Jeff Chandler and Jay Silverheels, who played Cochise and Geronimo, respectively, in "Broken Arrow" and "Battle at Apache Pass", return for this one. Silverheels is a chief of the rampaging Kiowa, although apparently subservient to the revengeful ex-confederate Captain Corwin! Chandler, as Major Brady, has a role somewhat like that of John Wayne in "Fort Apache", except that here it's the sitting fort commander(Meade), rather than the new guy from the East, who goes strictly by the book and doesn't know how to subdue the Indians. The legendary Indian fighter Ranald Mackenzie took 20 Seminoles with him in his illegal foray across the Rio Grande to bloody the noses of a mixed tribal group, which had been raiding into Texas. It happens that Mackenzie was headquartered at Fort Clark: the fort in the present story, during most of the 1870s, when the present story apparently takes place. Seminoles were moved to near this fort in 1872. In this film, the fictional Brady took this a step further, training the Seminoles to be the primary fighters against the raiding Kiowa, rather than just scouts. Fort commander Meade(John McIntire) sarcastically called them 'Brady's bunch', and wrongly predicted that they would prove no match for the Kiowa. Well, we can't really blame him for this reasonable prediction. However, he forgot that the Seminoles were given the powerful Henry repeater rifles, which their opponents lacked.
Despite Hollywood films, such as this, Plaines Indians very seldom attacked well built forts, as they typically resulted in too many casualties. Here, the Kiowa were talked into attacking the fort by Corwin, who had an unsound desire to destroy this symbol of Union victory in the late war. What initially appeared to be a Kiowa victory, once they penetrated the fort door(much too easily without dynamite in the wagon!), later turned into a turkey shoot as they tried to escape. As Corwin tussled with Brady, he was shot dead, apparently by Chief Satanta(Silverheels), presumably miffed that Corwin had led his tribe into this disaster. Satanta was then quickly dispatched, symbolizing a probable end to Kiowa raids.
There is a bizarre detail to the battle in the fort. Brady decided to shut the women and children in the fort powder magazine room. He then made a snake fuse of black powder leading to the door of this room, and lit the end. The idea was that, if the Kiowa won the battle, the women and children were better off blown to bits than to experience what the Kiowa had in store for them. Fortunately, Maureen's character sensed that the Kiowa would eventually lose, and broke out to destroy a part of the 'snake'.
Young Suzan Ball takes on Maureen O'Hara's frequent role as a feisty independent-minded woman, whereas Maureen's character is rather bland, hobbled by uncertainty whether her estranged husband(Corwin) is still alive, and if so, whether she would want to receive him back into her life, given his known collusion with the Mexican government to promote Indian unrest in Texas. Nonetheless, she provisionally reciprocates Major Brady's obvious interest in her, hoping that he will eventually provide a ticket out of this desolate fort and landscape, ideally setting her up in some large Eastern city. Suzan Ball, as poor but ambitious Seminole maiden Avis, has similar goals. She has the advantage of having been to school in San Antonio, and in being the Seminole chief's daughter, which gives her temporary access to the soldiers in the fort, whom she can impress with her beauty. However, early on, we are assured by Brady that he has no intention of marrying her(too bossy and demanding?) and only has eyes for Elaine(Maureen's character). After she's given up trying to snare Brady, she completely changes her thinking; using her position in the fort to help in Brady's battles with the fort commander and deserting Seminoles. This change in attitude, culminating in her changed attitude toward the previously derided Pino, just doesn't ring true.
Chandler and Ball were the male and female leads in "Yankee Buccaneer". However, Ball didn't end up romantically with Chandler's character in either that film or the present one. She would die of cancer at age 21, but not before playing Chief Crazy Horse's main wife. She was much more subdued in that role, perhaps because one leg had been amputated in an effort to halt the cancer spread.
John McIntire is OK as the overly pessimistic fort commander, who too often resents the opinions and actions of the upstart Major Brady. My favorite of his film roles is the charismatic villainous Gannon, in "The Far Country".
Noah Berry and Charles Drake are OK as Brady's two loyal, somewhat knuckleheaded, sidekicks, reminding me of the pair of sidekicks played by Alan Hale and 'Big Boy' Williams in "Santa Fe Trail"
Dennis Weaver hardly looks convincing as a Seminole(Pino).He came across much better as the Navajo chief in "Column South".
Look for this film on YouTube.
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