First off, Fred MacMuuray is not my idea of a Western action hero, so seeing him here is more of a novelty than anything else. The picture was reminiscent of the style of a Walt Disney flick, but there again, that convention is turned on it's head when a young boy is shot and killed by an Indian arrow near the finale, a sit up and take notice moment that was more shocking than necessary, story line or otherwise. I guess the picture lost it's fascination for me by the third time the wagon train passed the same mountain on a painted background, which I found to be curious, since the rest of the story took place in the great outdoors. So why the set piece? - I just didn't get it.
As far as the story goes, there's a mid course correction regarding the destination of the disguised cavalry officers along for the ride. Initially commissioned to thwart British designs on the Oregon Territory, Captain Wayne (William Bishop) is dispatched to a mission on the Mexican border. At least the story managed to insert that ancient history lesson regarding '54/40 or Fight', it sounded cool, but viewers today might be left scratching their heads.
The film is pretty much an entirely sanitized affair, made almost laughable during the Arapaho raid on Fort Laramie, when soldiers and Indians bypass each other repeatedly without striking out at each other. To my mind, half breed Shona (Gloria Talbott) killing the Chief was really asking for trouble, and all it provided was a reason for Shona to renounce her Indian heritage, when renouncing her white father (John Dierkes) would have made a lot more sense.
Sorry folks, can't go out on a short limb to recommend this one. I can't think of even a minor reason to tune in here, other than the curious casting of the principals, and the appearance of old time black and white character actors like Henry Hull and John Carradine in a color picture. Ultimately though, even that doesn't save this flick from being much more than a curiosity piece, and I'd be much more curious about something else.
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