by Joseph Gershenson.
Oregon County 1868, and the Native Indian tribes have been shunted on to government sanctioned reservations. As the U.S. troops arrive to lay the roads through Indian territory for new settlers, the Indian chiefs decide to fight back. Led by Chief Kamiakin (Michael Ansara), the Indians attack leaving the army short on numbers, all that's left is a small band of soldiers and some civilians. Can they survive on guts and religious comfort alone?
It was originally intended to be made with John Ford directing and John Wayne starring, but come 1956 the pair were unable to commit to the production. They had another Western to make that year, The Searchers! Plot is familiar for Pillars of the Sky, but the even handed portrayal of the Indians and a pro-Christian bent in the narrative, lifts it out of the ordinary. Picture is further boosted by some excellent action sequences that are skilfully crafted by director Marshall (Destry Rides Again/How the West Was Won). Indian attacks, via horseback or flaming arrows assault, considerably raise the pulse, while the sight of the army desperately trying to conquer the rocky terrain while under attack is a bona fide piece of Oater grit. With the exteriors actually filmed on location in Oregon at Joseph & La Grande, the backdrop is gorgeous, expertly brought to life in Technicolor "Scope" by Lipstein (No Name on the Bullet/Von Ryan's Express). While Gershenson (Horizons West/The Man from the Alamo) scores it with genre compliant riffs on Cavalry marches and Indian flavouring.
That it isn't better known or thought of higher comes down to a so so set of acting performances and a pointless love triangle that pads the picture out with boorish periods of chat. Malone, looking beautiful as per usual in colour, is basically a token character, who serves only to be a romantic interest that causes friction between Chandler and Andes. In fact her dialogue is minimal. Marvin has only a small role, and he offers up a quite poor Irish accent as well, while Andes fails to convince. Chandler does cut a decent rugged figure, portraying First Sergeant Emmett Bell as a man you would fight alongside, but it's a performance that lacks charisma, something that Duke Wayne no doubt would have brought to the role. It's left to Bond to take the acting honours, where in an unusually restrained role for him as strongly Christian Dr. Joseph Holden, he gives good value for money as he plays it out with stoic nobility.
With a great DVD transfer and the correct aspect ratio used, the film looks absolutely terrific. It has flaws for sure, but it comes easily recommended to the Western fan. 7/10
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