The friendship between a white man and an Apache chief is tested when they fall in love with the same woman during a time of frontier conflict.


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Cast overview:
Mangas Coloradas
Luke Fargo
Richard H. Cutting ...
Judge Benton (as Richard Cutting)
Sheriff Bullard
James Parnell ...
Tom Monroe ...
Dutch Herman
Jil Jarmyn ...
Yellow Moon
Clay Staub
Ward Ellis ...
Jack Hupp ...
Lt. Roberts


Mexican girl Riva comes between two friends, Apache chief Mangas and trader Fargo, both of whom love the girl. She weds Mangas to the disappointment of Fargo and the dismay of Mangas's tribe. Fargo brokers peace between the Apache and the white settlers, but unscrupulous gold-hunters trigger war. It is up to Fargo to prevent a bloodbath. Written by Jim Beaver <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Deadlist Thunder That Ever Rolled Across The West!


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Release Date:

21 March 1957 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Chief Red Sleeves  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


According to July 1956 Hollywood Reporter news items, the set was beset by several accidents, including a fire that destroyed a wardrobe trailer and a lightning storm that destroyed a generator, which delayed production for a few days. See more »


In the beginning of the movie, Luke (Ben Johnson's character) makes a reference to "President Lincoln". Later in the movie a newspaper is shown dated Oct. 21, 1860 which was before Lincoln was first elected president on November 6th of that year. See more »


Dutch Herman: Get two horses and spreadeagle him.
Dutch Herman: I'll show this Indian not to come around here lying to white men.
See more »


Referenced in A Question of Honour (1966) See more »


Mexican Hat Dance
Traditional Mexican folk dance
Joan Taylor and Ben Johnson dance to instrumental version at campsite.
See more »

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User Reviews

Before Cochise........Before Geronimo.........
11 August 2011 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Before Cochise and Geronimo became the charismatic leaders of the Apache resistance to American invasion of their Arizona homeland, the most known of their warrior chiefs was Mangas Coloradas in this film played by Lex Barker. If you're looking for the real story of Mangas Coloradas you won't find it in War Drums.

Borrowing from the real story as told in Broken Arrow between Cochise and Tom Jeffords, War Drums has Lex Barker in a romantic rivalry between himself and white trader Ben Johnson over a Mexican prisoner Joan Taylor. When Barker comes to trade with Taylor recently taken from some low lives of her own people, Johnson is willing to bargain with Barker he's taken with her beauty and spirit. But so is Barker and it's no sale.

The romantic triangle doesn't separate the two friends, but white encroachment does and their story is the rest of the film.

Too bad the story had not any truth to it. In this story of the early Civil War years, Mangas Coloradas who was born in 1790 was already beginning his 70th year as this story unfolds. He'd been at war off and on with both Mexicans and Americans for decades. His son-in-law was Cochise who is not depicted here.

When Mangas Coloradas died in 1863 it was because of some treachery involved. His real story would make a great film.

Barker, Taylor, and Johnson and the rest of the cast give sincere performances. The film is photographed nicely in fitting Southwest locations. Mangas Coloradas deserves better though and he deserves the truth.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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