Rollins' gang wants to grab land by inciting the settlers in a war against the Indians but Winnetou and Old Shatterhand try to keep the peace, until Rollins frames Winnetou up for the murder of Jicarilla Chief's son.
When violent conflict breaks out between greedy railroaders and a tribe of Mescalero Apaches, only two men, destined to be blood brothers, can prevent all-out war: chief's son Winnetou and German engineer Old Shatterhand.
An army gold shipment and its escort vanish in the Ozarks, prompting accusations of theft and desertion but frontiersman Old Shatterhand and Apache chief Winnetou help solve the mystery of the missing army gold.
On her b-day, settler's daughter Apanatschi receives her father's secret gold mine but greedy neighboring prospectors resort to murder and kidnapping in order to get the gold, forcing the girl and her brother to seek Winnetou's protection.
When white settlers encroach on Indian lands, the Assiniboins declare war on the settlers. Apache chief Winnetou vows to help keep the peace between whites and natives. He saves the daughter of the Assiniboin chief and in return he asks for the lives of three troopers held captive by the tribe. Among the three captives is Lt. Robert Merril, son of fort commander Col. J.F. Merril. Meanwhile, crooked oilman Bud Forrester schemes to start a war between the Army and the natives. Forrester sends his men to attack wagon trains and settlements and he blames the Indians. By starting a conflict between Indians and the Army, Forrester hopes to grab Indian land that is rich in oil. Frontier scout Old Shatterhand, Apache chief Winnetou and British adventurer Lord Castlepool join forces in an attempt to stop oilman Bud Forrester from succeeding with his evil plan. Also, fort commander Col. J.F. Merril offers his assistance to Winnetou in hunting down of those responsible for the latest attacks and... Written by
This is only the second of the long-running series of German produced Westerns filmed in Yugoslavia by cult director Harald Reinl that I have been fortunate to see, but is at least as good as TREASURE OF SILVER LAKE if not somewhat more polished of a production. Euro ManBeef matinée idol & former Tarzan star Lex Barker (of Reinl's CASTLE OF THE WALKING DEAD) returns as Karl May's "Old Shatterhand", a white man trained in the ways of the Native American Indian tribes who roams the west with the "noble Apache chief" Winnetou, played by European genre film favorite Pierre Brice (Ferroni's MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN) as the two work tirelessly to bring peace between the white man & the Natives upon who's land their settlements are inevitably encroaching.
This time around the story is a bit more epic in nature, with Winnetou sacrificing his love for the Apache princess Ribanna (future James Bond femme fatale Karin Dor from YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE) to a young Yankee cavalry officer played by future TRINITY film favorite Terence Hill, in a bid for peace between the two factions. Caught between those forces of good -- yes, the Indians are the good guys here, working with the white man -- is a ruthless oil baron played with scathing efficiency by Anthony Steele, with Klaus Kinski heading his band of cuthroat scumbag unwashed sweaty greasy cowboys, hell bent on inciting war between the Yankees and Apaches for their own personal gain.
Quite simply put the cast alone makes this entry in the series a delight, but when coupled with somewhat higher production standards and coupled again with Martin Böttcher iconic, popular music score (which was a top 40 hit for years in Germany) the film attains a kind of sweeping, lofty "larger than life" quality that ranks it amongst the finest Westerns from the early 1960s regardless of the country of origin. The script is never talky, with not one wasted scene or unnecessary discussion, and a decidedly more humanist touch than the treasure hunting escapades from SILVER LAKE.
One of the most fascinating aspects of these films are the Yugoslavian locales used for the filming, which have a unique flavor that sets them apart from both the Italian Spaghetti Westerns filmed in Spain and the more familiar American made productions with their Monument Valley landscapes. And the attention to detail this time out is much more effective, with the Yugoslavian extras playing the Apache tribes coming off as a people rather than just a supporting choir decked out in leatherskins.
That's another aspect that makes these Karl May Westerns somewhat remarkable: They were certainly more advanced and sympathetic in how they depicted the Native Americans than even our own domestic productions of the time ("F TROOP", anyone?) where the Natives are either depicted as pop-up targets for the action sequences or comic relief drunks. You get a real feel for them as a dignified population who are forced to embrace the arrival of the white man with a sense of chagrin, and this story's focus revolves around efforts to undue whatever goodwill might exist between the two civilizations.
They key to the equation is of course Barker's Shatterhand and Brice's Winnetou, each having earned the respect time and again of the otherwise opposing sides. And it's interesting to see the usual cowboy types as the source of the conflict, with the US Cavalry depicted as just going about their job rather than slaughtering the Indians indiscriminately. Try weighing this positive message against the completely negative and one-sided approach used in the dreadful SOLDIER BLUE, which potentially could have told more or less the same story if it's makers had cared about the Natives as anything other but pawns in their social agenda.
If the film has any weaknesses it is the usual aspects of Anglo European types aping Native Americans, some of the on screen treatment of the horses used is questionable, and perhaps certain anachronisms like a 48 star American flag shown flapping heroically in the wind. But the dignity and sheer artiness & atmosphere more than compensate: A special film that deserves some kind of re-release, just as good now as it was in 1964, with nary a mean spirited bone in it's larger than life body. Remarkable, really.
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