Arrow in the Dust (1954)
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But there's more than one person on the wagon train who is not whom he seems to be. Rich merchant Tudor Owen is carrying both rifles and whiskey and the Indians want them real bad, they don't even want to wait to pay for them. Seems to me they should have just waited and paid Owen's price.
That however would have gotten in the way of the action and veteran western director Lesley Selander was known for action. The battle scenes are well staged.
It's a good B western could have been better with a little more attention to the story.
Hayden plays a guy named Bart Laish. When the film begins, you learn that Bart is a deserter from the Cavalry and is hiding out west. However, as fate would have it, he comes upon a group of dying soldiers that were attacked by Indians. The dying leader just happens to be Bart's cousin and begs Bart to take his place and assume command of the rest of his outfit--which is a few miles away from this massacre! And, the deserter DOES!!! Later, after proving himself against wave after wave of faceless and stupid natives (who seem to just ride by hoping to get shot), all is forgiven with the US Cavalry and Bart is once again allowed to legally wear the uniform. Talk about impossible and ridiculous! In addition to a ridiculous plot and faceless Indians, it's also one of Hayden's relatively flat performances. I guess the other two were right after all....
By the way, in one scene it's supposed to be at night but it appears to be daylight! Huh?!
Bart Laish (Hayden) is an army deserter, a gambler and a killer, but soon he is going to get a shot at redemption...
It's all very formulaic in plotting, yet there's some thought gone into the screenplay, whilst Selander wastes no chances to keep things brisk by inserting another finely constructed action sequence. Laish (a typically robust Hayden) finds himself in command of a wagon train, with soldiers and civilians, all now looking to him to stave off the wave after wave of Indian attacks, which interestingly sees the Pawnee and the Apache teaming up.
Naturally there's trouble in the camp, not only via some suspicious business men whose motives will reveal a key narrative thrust, but also by way of Gray's Christella Burke. She wanders in from some Estée Lauder advertisement (we don't care, we love 50s Westerns!), and pulses quicken for protagonist and viewers alike. Thematically the narrative is honourable, with decent amounts of angst and tortured heroics. There's some nifty war tactics, plenty of splendid gun play, and of course there's a human redemptive beat pulsing away - just begging to be found?
There's the usual "B" Western issues, such as weakly choreographed fighting between man versus man, dummies being flung over cliffs, and some average acting in support slots (not Lee Van Cleef, though, who is pottering around with menace). However, the Burro Flats location filming is beautifully photographed - in sync with Skiles' genre compliant score, while Hayden does enjoyable stern backed machismo, which plays off of Gray's sensuality perfectly, and Tully does grizzle to actually provide the film's best performance.
One for fans of this era of Western genre film making. Not a waste of time. Good show. 6.5/10
The Indians, with Blankets not Covering Up the Fact that They didn't use Saddles, are only On Screen for the Killing, and are Never Shown in Close-Up, making Them Disposable and Less than Human. "You know what Indians do to Women and Children.", is a Line in the Awful Screenplay.
The Battles are Frantic and Bullet Ridden with a few Arrows Flying and couple Landing in the Dust to Justify the Title. Overall, a rushed and Routine, Low-Budget 50's Western (as if We needed more of those in the Decade).
This will be an Embarrassment to Sterling Hayden Fans and despite the occasional good shot of Colorful Scenery, it is easily Forgettable.