During the Rif War in Morocco, the French Foreign Legion's outpost of Tarfa is threatened by Khalif Hussein's tribes but Sergeant Mike Kincaid devises a plan of survival until the arrival of French reinforcements.
Report reaches the US cavalry that the Apache leader Ulzana has left his reservation with a band of followers. A compassionate young officer, Lieutenant DeBuin, is given a small company to find him and bring him back; accompanying the troop is McIntosh, an experienced scout, and Ke-Ni-Tay, an Apache guide. Ulzana massacres, rapes and loots across the countryside; and as DeBuin encounters the remains of his victims, he is compelled to learn from McIntosh and to confront his own naiveté and hidden prejudice.Written by
David Levene <D.S.Levene@durham.ac.uk>
In an u interview, Bruce Davison recalled how he got the part of Lt. DeBuin: "I went in to see [director] Robert Aldrich (I) and said, 'Mr. Aldrich, you have no idea how much The Sand Pebbles (1965) meant to me'. He said, 'Thanks, kid, but Robert Wise (I) made that film. But you;re just dumb enough, you have the part". See more »
When the platoon sets out from the fort, Macintosh's Indian girlfriend is watching them depart, with her face half-hidden by the shawl she is holding tightly under her nose. The next shot cuts straight to a close up of her face, but her hands are not in view and more of her face is hidden by the shawl. See more »
Forget the allegories, this is simply a great film.
The first issue on this film is the question, "Is the print I am looking at complete?" When Ulzana's Raid was scheduled as a late movie on network TV, I set the timer to capture it. After viewing it, I was stunned. I watched it several times, trying to savor every detail. I could see, however, that network TV had edited out some graphically violent scenes.
I purchased a home video version, but was disappointed. It had some of the graphic images restored, but some other scenes were missing from the purchased version that I had seen in the network TV version. For example, there is a scene between Lloyd Bochner and Douglass Watson, the post commander. Watson is listening to the oily Bochner attempting to weasel out of the detail to chase Ulzana. Watson is taking snuff during the scene, which is fascinating in its statement. It is a revolting exhibition, and it leaves you with the question of why anyone would do anything like that. Leaving it out of the film disturbs the balance, in that it is yet another example of the white man's questionable behavior. We already knew the Apaches were a little eccentric.
Also missing is the scene between Lloyd Bochner and Bruce Davison where Bochner is selling the young lieutenant on the notion that he recommended Davison for the mission instead of he himself weaseling out of it. The naive lieutenant is most grateful. This scene is important in that it emphasizes DeBuin's naiveté, and shows the integrity of at least one of the cavalry officers.
There is another scene deleted where McIntosh is reading from the Rukeyser's bible, and deriving obscure facts about the family that had been decimated by the Apaches. It was almost wistful in its statement of how the twists and turns of life depend on trifles.
And there is the question of Mrs. McIntosh. Aimee Eccles plays the part, a credited role, but she appears as no more than a shadow in the two versions of the film I saw. Is something missing here also? Ulzana's Raid is a carefully constructed mosaic, and it is terrible that a "director's cut" is not available.
Much of the commentary on this cult film addresses allegorical aspects, but I never got that from the film. I think it is more interesting to focus on Jorge Luke's character Ke-Ni-Tay. I have been able to identify Luke in a couple of films, most notably for me was Sunburn, wherein he plays a thug. He is evidently a veteran of the Mexican cinema, with 110 entries in the IMDb for his appearances. He handles this role with just the right touch.
From the outset, Ke-Ni-Tay is shown as the superior man in most ways. He is extraordinary in his job, and more than competent. He is also a philosopher and teacher. He tells the lieutenant why the Apaches torture and kill their captives. "You not know about power. In this land, man must have power. Each man who dies, the man who kills him, takes his power." He also explains why Ulzana left the agency. "Ulzana is at agency long time. His power is very thin. He had old smell in the nose. The smell of dog, of women, of children. Man with old smell in the nose is old man. Ulzana wants new smell. The smell of bullet. Pony running. For power!" Ke-Ni-Tay is also a joker. When asked by the lieutenant if he knows Ulzana, Ke-Ni-Tay says, "His wife is my wife's sister. His wife ugly. My wife, not so ugly."
Ke-Ni-Tay appears also to rate higher in the Apache pecking order as well. When Ulzana is finally cornered, and he realizes the raid is over, Ke-Ni-Tay confronts him with the death of Ulzana's son. Ulzana willingly submits to his own execution, and Ke-Ni-Tay performs the act with honor and respect, but without hesitation.
Ke-Ni-Tay is an honorable man. When asked by DeBuin if he will kill the lookout, he says, "Ke-Ni-Tay sign paper." There is no question he will follow through.
Ke-Ni-Tay is also a loving and loyal friend. His relationship with McIntosh goes way beyond a Lone Ranger and Tonto association. Their bond is shown subtly and beautifully by Director Aldrich, through looks and simple gestures. There are no words of sentiment between them, but their friendship is strong. Ke-Ni-Tay worries that the lieutenant will not ride back to help McIntosh. McIntosh rebukes the lieutenant for his implied insults to Ke-Ni-Tay simply because he is an Apache, as the lieutenant's hate for Apaches grows throughout the film. When asked if Ke-Ni-Tay can be trusted, McIntosh says simply but emphatically, "I trust him." At the end of the film, Lieutenant DeBuin is a wiser man than when he began his journey with Ke-Ni-Tay. As he leaves Ke-Ni-Tay to deal with the burial of Ulzana, DeBuin salutes him, with the simple address of "Scout," as he takes his leave.
Ke-Ni-Tay is one of the most fascinating characters in film. His character is carefully constructed and revealed, and his stature grows throughout. He is complex and heroica man one would be honored to know.
Ulzana's Raid is a cult film for sure. Look at the number of comments it has received here. This is a provocative and evocative masterpiece. Hopefully, this film will be restored to its original release. It deserves it.
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