In 1866, a new gold discovery and an inconclusive conference force the U.S. Army to build a road and fort in territory ceded by previous treaty to the Sioux...to the disgust of frontier scout Jim Bridger, whose Cheyenne wife led him to see the conflict from both sides. The powder-keg situation needs only a spark to bring war, and violent bigots like Lieut. Rob Dancy are all too likely to provide this. Meanwhile, Bridger's chance of preventing catastrophe is dimmed by equally wrenching personal conflicts. Unusually accurate historically.Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
The main action towards the end re-enacts the 'Fetterman Fight' (aka 'Fetterman Massacre') an actual event that took place in December 21 1866. The basic facts are correct - reinforcements are set to protect a wagon train of soldiers gone to collect wood. However, the numbers of troops involved and their disposition are incorrect. Fetterman had 49 infantry (none in this film) and 27 cavalry as part of his detachment (all were killed). Similarly there were significantly more Indians attacking them. As the fight occurred in December, there were areas of snow and ice in the higher areas around the fort. No secondary attack took place against a relief force. See more »
When Dancy is shot and killed by an arrow, padding can clearly be seen beneath his shirt. See more »
When the US breaks a treaty with the Sioux in order to access gold on Indian land, the specter of war looms.
Wow!—this may be the biggest big sky movie of all time. Those blue and white expanses almost swallow up the viewer in their awesome majesty. This is a really underrated Western that I expect got lost in Universal's crowd of Technicolor oaters of the time. But it's got a superior script that dares to put Indian rights on the same level as the settlers', plus outstanding photography and first-rate performances from Heflin and Foster. Then too, DeCarlo really looks good in Technicolor. Also, I detected only one exterior set—the Heflin- DeCarlo conflab in the forest. Pretty good for lower-budget Universal.
I'm especially glad they used real Indians in close-ups instead of the usual Hollywood types made-up to look evil. That way, the 'original Americans' are humanized, and we become more aware of the real costs involved in Winning the West. But notice, those good intentions don't extend to all the Sioux. Hollywood reverts to form by dressing up a comely white girl (Cabot) as the Indian maiden, instead of using a real Indian girl. At the same time, Monahseetah has few lines so a professional actress wasn't really needed. So draw your own conclusions.
The action is pretty much standard, except for the massed attack on the equipment wagons. There, the script makes clear that it's the white man's technology that triumphs and not his superior fighting skills. However, I wondered why the Sioux didn't attack in steady waves instead of in intervals that give the soldiers time to re-load. And catch that final scene in the fort. That's certainly no cliché.
I don't know how much of the story is based on fact, but however much, it at least makes you think. Anyway, this is a grandly scenic, gutsy Western, definitely underrated, and deserving of more than just a few scattered showings.
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