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This movie is interesting, as the two central characters played by Richard Boone and George Hamilton are,in the story by James Warner Bellah, Capt. Nathan Brittles and Lt. Clint Cohill, who appear in the John Ford classic 'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon'. John Wayne's gruff but fatherly character contrasts with Boone's gruff but miserable martinet. We also know (or may infer) from 'Ribbon' that it is Cohill's father,General Cohill, who has blocked Brittles's promotion. Hence the 'attitude'. Boone's character could have been played more sympathetically, but he does come across as an experienced old hand who outwits his Apache foe and in the process teaches valuable lessons to his protege.
..Bachelors make the best soldiers, all they have to lose is their
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
Indians attack settlers. Undermanned cavalry tracks Indians. Indians
massacre cavalry. Cavalry massacres Indians.
This lurid, routine programmer, would be entirely forgettable, except for two extraordinary performances. Richard Boone portrays the Cavalry Commander, with the kind dignity, sensitivity and intensity which only Richard Boone could give. Charles Bronson plays a dirty minded, foul mouthed, but surprisingly noble corporal. For these two performances alone, see the movie.
This is a very good and mostly forgotten western that made the rounds in 1961. In 1960 MGM paired Luana Patten and a young George Hamilton in the feature film with Robert Mitchum, "Home from the Hill"....figuring on cashing in on the teenage and young adult crowd director Joseph Newman paired them again in this top notch western. Story concerns a desolate, poorly supplied western fort somewhere in the southwest trying to fend off Indian attacks on unsuspecting settlers...The post is ran by Captain Maddocks (Richard Boone), a crusty, worn out, cantankerous old bird whose military career has passed him by and put him in charge of this desolate hole....by coincidence, a fresh young officer (Lt. McQuade) played by George Hamilton arrives at the fort attempting to make a name for himself...problem is he does not have any practical experience like serving at a fort fighting Indians....he has been put in Provost and office jobs by his father, a General.....oddly enough, the very General who basically ended Maddock's career for an oversight. Maddocks immediately runs roughshod over McQuade and makes his life generally miserable since he is considered a greenhorn officer on a fort that needs reliable veterans who know how to fight and outfox Indians. To complicate matters more, McQuade's former girlfriend is ensconced on the fort and engaged to another officer while still loving McQuade (Hamilton)......she is played by the lovely Luana Patten. Tensions get worse between Patten, McQuade's fellow officers at the fort and Captain Maddocks. McQuade is torn between his duty, his hatred of Captain Maddocks, and his hidden passion for Patten. Fireworks explode when Hamilton is seen embracing Patten by her fiancé. Oddly enough things start to work out for Hamilton as Maddocks is forced to send him out on patrol.....McQuade shows his mettle and leadership and impresses most of the soldiers. Charles Bronson plays a meddling, snaky private who tries to show up Hamilton's affair with the lovely Tracy. A big fight erupts and Hamilton holds his own.... In the end Hamilton becomes Maddock's favorite officer and a strange friendship starts to bloom. Patten, realizing that her love for Hamilton will never work out soon departs the fort and leaves for good. A top notch cast, including Arthur O'Connell, Charles Bronson, Richard Chamberlin, Boone and Hamilton.....a mute girl in the film is played by Tammi Marihugh. It is hard to figure out why this film has never been released on DVD or rarely seen on television.....it is one of the top westerns of the 60s, but not given much recognition. Richard Boone was perfectly cast as the cantankerous Captain Maddocks....this is a western you would want to see.
A young lieutenant in the United States Calvary named Curtis McQuade is
assigned to an out of the way Army post on the Southwestern frontier
The post is understaffed and commanded by a career captain named
Maddocks whose standing orders are to keep the peace with the limited
resources that he has at his disposal. McQuade is also the son of an
important army general in Washington and there is a suspicion among his
fellow officers that he has gotten both his rank and his posting due to
his fathers connections. In addition,McQuade discovers that a former
lover of his is living on the post and is engaged to the lieutenant who
second in command. It turns out that McQuade's father had commanded the
post when McQuade was a boy and the Top Sargent of the troupe is a
veteran named Karl Rodermill who had served under McQuade's father and
remembers McQuade as a boy. Even before McQuades arrive , a war party
of hostile braves has been causing havoc in the district. But are they
Comanche or Apache? Captain Maddocks has to try to stamp out the threat
of the hostile warriors while teaching McQuade how to be a soldier and
a man.McQuade learns that Captain Maddocks has a secret in his past
which involves McQuades father
This is a taut,fast moving story that benefits from a tight script and sound direction. George Hamilton portrays McQuade and at this point in his career, he was still trying to develop as an actor. The movie belongs to Richard Boone, however. He is is ideally cast as Captain Stephen Maddocks and brings a gruff, world weary dignity to the role and he is the main reason to watch the film. Arthur O'Connell is very good as the crusty Sgt. Rodermill who see's his principle duty as trying to keep his men as safe as possible and has little patience with McQuades constant griping. Charles Bronson has a key role and Richard Chamberlain, Slim Pickens, and James Douglas are also in the cast. Luana Patten is unfortunately forgettable in the female lead and her portrayal lacks conviction.Singer Duane Eddy has a role but the less said about him the better.
The script attempts to convey the boredom and lack of social stimulation at the desolate army post which leads to gossip, drinking, and personality conflict that can be deadly if they affect an officers judgment in the field.There are a few too many coincidences in the plot which weaken the story.
A Thunder of Drums is a tight, well drawn out western action thriller that will hold your interest. Richard Boone's superb performance alone makes it worth a watch.
I have a soft spot for b-movies and random westerns. This one is a
run-of-the-mill cavalry vs. Indians job that suffers from uneven
pacing, a miscast lead role, and over-reliance on formula plot
elements. But there are a few interesting points that make it worth
One of its chief virtues is the excellent job it does of capturing the day to day flavor of life in a remote cavalry outpost in 1870s southwest. The military manners, habits, and routines are portrayed with convincing detail. The class stratification between enlisted men and officers is utterly real. An early scene with dead soldiers being transported on horseback is played to grim, nauseating effect, with enlisted men displaying hardened indifference and black humor about the situation. All of this gives the film some weight and veracity.
On the other hand, it suffers from generic Hollywood artificiality, relying unthinkingly on shoot 'em up conventions of faceless Indians, and sporting a formulaic romantic triangle subplot. Another major problem is George Hamilton's performance. The character he plays is not particularly sympathetic or likable, and he does nothing to bring depth to it. He's unappealingly flat and cocky. A better actor in this key role would've gone a long way toward breathing some life into the film, especially in its flabby, tedious midsection.
But the real reason to watch this film is Richard Boone. I've liked him in just about everything I've seen him in, but here he is completely riveting. He plays the tough, smart, experienced commander of the undermanned outpost. He's a lonely man, who feels keenly the burden of his job. Late in the film there's a scene where he discovers a scene of carnage, with a number of his men dead, and his controlled rage is very moving. He brings the only real gravitas and feeling to the movie, effectively communicating the weight of life & death decisions and consequences. He's absolutely terrific.
Has anyone noticed that almost every World War II movie had a triangle of two service men competing for the affection of one girl, with the world at war playing a minor role, usually to showcase the courage and nobility of our boys at war? Hollywood trotted out this formula once again for this movie, ruining an otherwise fine tale of soldiers on a far frontier battling a clever and determined enemy in a nasty little war, with no quarter asked or given. In the 60's there was no way a book was going to be brought faithfully to the screen. It had to be dumbed down, it had to devote an inordinate amount of time on the love interest, it had to be the equivilant of a "G" rating. A Thunder of Drums was an ass-kicking book, which failed as a film because although it managed to depart from romantic notions of war, still was unable to conceive of a story lacking romance. Even relatively recently, The Last of the Mohicans managed to have our frontiersman hero and a British officer competing for the affections of a girl. I am not saying there is no place for romance, but I am suggesting that some films would be better off without it, like A Thunder of Drums.
Very fine western from the days when MGM ruled Hollywood. It was the
premier studio in Hollywood with a great staff of technical
professionals and a group of young contract players all of whom would
reach stardom, some super stardom: George Peppard, Paula Prentiss,
Richard Chamberlain, Yvette Mimieux, George Hamilton, Linda Evans. Jim
Hutton, Dolores Hart ( who would become a cloistered nun!) and Luana
Patten. et al MGM also had the best and biggest back lot in the
Industry and instead of making it a money making venture as Universal
did with its back lot, MGM sold the back lot to real estate developers!
George Hamilton and Luana Patten of the MGM stock company join Richard Boone in this great tough western. Richard Chamberlain has a small pivotal role but soon would become very famous as Dr. Kildare and reap in more fan mail per week -15,000 letters-than Clark Gable did at his peak at MGM! Richard Chamberlain for a few years was MGM's biggest star.
See this movie and enjoy a scenic western with a fine cast.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
About the same time a cavalry lieutenant by the name of "Curtis McQuade" (George Hamilton) arrives at his new post in the desert a band of renegade Indians begin terrorizing the inhabitants of the area. But nobody knows for sure if these Indians are Comanche or Apache and until that question is answered any solution to the problem cannot be undertaken. But that isn't the only problem at this fort as Lt. McQuade also runs into his former girlfriend, "Tracey Hamilton" (Luana Patten) who just happens to be engaged to a fellow officer named "Lt. Thomas Gresham" (James Douglas). To further complicate matters, the commanding officer "Captain Stephen Maddocks" (Richard Boone) doesn't particularly care for Lt. McQuade and lets him know it right away. Anyway, rather than disclose the story and risk spoiling the film for those who haven't seen it I will just say that this was a pretty good western movie which tended to depict life at a frontier post in a less than favorable light. Although a couple of the actors could have used more screen time I liked the addition of Charles Bronson (as "Trooper Hanna"), Richard Chamberlain ("Lt. Porter"), and Arthur O'Connell ("1Sgt Karl Rodermill") along with the afore-mentioned George Hamilton and Richard Boone. In any case, I enjoyed this movie and rate it as slightly above average.
It's usually a bad sign for a western when a title is given that has
nothing to do with the story. There's no thunder and no Indian war
drums. But A Thunder Of Drums is a nice combination of soap opera and
Richard Boone is one bitter commander of a forgotten frontier outpost in post Civil War Texas and has George Hamilton a new young lieutenant from the east assigned when he wanted someone with a little frontier experience. But there seems to be more than that in his hostility toward Hamilton.
As for Hamilton he doesn't help his own cause by immediately taking up with Luana Patten who is the fiancé of James Douglas another lieutenant on the post. Hamilton has history with Patten and he's looking to write a few new chapters.
But in the last 45 minutes of the film it's all cavalry business as Boone seeks to destroy a band of hostiles in the area and try to make sure the right tribe is blamed for some recent raids. It's a bitter school for his young officers Hamilton, Douglas and Richard Chamberlain.
A Thunder Of Drums is based on a story from western writer James Warner Bellah who was the source of the famous John Ford classic cavalry western Fort Apache. Some similarities in some of the characters are present here. They're not romanticized though in the way John Ford would do.
Such people as Arthur O'Connell as the first sergeant and troopers Slim Pickens and Charles Bronson have some small parts. Bronson who does not last long as Hamilton's orderly tries to tempt him in small ways. Definitely he's not a John Ford type character.
A Thunder Of Drums is a gritty western with good performances from the ensemble cast.
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