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A Thunder of Drums (1961)

Approved  |   |  Western  |  14 November 1961 (Japan)
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Ratings: 5.8/10 from 411 users  
Reviews: 14 user | 2 critic

The trials and tribulations of bitter veteran Captain Maddocks and argumentative rookie Lieutenant McQuade at a cavalry desert outpost.


(as Joseph Newman)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lt. Curtis McQuade
Luana Patten ...
Tracey Hamilton
Sgt. Karl Rodermill
Trooper Hanna
Lt. Porter
James Douglas ...
Lt. Thomas Gresham
Tammy Marihugh ...
Laurie Detweiler
Camden Yates
Trooper Eddy
Trooper Erschick
Clem Harvey ...
Trooper Denton
Casey Tibbs ...
Trooper Baker
Irene Tedrow ...
Mrs. Scarborough
Marjorie Bennett ...
Mrs. Yates


Captain Maddocks will never be promoted beyond Captain because of a mistake that he made in the past. Lt. McQuade is a green rookie who is now under the command of the tough Captain and he does not seem to be able to do anything right. Lt. McQuade also has trouble with Tracey, but it will be the renegade Indians that will test him and teach him the importance of following orders. Written by Tony Fontana <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A regiment of forgotten men... a woman no man could forget!




Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

14 November 1961 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Tonnerre apache  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film recorded a loss of $42,000, according to MGM records. See more »


On the night before the final battle: around the campfire, bottom right, ribbed shoe-prints are clearly visible in the dust. They were obviously made by modern footwear with synthetic soles. See more »


Captain Stephen Maddocks: Bachelors make the best soldiers. All they have to lose is their loneliness.
See more »

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User Reviews

It's not my advice, Mr, it's the rule of the game...
16 May 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

..Bachelors make the best soldiers, all they have to lose is their loneliness.

A Thunder of Drums is directed by Joseph Newman and written by James Warner Bellah. It stars Richard Boone, George Hamilton, Luana Pattern, Arthur O'Connell, Charles Bronson, Richard Chamberlain, Duane Eddy and Slim Pickens. Out of MGM it's filmed on location at Old Tuscon & Sabino Canyon in Arizona, and also at Vasquez Rocks, California. It's filmed in CinemaScope and Metrocolor, with cinematography by William W. Spencer and music scored by Harry Sukman.

"There are three things a man can do to relieve the boredom of these lonely one troop posts: He can drink himself into a straight-jacket: He can get his throat cut chasing squaws: Or he can dedicate himself to the bleak monastic life of a soldier and become a great officer."

It's proved to be a divisive film amongst Western aficionados, and it's not hard to understand why. The film begins with a pre credit sequence of suggested savagery, a real attention grabber, then the credits role and the colour and vistas open up the story. From here we are placed into the lonely and fretful life at a cavalry fort in the Southwest. The company consists of tough grizzled Captain Maddocks (Boone) who carries around a burden from his past, his ire further inflamed by the arrival of greenhorn Lt. Curtis McQuade (Hamilton). He needs experienced men, not fresh faced kids, and McQuade isn't helping himself by being involved in a love triangle with Lt. Thomas Gresham's (James Douglas) lady, Tracey Hamilton (Patten). This coupled with the threat imposed by the Indians puts strain on all involved at Fort Canby. And there's the crux of the matter, the film is more interested with character dynamics than breaking out into an action packed B ranked Western.

Newcomers to the film should prepare for a talky picture, but it is a very good talky picture. Sure there's action, including a well staged battle in the final quarter (check out those Apache suddenly appearing from the rocks like ghosts!), but this is a film that is being propelled by dialogue, well written dialogue. There is no point in saying that it's well cast because it isn't, Boone is immense and intense and gets the best dialogue of all, but Hamilton is miscast and Patten totally unconvincing. Pickens is hardly in it and Bronson has a character that could be any number of things; someone who it's hard to know if we should dislike or cheer on. While Chamberlain and Eddy are in it to look nice and play the banjo respectively. Yet with the photography suitably keeping the landscape arid and harsh, and the mood around the base one of impending death or boredom (even the levity of a drunken sequence only enforces what little joy is around), the film has much going for it by way of psychology.

It's no "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" of course, and its problems are evident, but it does have merits, and if for nothing else it deserves a look for Boone's excellent performance. 7/10

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