During the Indian Wars in the Southwest, a sergeant assumes command of a cavalry detachment after it is mauled in an Apache ambush that killed its captain and seriously wounded its lieutenant. The surviving troopers must reach either a larger cavalry column or a wagon train the column is to escort. But first they need water and the nearest water hole is in Apache hands.... Written by
Very good--and quite complex despite a seemingly simple story.
While there have been a ton of westerns involving the US Cavalry, this one is a bit different. Instead of the usual 'Indians-bad/Cavalry-good' mentality, this one is much more complex and the moral implications are not so cut and dry.
"Fort Massacre" begins with a small band of Cavalry enlisted men stuck in enemy territory. The local Indian tribe has attacked and killed the Commanding Officer and now the Sergeant (Joel McCrea) is in charge. This may not be a good thing, as McCrea has a VERY personal stake. After all, his family was wiped out by Indians and he has a serious chip on his shoulder as a result. Many of his men (particularly Forrest Tucker playing his usual loud-mouth character) balk at his authority--they think that McCrea is more interested in killing the Indians than making sure they get back to the fort.
John Russell plays an 'everyman' sort of guy. He is neither on the side of the folks against McCrea nor is he going to blindly follow him. The only negative of this character is that he's supposed to be a guy who's had many jobs and is looking for a purpose in life--so he joined the Cavalry. BUT, he also said he graduated Magna Cum Laude at a university--and it is hard to believe he's only be a private. The only other part that was really hard to believe was the Indian woman--who spoke like a middle-class white lady! Still, despite a few problems, the film was very compelling because it took a psychological look at people AND offered a complex story with characters who were NOT 'cookie cutter' western heroes. Well worth seeing.
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