DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
WAR DRUMS (director: Reginald Le Borg; screenwriter: Gerald Drayson Adams; cinematographer: William Margulies; editor: John A. Bushelman; music: Les Baxter; cast: Les Barker (Mangas Coloradas), Ben Johnson (Luke Fargo), Joan Taylor (Riva), Larry Chance (Ponce), Richard Cutting (Judge Benton), James Parnell (Arizona), John Colicos (Chino), Jil Jarmyn (Nono); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Howard W. Koch; United Artists; 1957)

 
"Unimaginative and lackluster pro-Indian film."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Reginald Le Borg ("Joe Palooka in Fighting Mad"/"Diary of a Madman"/"The Great Jesse James Raid") directs this unimaginative and lackluster pro-Indian film that feature's Tarzan portrayer Lex Barker as the bare-chested hunky brave and honorable Apache chief Mangas Coloradas. It's written by Gerald Drayson Adams as a call for coexistence between whites, Indians and Mexicans.

The opening scene has Mangas Colorado and his Apache warriors raid a camp of nasty Mexican bandits, who stole their horses. Besides retrieving their horses, they also take the beautiful Riva (Joan Taylor), a half-Mexican, half-Comanche Indian girl whose father was killed by the horse thieves during a raid on his ranch, and who is treated badly by the bandits. When honorable white settler Luke Fargo (Ben Johnson) offers to buy Riva for a new rifle, the chief refuses and later takes her for his bride because she's so brave and trains her to be a warrior (a nod to feminism, no housework for this squaw).

Judge Benton (Richard Cutting) tells Mangas he's to be stationed in Silver City to make sure the peace treaty between the whites and Apaches is honored. The chief vows not to break the treaty, but warns the tenderfoot judge that there are 1,000 horse soldiers but 5,000 Apaches if the whites break their word. Eventually pushed into war with the whites (gold miners violate the American peace treaty by panning in Apache territory and beat and shoot a mother and son who try to stop them). The Apaches react by raiding the mining camp. Fearing the worst, Luke gets the judge's permission to stop further bloodshed by pow-wowing with the chief. But his peace plan is spoiled when the troops are spotted behind him and the Indians open fire. Before it turns into a full-scale war, Luke mediates to allow the Apaches to move with dignity into the distant hills rather than be transported to a reservation.

The film's peace sentiments and its solution to the Indian trouble was fine; what's not fine, was how dull it was and that it didn't even make speeches about its well-intended commitments--it was just heavy going.

REVIEWED ON 9/8/2010       GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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