MASSACRE (director: Alan Crosland; screenwriter: Ralph Block screenplay and story/book by Robert Gessner/ Sheridan Gibney; cinematographer: George Barnes; editor: Terry O. Morse; music: Bernhard Kaun; cast:  Richard Barthelmess (Chief Joe Thunder Horse), Ann Dvorak (Lydia), Dudley Digges (Elihu P. Quissenberry), Claire Dodd (Norma), Henry O'Neill (J.R. Dickinson), Robert Barrat (Dawson), Arthur Hohl (Dr. Turner), Sidney Toler (Thomas Shanks), Clarence Muse (Sam), Charles Middleton (Sheriff Scatters), Agnes Narcha (Jenny); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Presnell, Sr.; Warner Brothers; 1934)

"A rare Indian film at the time that shows how unfairly they were treated by the white people."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A rare Indian film at the time that shows how unfairly they were treated by the white people. It's acceptable even though the Native Americans are stereotyped and the film is dated. Alan Crosland ("Midnight Alibi"/"Don Juan") helms it as a routine action western in b/w.  Writers Sheridan Gibney and Ralph Block base it on the book by Robert Gessner.

Barthelmess plays the Sioux Chief Joe Thunder Horse. At the Chicago World's Fair he's the star trick rider in a Wild West show run by the white man Dawson (Robert Barrat). Joe has been off the reservation most of his life and has lost track of his native traditions. He returns to the reservation when he learns his chief father is dying. On the reservation he views the poverty, frets that his father is not receiving proper medical treatment and sees how his people have been mistreated by the mean-spirited whites who corruptly run the reservation. When his dad dies, he insists on a traditional Indian burial. To do this he must fight the bad guys who won't allow this. Furthermore Shanks (Sidney Toler) rapes his sister Jenny (Agnes Narcha) and the law does nothing. When he goes after the casket salesman Shanks, he's arrested and Jenny is kidnapped by Quissenberry (Dudley Digges) so she can't testify. Quissenberry is The government-appointed overseer of the reservation. Joe only escapes because Lydia (Ann Dvorak), a college-educated Indian on the reservation, gives him car keys to escape. Joe escapes to Washington, D.C., where he tells of the injustice to J. R. Dickinson (Henry O'Neill), head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Dickinson agrees to help Joe fight for Indian rights. There are a few more fights before there's justice and Joe can marry the Indian girl Lydia instead of his white socialite sweetheart back in Chicago (Claire Dodd).

It's hard to
believe the white actor Barthelmess was an Indian. Nevertheless the socially progressive film overcomes that and turns out to be somewhat entertaining.

REVIEWED ON 1/7/2017       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"