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When the government agency fails to deliver even the meager supplies due by treaty to the proud Cheyenne tribe in their barren desert reserve, the starving Indians have taken more abuse than it's worth and break it too by embarking on a 1,500 miles journey back to their ancestral hunting grounds. US Cavalry Capt. Thomas Archer is charged with their retrieval, but during the hunt grows to respect their noble courage, and decides to help them. Written by
Little Wolf was a chief of the Cheyenne tribe in 1878. He and another chief led the Cheyenne off their Oklahoma reservation and took them back to their homeland in Montana, despite hundreds of US cavalry troops trying to stop them. This was called the "Cheyenne Autumn Trail" and is the basis for this film. See more »
The Cheyenne Indians cross the Canadian River in Indian Territory, which today is known as Oklahoma. The film was shot in Utah, where the magnificent desert bluffs and mountains in the scene exist. Nothing along the Canadian River in Oklahoma even closely resembles this. The Canadian River flows through prairie and is lined by cottonwood and other trees. See more »
It's at least one of the worst. John Ford's "Cheyenne Autumn" (1964) was supposedly based on the book of the same name; the book's excellent, but this movie's a total fail. For one, the story focuses on what is known as the Northern Cheyenne Exodus wherein Chiefs Little Wolf (Ricardo Montalban) and Dull Knife (Gilbert Roland) lead over three hundred starved and weary Cheyenne from their reservation in the Oklahoma territory to eastern Montana. Google it and you can see the exact trail route. What's the problem? Well, Ford shot the picture entirely in his beloved Monument Valley and surrounding areas in Arizona. Evidently Ford thought that we're all doofuses and no one would notice that the desert Southwest looks absolutely nothing like the Great Plains where the exodus actually took place. Imagine a movie taking place in the northern Appalachians, but shooting it in the swamps of Louisiana; it's the same gross contrast.
I'm not suggesting, by the way, that films based on factual events always have to be shot at the actual locations, but shouldn't the locations at least remotely resemble the actual locations? For instance, although the story of "Cold Mountain" takes place in North Carolina and Virginia parts of it were shot in Romania, but it was okay because the geography and climate is the same. Or take 1953's "War Arrow," which took place in West Texas, but was shot in California; it worked out because the CA locations were an acceptable substitute for West Texas (not great, but at least acceptable).
If this weren't bad enough, the story as played out in "Cheyenne Autumn" is so dreadfully dull and the acting so melodramatic that you'll be seriously tempted to tune out by the half hour mark. And then there's this utterly incongruent sequence with Jimmy Stewart as Wyatt Earp in Dodge City, Kansas (which, again, looks absolutely nothing like Monument Valley).
Needless to say, this film's so godawful you have to actually see it to believe it. In fact, that would be the only reason for viewing it; that and maybe having a good laugh. It's a cinematic abomination.
What's crazy is that the current IMDb rating is 6.9. Can you believe it? I can only stock this up to Ford fanatics who can't face the awful truth that this great auteur barfed out such utter trash. And to think that this -- his last film -- was supposed to be some kind of apology to Native Americans for his one-dimensional portrayal in past films. What irony.
To add insult to injury the film is painfully overlong at 2.5 hours (which feels like 4 hours).
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