DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews
 
A DISTANT TRUMPET (director: Raoul Walsh; screenwriters: based on the novel by P. Horgan/John Twist/Richard Fielder/Albert Beich; cinematographer: William Clothier; editor: David Wages; music: Max Steiner; cast: Troy Donahue (2d Lieut. Matthew Hazard), Suzanne Pleshette (Kitty Mainwaring ), Diane McBain (Laura Greenleaf), James Gregory (Gen. Alexander Quait), William Reynolds (Lieut. Theo Mainwaring), Claude Akins (Seeley Jones ), Kent Smith (Secretary of War), Judson Pratt (Captain Gray), Bartlett Robinson (Major Prescott), Mary Patton (Jessica Prescott), Bobby Bare (Cranshaw), Larry Ward (Sergeant Kroger), Lane Bradford (Maj. Miller); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William H. Wright; Warner Bros.; 1964)

"This big-budget pic is unfortunately too much a B film and too average to make for a proper farewell pic for the acclaimed filmmaker."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The last film by Raoul Walsh ("They Died With Their Boots On"/"Gentleman Jim"/"White Heat") falters in its march-like slow pacing. Also the western was overlong, and its romantic moments were dull. Otherwise it's competently helmed and on message with a call for fair treatment of the First Americans (not previously the case in a Walsh film). But it is not that exciting until the big battle sequence at the climax, and even that battle scene was too lacking in action. "Trumpet" is based on the 1960 historical novel by P. Horgan, and is written by John Twist. The adaptation is by Richard Fielder and Albert Beich.

Idealistic, gung-ho and militarily efficient second Lt. Matt Hazzard (Troy Donahue) after graduating from West Point is assigned in 1883 to the remote Fort Deliverance, Arizona. Once there he finds he must tighten-up the lax discipline. He also encounters a tribe of Chiricahua Indians who are in opposition to the white settlers. Heroically Hazzard rescues Kitty Mainwaring (Suzanne Pleshette, Troy's wife at the time), the wife of the fort's first Lt. acting commander (William Reynolds), from an Indian attack on her wagon on the open plains and they become lovers when a rainstorm forces them to spend the night together in a mountain cave before returning to the fort.

When Hazzard's pushy fiancee Laura (Diane McBain) from the east surprisingly joins him at the dusty fort, there's tension between the ladies. Hazzard no longer loves the gal from back home, and events will later make it easy for him to choose the more sensitive Kitty when she is widowed and supports him for his self-sacrificing honorable stand on Indian justice.

A crusty old scholarly Indian fighter, Gen. Alexander Quait (James Gregory), regrets that the great chief War Eagle fled to Mexico with a majority of the Chiricahua Indians before he could capture him. The chief remains the last Indian leader not on a reservation. When the General learns that War Eagle plans to return to the Arizona territory and make war on the whites, he returns to Fort Deliverance and leads an attack on the chief using sound military strategy. How War Eagle, in a peaceful way, is brought back to the reservation, is the political point made by the film that diplomacy is at times better than war in getting peace.

Max Steiner's score is a plus and the lush Technicolor is an even greater plus. Claude Akins, as the slimy dissolute character partnered with the renegades, gives a cringe-worthy embarrassing performance. Most of the supporting cast gave B film one-dimensional performances. The ones particularly bad were all those acting as Indian haters, such as the bigot sergeant played by Larry Ward and Kent Smith as the Secretary of War.

This big-budget pic is unfortunately too much a B film and too average to make for a proper farewell pic for the acclaimed filmmaker.

REVIEWED ON 4/12/2015       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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