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East German western from 1973 with a revenge plot involving the massacre of Apache by white mercenaries in the employ of both the US and Mexican governments in which the heroes are Apache. Well directed and beautifully shot, apparently in Romania and Uzbekistan, and the eighth of twelve westerns from the point of view of various tribes starring, and in this case co-written by, Gojko Mitic, who was a star in Eastern Europe because of these films.
APACHES was made in a communist country during the cold war and it's easy to see what the angle may have been, how the "white eyes" villains could represent capitalism, especially during a scene in which the Apache steal the water and horses from a band of travelers, leaving them stranded in the desert, then sit back and watch as they kill each other off. They are self-centered and greedy, thus unable to cooperate long enough to survive a bad situation. The indigenous tribes, known for boundless generosity to those not their enemies, not having a concept of private property, could easily fit the socialist ideal. Not the reality, mind you, but the ideal.
What's really funny, though, is that this movie, by the standards of what we know today, really doesn't play like propaganda. It feels much more authentic than any Spaghetti Western I've seen on the subject--NAVAJO JOE immediately comes to mind--and at times even plays like "Blood Meridian" from the point of view of the Indians. It was supposedly based on research of a real-life massacre that occurred at the beginning of the Mexican-American war.
The costumes and production design are great and the action scenes are great and despite all my prattling about sociopolitical context, it's an entertaining western, which I'm sure is what it was intended to be. The villain looks a lot like the Italian actor Piero Lulli, smokes a giant cigar, and uses a whip. The music sometimes reminds me of Spaghetti Westerns, especially Stelvio Cipriani's score for THE UGLY ONES, but ultimately has a style all its own.
The First Run DVD has a ten-minute trailer featuring scenes from this and other East German westerns that ends by announcing, "All this material will be restaurated soon." I'm definitely anxious to find out how soon.
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