Thursday, July 28, 2016


If you can accept Burt Lancaster, Jean Peters, Charles Bronson and Morris Ankrum (!) (all white actors) portraying Native Americans, then you'll enjoy Robert Aldrich's APACHE (1954). Produced by Burt Lancaster's Hecht-Lancaster production company, APACHE was Aldrich's third film as a director. He went on to a long and illustrious career in which he delivered a lot of great films including KISS ME DEADLY (1955), WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962), HUSH, HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE (1964), THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (1965), THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967), THE LONGEST YARD (1974) and HUSTLE (1975).

Lancaster stars as Massai, an Apache warrior who refuses to surrender to the U.S. Army even though Geronimo has done so. He's captured and placed on a train to Florida from which he escapes and makes his way back to his tribe in New Mexico. He's captured again (betrayed by Chief Santos (Paul Guilfoyle)) and sentenced to death. He cheats death and begins a one-man guerrilla war campaign against the military. Along the way, he kidnaps the lovely Nalinle (Jean Peters) as revenge against her father, Chief Santos. He eventually falls in love with her and when she becomes pregnant, they settle down, plant corn and prepare to become a family. But the U.S. Army is still on his trail and they finally catch up to him in a dramatic, climactic showdown.

Aldrich does a good job keeping things moving. The screenplay by James R. Webb is an adaptation of a novel by Paul Wellman and cinematographer Ernest Laszlo gets the most out of the New Mexico and California locations. Jean Peters (one of many Howard Hughes girlfriends) is gorgeous while character actors John McIntire and John Dehner make good bad guys. Charles Bronson, as Indian scout Hondo doesn't have much to do and he and Lancaster never get to square off in a throw down, which would have been fun to see.

The real attraction here is Lancaster who puts his early training as an acrobat and trapeze performer to good use. He's in top physical shape and he leaps, jumps, bounds, and explodes across the screen. He's in constant motion and he moves with catlike agility. You may not believe him as an Apache but you do buy him as a warrior.  Lancaster commands and dominates the film with an incredible physical presence that few actors can match. He's fun to watch as is the film as a whole. Aldrich did better work but APACHE is definitely worth seeing.

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