This is an excellent B-Western. I first saw it as a child and found it hugely exciting and gripping - and I have seen no reason to change my mind in around four subsequent viewings!
I am puzzled when I hear people saying that they can't see the influence of producer Val Lewton in it. To me it is very clear. His expertise in building tension and providing visual shocks (from his many horror films) is clearly in evidence, especially in the climactic attack on the church. I bet he helped director Hugo Fregonese a fair bit!
The action scenes are all well shot and exciting, but one of the best bits doesn't have any action. It is the scene where Stephen McNally comes across the Indian massacre in the canyon. Now we've all seen many Westerns where someone, usually the leading man, comes across a massacre, whether by Indians or whites. Usually however, whilst they may look sad or occasionally even upset, they are completely blasé about any ongoing danger. This is always rather unrealistic: Who is to say that the perpetrators of the massacre aren't still around, just over the next ridge, or laying in wait behind a nearby group of rocks? However, here, McNally looks genuinely scared, looking nervously around him in case the Indians are still close by, and in case he's next. At last, some realism! It is also one of the many gripping moments.
The rousing singing of 'Men of Harlech' by the defenders of the church works well for me, despite the criticism by another reviewer. However, I agree with him that that is almost certainly where the makers of 'Zulu' got the idea from!
I gave 'Apache Drums' a 10, as it remains one of my very favourite B-Westerns.
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