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Set in the autumn and winter seasons of 1845 Montana, the Blackfoot tribe of Chief Winterhawk are ill. His friend and blood-brother, trapper Guthrie, suggests he ask the Settlers in a nearby settlement for help, but they, learning that Wintehawk's people are infected by smallpox, become afraid and back away quickly. Two fur trappers/smugglers, Gates and Scoby, tell Winterhawk and his Braves to follow them and they will take them to someone that has the cure.The Trappers ambush and murder Winterhawk's Braves as Winterhawk escapes after sensing something is wrong. In retribution, Winterhawk and more of his Braves abducts a young woman, Clayanna, and her brother Cotton, from the settlement. Clayanna's uncle Finley, organizes a posse of several trackers by hiring Guthrie, under protest, to follow Winterhawk and his band of warriors, leaving Guthries woman, Pale Flower alone, to get Clayanna and Cotton back at any cost. However, the two murderous trappers who slaughtered Winterhawk's ...Written by
Volker Boehm & Larry B w/ corrections by Bret Culpepper.
Dawn Wells mentions in the extra features of the 2013 Blu-ray/DVD release of The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) (also directed by Charles B. Pierce) that the director was having a lot of difficulties filming with the horses. See more »
Pursuit Western in the Montana wilderness strives for artistic appeal
RELEASED IN 1975 and written/directed by Charles Pierce, "Winterhawk" chronicles events in western Montana in the 1840s when small pox breaks out in a remote tribe of Blackfoot. The titular chief (Michael Dante) goes to the New Americans to apprehend a remedy, but things don't go well and a movie-length chase ensues. Dawn Wells from Gilligan's Island plays the female lead while Leif Erickson plays a mountain man who's friends with the Blackfoot. Woody Strode, Denver Pyle, L.Q. Jones & Elisha Cook Jr. have peripheral roles.
While watching, I was reminded of 1977's "Grayeagle" and therefore wasn't surprised to discover that Pierce made both films. "Grayeagle" is superior, though, and it shows that Pierce learned a thing or two while making this one two years earlier.
The movie has its points of interest, like a notable cast, with great alpine locations and moments of aesthetic wonder. But it's marred by a sometimes draggy vibe with overly syrupy moments and a blaring piano-oriented score that starts to grate due to its booming redundancy. Moreover, Winterhawk (the character) is depicted as excessively mysterious, noble and superhuman, not to mention more time needed spent on his group in the chase for the simple sake of human interest. If you can handle these cavils, however, this is a worthwhile Western.
Some have pointed out that "Winterhawk" is noteworthy because of its respectful view of Native Americans (who aren't really 'native' since their ancestors emigrated from Asia), yet pro-Indian Westerns actually go back to "Buffalo Bill" (1944), "Fort Apache" (1948), "Broken Arrow" (1950) and "The Last Wagon" (1956), not to mention the more contemporaneous "A Man Called Horse" (1970) and "I Will Fight No More Forever" (1975).
THE FILM RUNS 98 minutes and was shot in Kalispell & Browning, Montana, and Durango & Silverton, Colorado.
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