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"War Paint" (1953) starring Robert Stack is a good "mission across the desert" movie
David Allen3 August 2012
"War Paint" (1953) starring Robert Stack is a good "mission across the desert" movie with good actors, an OK script, and portrays US Army deserters who murder loyal Army soldiers and try to murder their commanding officer, and almost succeed.

Very few movies portray this important military discipline problem which has happened often in US and other Army military history.

US Army officers are issued sidearms (handguns) to defend themselves against enlisted men they command who may decide to disobey orders and murder the commander who gave them orders they disobey.

During the War In Vietnam, the phenomenon of enlisted men murdering officers who commanded them was publicized and often called "fragging." Enlisted men who attack and try to murder officers, and sometimes succeed, is not new to military experience. Leading a military unit is dangerous for many reasons, not only because of enemy fire, but due to "friendly fire" from soldiers part of one's military group, which "friendly fire" is, sadly and tragically, sometimes intentional.

Murdered officers killed by their own men is not new in military history.

This "War Paint" (1953) movie set in desert country about a small military unit led by a single junior (low level) officer (a Lieutenant) played by Robert Stack shows enlisted men, about a dozen of them, made desperate by harsh no-water desert conditions, and greedy due to a gold mine they come across on their way to delivering a peace treaty to an Indian tribal chief (the mission the military group has in the "old West" of post-Civil War 19th century times in the far west desert country. (This movie was shot entirely in California's "Death Valley," located near the Nevada/ California state border, famous for it's moonscape appearance where almost nothing, plant or animal, can live, or does.) The movie story is very simple, and not a little eerie.

It was made the same year Robert Stack starred in the first 3-D movie titled "Bwana Devil," set in Africa.....another Robert Stack adventure movie.

"War Paint" is a good movie for several reasons, including it's unusual and forthright treatment of bad soldiers doing damage to good soldiers, all in the same Army and supposed to be on the "same team." A single female character is included in the cast, and she is supposed to be an Indian maiden, the daughter of the Indian tribal chief the military group seeks to present with a US Govt. peace treaty.

The girl is beautiful, dressed in a form fitting doe-skin dress, has a perfect complexion, lovely thick dark braided hair, every hair neatly in place, a very pretty face, and a great, curvy female figure, including chorus girl legs shown off when she rides horses or wrestles around on the ground when attacked by soldiers or attacking the soldiers on her own.

She is not a typical movie Indian girl...not submissive, not inarticulate, not demure. She's smart as hell in every way, and shows off her good mental qualities (which match her dazzling appearance) without apology or restraint.

Her physical beauty is a welcome visual relief for movie viewers who must watch the movie story set in the dull and ugly moonscape desert environment which oppresses the struggling soldiers for obvious reasons.

The Indian maiden does not join the military group until the movie is 2/3rds over, and then she is their hostile and unpleasant prisoner, outspokenly "anti-White man!" But we see her (the audience does) well before the actor soldiers do, and we see her comely features and great legs.

She helps her brother, who opposes the US Govt. treaty his father, the Indian tribal chief wants and supports. The brother murders American soldiers, is taken prisoner by the military group, escapes, attacks the group, and finally is killed, all while the younger adult female sister assists her brother and stays out of sight of the military group....until the last 1/3 of the movie when she shoots a straggling soldier during a rifle battle she initiates, and is caught, taken prisoner, and retained as a hostage to present to the Indian tribal chief.

Predictably, she befriends handsome Robert Stack, and at the end of the movie, only the two of them (Stack and the girl) remain....all other soldiers part of the "mission across the desert" have died.....most due to being killed by fellow soldiers.

The whole movie is unusual and thought provoking, worth seeing.


Written by Tex Allen, SAG-AFTRA movie actor. Visit WWW.IMDb.Me/TexAllen for more information about Tex Allen.

Tex Allen's email address is TexAllen@Rocketmail.Com.

See Tex Allen Movie Credits, Biography, and 2012 photos at WWW.IMDb.Me/TexAllen. See other Tex Allen written movie reviews....almost 100 titles.... at: "http://imdb.com/user/ur15279309/comments" (paste this address into your URL Browser)
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Pinnacle of the genre
Kojacque3 June 1999
An unjustly-overlooked masterpiece. The almost-unrecognizably young Robert Stack plays the hardened CO of a company entrusted with delivering a treaty. If the chief for whom it is intended does not receive it within the week, he will declare war. Of course, complications ensue...Many of the characters and plot points seem cliched, but only because the film shows its age. Look past the vestiges of '50s moviemaking--blue-eyed squaws, etc.--for strikingly modern subject matter: divorce and Native American rage at continued injustices in particular. Tremendously taut and exciting, to boot. See this movie!
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Pretty good B western
gordonl567 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers

This 1953 western was a Bel Air Production released through United Artists. The cast includes, Robert Stack, Keith Larsen, Charles McGraw, Robert Wilke, Douglas Kennedy, Joan Taylor, Peter Graves, Paul Richards and John Doucette.

A Lieutenant in the U.S. Calvary, Robert Stack, is assigned to deliver a peace treaty to a US government official. The official is then to forward the treaty to the chief of an Apache tribe. What Stack does not know is that the Government type and his escort are all dead. The Chief's son, Keith Larsen and daughter, Joan Taylor, have other ideas about the treaty. They have ambushed and killed the Government man and his escort. The pair really want war between the whites and the Apache.

Not finding the Government type at the trading post meeting place, Stack decides to deliver the treaty himself. And as it so happens, the Chief's son, Larsen, is there and offers to lead Stack and his small patrol to his father. The treaty is time sensitive and must be delivered within 9 days. Larsen tells Stack that it will take 6 days to reach the native village.

Being Death Valley, the Cavalry loads up with full canteens and some pack horses with several casks of extra water. Of course things start to go wrong the further they go into the desert. A rock fall smashes most of the water casks. An important load with their maps is lost over a cliff etc.

Stack suspects that the Indian, Larsen might be the guilty party, but he is always in sight when the "accidents" happen. Of course the viewer knows it is really Larsen's sister, Miss Taylor doing the deeds. She is trailing the patrol at a distance during the day and doing a bit of sabotage at night.

With their water nearly exhausted, Larsen offers to take then to a water hole, but it will delay the trip to the village by a day. The day is wasted because the water hole is dried up. That night all their horses take off and the group is now on foot. Stack is bound and determined to deliver the treaty. The men now stumble onto a small water hole. The hole however is full of bad water which one of the men drinks. The man, Paul Richards is soon dead.

One of troopers now goes of his rocker from lack of water and blows out his brains. Now Stack finds out that the Indian, Larsen has been leading them in a big circle. A sound beating from several of the troopers soon has Larsen coughing up what he has done. He wants a bloody conflict so all the tribes will join in driving the whites out. Another of the troopers now steps up and shoots Larsen dead before Stack can stop him.

Stack and his Sgt, Charles McGraw now decide to send one man ahead to deliver the documents. They give the man, Douglas Kennedy all the remaining water and will follow as best they can. Kennedy however is ambushed the next day by Larsen's sister, Taylor. There is brisk exchange of rounds with Kennedy going down for the count. Kennedy though manages to pink Taylor in the forehead knocking her out.

Needless to say Stack and the others find Taylor and the dead trooper. Stack quickly puts two and two together and puts Taylor under guard. The men however are all going a tad wacko from lack of water. Several of the men, Wilkie, Graves and Doucette are all for having their way with the woman.

Taylor tells Stack that she will take them to some nearby water. She leads them up the hills to an old mine and tells them there is a well inside. Most of the men rush inside for a look. What they find is not water, but piles of gold. The men of course are now overwhelmed with gold lust. They decide to kill Stack and Sgt McGraw, then "force" Taylor to really lead them to water. Then they will load up on gold and disappear.

Stack collects a round in the arm before he can talk sense into Graves and company. Miss Taylor now decides it would be in her best interest to really show the men the water spring. The men's thirst for water is slackened, but not their thirst for gold. Rifles and pistols are pulled and shots ring out. The only survivors are Stack, Miss Taylor and Peter Graves. It takes a full-fledged knockdown, drag out fistfight, followed by a battle with knives before Graves is finished off.

Miss Taylor has now decided to change teams and helps Stack deliver the treaty to her father.

This well-crafted B western was directed by veteran programmer man, Lesley Selander. Between 1936 and1968, Selander worked on 145 diff films and television series.

This Pathecoler film was shot on location in Death Valley and is well worth a watch imo.

Producers Howard W Koch and Aubrey Schenck would score with a whole series of well-made B western, war and noir films during the 1950's. These include BIGHOUSE USA, FORT YUMA, CANYON CROSSROADS, THREE BAD SISTERS, GHOST TOWN, CRIME AGAINST JOE, HOT CARS, TOMAHAWK TRAIL, WAR DRUMS and HELL BOUND.
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A good, gritty western. A cavalry patrol runs into big trouble while trying to deliver a peace treaty
morris vescovi22 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A cavalry patrol has six days to deliver a peace treaty and avoid an Indian war. The chief's son Taslik ( a somewhat miscast but still good Keith Larsen) agrees to lead the patrol to his father's village. Unknow to dedicated, stalwart Lt. Billings ( Robert Stack) Taslik wants war with the hated white men. Taslik's sister Wanima (a very good Joan Taylor)who also has no love for the white man, secretly follows the patrol sabotages their water supply and runs off their horses. Taslik Then leads the patrol to one dry water hole after another. He though isn't suffering as his sister sneaks water to him at night. Wanima also deliberately leads the patrol to a gold mine the Spanish discovered years before but whom the Indians killed. This leads some members of the patrol to start thinking that gold might be more important than peace.While this film may be a little short of action, it has very good suspense, a much better than average plot, better than average character development, good acting, good color photography and some great Death Valley locations. It is definitely worth watching, and a very worthy addition to a video library.
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Grim, gripping and unsentimental
drmality-115 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Here's a great example of a Western with all the fat and unnecessary baggage trimmed from it. The story is brutally simple and shows no mercy.

Hard-bitten Lt. Billings (Robert Stack) and his motley crew of cavalrymen are charged with delivering a vitally important peace treaty to Chief Grey Cloud. If Grey Cloud doesn't get the treaty within a certain time limit, he and his braves will go on the attack, leading to a bloodbath.

The mission is plagued with mishaps from the start. The Indian guide Tasslik is Grey Cloud's own son and he has his own agenda. Merciless heat and thirst stalk the soldiers, as well as a mysterious sniper and saboteur. The more misfortune strikes, the more tension grows between the men, until it explodes into violent conflict.

Nothing is sugar-coated in this story and death can strike anyone at any time. Real Death Valley settings make heat and thirst almost palpable. The story starts with tension which only grows. But character is not ignored. Billings' strict discipline actually masks a man who is tired of war and hungry for peace...an optimist, at heart. The plight of the Indians is also given a sympathetic turn, even though their actions here lead to pain and death.

The cast can't be described as "A-list" but everybody does their job just right. Stack is excellent and other reliable actors like Peter Graves, John Doucette, Charles McGraw and Douglas Kennedy provide great support.

You want a tough, tense Western? "War Paint" is a perfect choice.
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Meandering western but a great cast and beautiful Death Valley
NewEnglandPat8 July 2005
This western has great natural beauty but more talk than action in a film that should have been better than it was. The plot is simply that of a cavalry patrol that has a few days to deliver a peace treaty to a chief and prevent the Indians from going on the warpath. Robert Stack is the big cast name here and he is in complete "Eliot Ness" mode as a no-nonsense lieutenant who drives his men hard in the name of honor and duty. The patrol is guided by the chief's son who has a completely different agenda. The supporting cast is terrific, with names like Charles McGraw, Douglas Kennedy, Peter Graves, Robert Wilke and John Doucette along to carry out their mission. The picture is not a cavalry-Indian western as the title implies but instead focuses on the travails and frustrations of the troopers, not the least of which is thirst, as they make their way to the Indian village. The movie is worth watching for the old-time character actors and the striking beauty of Death Valley.
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Solid Western
dougdoepke16 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Good, solid B-Western, despite some of the critical comments. Story follows cavalry patrol through Death Valley in the face of dissension in the ranks and Indian infiltrators. I filled a pitcher of water just looking at the merciless sun-baked terrain. What an excellent supporting cast, familiar faces who lend color and personality by individualizing the troopers beyond their look-alike uniforms. For example, the usually sinister Paul Richards gets a rare sympathetic turn as a lovelorn trooper (Perkins) who unfortunately swallows before he looks and pays the price. There's also the great Robert Wilke lending his usual brand of sneering thuggery to spice up the proceedings. And as the no-nonsense officer, Stack provides a humorless authority that, by golly, is going to get the peace treaty to Gray Cloud even if it kills him and his men. No wonder there's mutiny in the ranks.

Of course, this is the glamour-obsessed 1950's when even the Indians resemble Park Avenue models. At the same time, historical accuracy has never been a major Hollywood concern, especially with the Western. So, certain liberties with detail here are not unusual and should not be allowed to deflect a basically good story. On the other hand, there's a nice bit of overlooked irony in this 90-minute horse opera. They may be the villains, but Indians Taslik and Wanima are correct in rejecting the treaty, after all. The white man will indeed ignore the treaty when it suits him, as proved by the mutinous troopers who renounce army authority once they find gold in the parched hills. The irony of the outcome is not made explicit, but it's there anyway. Anyhow, director Selander has a good action premise to work with, plus a colorful cast, and while he's no John Ford, he knows a good scenic set-up when he sees one. Meanwhile, I think I'll have another glass of water.
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Dull, virtually actionless oater
frankfob3 December 2003
Robert Stack plays the officer in charge of a cavalry patrol entrusted with delivering a treaty to an Indian encampment, who encounters difficulties with outside and inside influences along the way. Stack is earnest, and despite some miscasting--Charles McGraw was always more at home playing a big-city detective or syndicate killer than he was playing a cavalry sergeant as he does here, and Keith Larsen often played Indians but seldom played them well--the performances are adequate, but if there's one thing that a western cries for it's action, and there's virtually none in this film. It moves like molasses and what little action there is doesn't occur until almost the end of the picture and it's not particularly well done. Director Lesley Selander was an old hand at westerns and has done far better. He must have had an off day. No need for you to have one by watching this snoozer.
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Good cast, interesting plot and sub-plots, bad script and directing
BigJohnPilgrim10 August 2009
This could have been a well-made western. With Robert Stack, Peter Graves, and the line-up of supporting characters including a beautiful 'Indian' woman, the acting really wasn't half bad but someone skimped terribly on script-writing and the action scenes.

The rattlesnake scene was horrible. The snake was clearly either dead or a rubber fake, you could see the string tied around its neck that was slowly jerking it along. That was the most fake rattlesnake I've ever seen in a western. I suppose they couldn't afford a real one.

The scene where they drank at the water hole in the cave was even worse. Supposedly near-dead from thirst, all they did was shake their heads in the water and blow bubbles and make noises. Those that did draw water into their mouths spit it back out into the pool right in front of the others who were 'drinking'.

The fight scenes and deaths were the worst. I won't even go into detail about how poorly scripted and acted they were. There was clearly a skinny male stunt person taking the Indian girl's place when she wrestled the soldier. And the way the combatants who were next in line to be killed would stand up in full view to shoot in order to be shot was laughable.

I liked the overall plot and the cast, Robert Stack was good and the dialog not bad. But the director must have been so convinced that these elements would carry the film that he paid no attention to these details. I can't even rate it a 5 because of these blatant oversights.
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Stop bleeding all over me and get going.
Spikeopath28 September 2017
War Paint is directed by Lesley Selander and adapted to screenplay by Richard Alan Simmons and Martin Berkeley. It stars Robert Stack, Charles McGraw, Joan Taylor, Peter Graves, Keith Larsen, Robert Wilke and Walter Reed. Music is by Arthur Lange and Emil Newman, and cinematography by Gordon Avil.

A cavalry patrol trying to deliver a peace treaty to Gray Cloud are being destroyed from within by an Indian brother and sister.

Paper of lies!

Filmed out of the superb presence of Death Valley, War Paint is as solid as one of that location's rocks. The title hints at some cheapo "B" Oater, the kind that is all hooray and jingoistic as the cavalry mow down the Indians, but that is not the case. Though an air of familiarity exists, with the core of the story about an army unit literally dying out in the desert, with saboteurs operating within, there's a two sides of the coin pinch in the narrative, with dialogue nicely written with thought and sincerity. Opening with a scalping, drama and suspense is never far away, so as the group implode, with suspicions, thirst and gold fever taking a hold, the viewer is always intrigued as to who will survive and will the treaty ever reach its destination? Plus you may find yourself feeling very thirsty during the viewing...

Very nicely performed and handled with underrated tidy hands by Selander, this is well worth a look by Western fans. 7/10
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Discipline breaks down
bkoganbing23 April 2013
War Paint casts Robert Stack as a cavalry lieutenant with a mission to deliver a peace treaty, presumably a draft to the Indians. With Sergeant Charles McGraw, Stack leads a patrol to deliver said peace treaty. The chief's son Keith Larsen is to guide them through the rough desert country, but Larsen and his sister Joan Taylor have their own mission. They actually don't believe the white man's peace treaty, there's such an incredible track record on the subject and they're going to sabotage the mission.

Such stalwart characters actors as John Doucette, Robert J. Wilke, Peter Graves, Douglas Kennedy, and Paul Richards make up some of the patrol. When the water is sabotaged and the discipline breaks down the cast starts dying off for one reason or another.

I do have to say though why no one thought better of the fact that Keith Larsen was in War Paint as he started the mission I'm a bit perplexed at the writers for that.

War Paint gets pretty ugly at times as the men go off their nuts for lack of water and an abundance of heat. It's a gritty no frill western with great cinematography from Death Valley. It could have been a whole lot better though.
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A sub-sub genre then, the western/cavalry /patrol picture.
max von meyerling7 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
A hot, dusty, situation-western filmed in the oven like alkali desert of Death Valley. Not really very good, it's a variation on the "Lost Patrol" theme. It does have a thing in showing a remarkable variety of gun battles from cover. It's almost like a stock shot catalogue of Winchester fights. There's some excellent overwrought character acting here. Charles McGraw is at his most stalwart and he's in fine voice here too- tough and gravelly. Paul Richards - I never realized he was so short! is the ripest of all and mercifully dies early. John Doucette has a different role here as a Polish immigrant who left Poland because they wanted to put him in the army. Peter Graves gets to try the villain thing before STALAG 17.

Actually my first thought when I saw the picture was to complain to myself- When are they going to show a cavalry patrol with a remuda (the cavalry took several horses per soldier so they could switch horses on long rides), a chuck wagon, a water tank (one may ration water for the men but cannot stint on water for the horses. Always remember, the cavalry is limited by what the horses can and cannot do and since horses can't forage in the desert they need to bring along grain too- enough for 40 horses or more.) and a wagon-load of ammunition? They always seem to be set-up for what my old German producer used to call "ein kleine schpatzierung" and not a journey of two weeks through the desert. I didn't realize that the whole picture would be one long, long patrol. A sub-sub genre then, the western/cavalry /patrol picture.

If there is any irony here its that the Indian who resisted was right. The White Man's Peace was merely temporary, a stratagem used on the way to the White Man taking everything. A professionally made second feature. A good period piece, interesting only to the specialist.

PS For this Martin Berkeley gave up over a hundred names during the blacklist period?
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This paint is peeling
Tracy Winters28 April 2017
Simply horrendous imitation (like countless other films) of John Ford's cavalry westerns.

Director Lesley Selander delivers no surprises in this stinky flick that features stoic Bob Stack as an army commander; Keith Larsen as an Indian - Keith Larsen? .... yeah, right; and gorgeous Joan Taylor as a squaw (not even close, but who cares? Joan is beautiful). Unfortunately, Peter Graves, one the poorest excuses for an actor in cinematic history, plays one of the stupid soldiers (type-casting, I guess).

Film has virtually nothing of value (except Joan), but at least it's short, though even at only 90 minutes, you'll still consider hanging yourself from the big tree in the backyard to escape the boredom this movie has to offer.

Cut the cowboys and indians off at the pass and watch something else, preferably John Ford's 'Fort Apache' (1948).
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