16 April 2008 | Bunuel1976
ARROWHEAD (Charles Marquis Warren, 1953) **1/2
Considering the vast amount of Cavalry-vs.-Indians Westerns made during the genre's heyday, this emerges as a reasonably engaging entry thanks to the pleasant Technicolor hues but, even more so, the scenery-chewing antics of its two stars (Charlton Heston and Jack Palance). I'd owned a copy of the bare-bones Paramount DVD for quite some time, but found the perfect opportunity to check it out now in tribute to Heston's recent passing.
He plays a maverick scout who, in the past, had spent some time with the Apaches; he knows them inside out and is, therefore, indispensable to the Cavalry because he can anticipate what their next move will be. The tribe has ostensibly capitulated and is heading towards the reservation but, when the current chief's son (Palance) arrives on the scene having undertaken an education merely to fulfill a prophecy which would make him the savior of his people! the attacks start anew, thus confirming Heston's skepticism of the whole deal (and which had practically ostracized him from his office). The film, whose title remains unexplained throughout, generally delivers in the action stakes (even if Heston and Palance's long-awaited showdown, the 'war' being resolved in single hand-to-hand combat between them, is a disappointingly hasty affair) but is let down by a couple of obligatory romantic rivalries: Heston is torn between half-breed Katy Jurado, who's wasted, and Mary Sinclair, the widow of the Fort Commander who's also desired by his successor (Brian Keith).
Heston made a number of such minor genre fare (which, I have to admit, I had all but ignored all these many years) including another Western penned by Charles Marquis Warren, PONY EXPRESS (1953) before carving a niche for himself playing larger-than-life roles in a myriad big-budget spectaculars. Having mentioned the writer/director, I recently acquired another Western of his the well-regarded and, reportedly, noir-tinged LITTLE BIG HORN (1951) which, naturally, revolves around Custer's infamous Last Stand.