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  • Drums Across the River is directed by Nathan Juran and written by John K. Butler and Lawrence Roman. It stars Audie Murphy, Walter Brennan, Lyle Bettger, Lisa Gaye, Hugh O'Brian, Mara Corday and Jay Silverheels. Music is by Joseph Gershenson and Technicolor cinematography by Harold Lipstein.

    "This is Crown City, born and build on gold mining, but by 1880 about the only gold left was across a near by river in the San Juan Mountains, Ute Indian land. People get desperate when their means of livelihood's cut off, and I was no exception. I'm Gary Brannon, my Dad and me ran a freight outfit."

    There's a reoccurring saying that often crops up when viewing most of Audie Murphy's Westerns, that of them being unassuming afternoon entertainment. Pour yourself a jug of beer or a glass of wine and enjoy the handsome Murphy going about his Oater business with energy and a straight forward willingness to entertain.

    Drums Across the River is a goodie in that context, it also boasts some lovely photography by Lipstein out of California locations that include Barton Flats (San Bernardino Mountains), Burro Flats and Red Rock Canyon. The Technicolor is gorgeous (TV print I saw was very good), with the blues and greens very striking, and the story is interesting as Murphy plays a bigoted young man who finds himself trying to avert a war with the Ute's whilst being framed for robbery himself. Bettger (Union Station) is a more than capable villain, as is the black clad O'Brian (The Lawless Breed), Corday and Gaye are underwritten but a treat for the eyes, and Brennan is the class act that he mostly always is.

    Juran (Gunsmoke) directs without fuss or filler, proving to have a keen eye for action construction as the film is flecked with a number of hand to hand fights, shoot-outs and horse play, and prolific Western scorer Gershenson offers up another in a long line of undervalued genre compliant flavours. The stunt work is also of a high standard, with one particular leap of death truly worthy of high praise, and the story rounds out to put a smile on your face as the last sip of beverage trickles down the throat. Few surprises narratively speaking, and the odd B Western budget error shows its face, but this is a colourful Audie Oater and it's all about enjoying without having to think too hard about it. 7/10
  • Among the two dozen or so westerns Audie Murphy made for Universal Pictures from 1950-1966, DRUMS ACROSS THE RIVER (1954) is one of the better ones, featuring a gold miners-vs.-Indians plot with Audie caught firmly in the middle. It's fast-paced, full of action, and features a host of lively character actors, including some great villains.

    Audie plays a wagon freighter in a Colorado mining town who is, initially, a witting pawn in a plot by a group of Denver mine bosses to stir up trouble with the local Ute Indians in order to get gold concessions on their land. Audie's dad, Sam (Walter Brennan), is a friend of the Indians and, following a shootout with the Utes in which Sam is wounded, Audie meets with the Ute chief (Morris Ankrum) and his son Taos (Jay Silverheels) and negotiates a temporary peace. Unfortunately, the hired guns working for the mine bosses continue to stir things up and force Audie to aid in a stage robbery by abducting his dad and threatening to kill him. When Audie is charged with murder after the robbery, he has to keep quiet to insure Sam's safety. In the final stretch of the movie, Audie has to break free, save his dad, subdue the bad guys, clear himself and avert a battle between Indians and cavalry. The whole story is told in 78 compact minutes.

    Unassuming war hero-turned-western star Murphy was at his best in parts like this, playing an ordinary westerner caught up in a tumultuous situation and having to fight his way out and summon up the moral courage to do the right thing. He always looked best when he faced down truly formidable bad guys and here he faces one of the best western villains of the 1950s. Lyle Bettger, who had one of the most sinister smiles in movie history, specialized in corrupt western capitalists (ranchers, miners, saloon owners, railroad men) who could be utterly smooth and charming one minute and murderously evil the next. Here he's the miners' lead troublemaker and is joined by a great rogues' gallery made up of future TV star Hugh O'Brian as the black-clad Morgan, who also smiles a lot, and a quartet of thugs played by frequent heavies James Anderson, George Wallace, Lane Bradford and former B-western star Bob Steele. In addition, there's Mara Corday as a voluptuous (and very attractive) saloon girl who does some of Bettger's dirty work.

    Walter Brennan is very good in a rare turn as an upright authority figure and father. Jay Silverheels plays a sympathetic Indian and leads a band of Utes who appear to be played predominantly by actual Indians rather than the usual painted-up white extras. The Technicolor film was shot partly on the Universal backlot with some fine location work at key California western sites, including one dramatic desert spot representing the Indians' sacred burial ground. This was director Nathan Juran's third film with Murphy.
  • Drums Across the River concerns freighters Walter Brennan and his son Audie Murphy trying very hard to prevent a full scale Indian war which Lyle Bettger and sidekicks seem bound and determined to start.

    There's some rich mineral deposits on Ute land which is separated by a river boundary. Lyle Bettger plays on the greed of the white folks to invade the Ute treaty land so the government will send in troops to move them.

    Brennan sees the game for what it is, but it takes Murphy a while to come around. When he does he's the heroic Audie we know in most of his B westerns.

    Lots of action and a really nice performance by Jay Silverheels as the young Ute chief. Silverheels was on hiatus from the Lone Ranger and he ought to be remembered for more than just playing Tonto.

    There's also a nice performance by Mara Corday who is Bettger's squeeze and does quite a bit more for him than the usual moll.

    Despite that the film probably suffered from some poor editing and a script in which the character's motivations in doing certain things are a bit vague.

    Nevertheless Drums Across the River has enough action to satisfy any western lover.
  • This unheralded western is a solid yarn about a familiar plot of greedy whites scheming to mine rich gold deposits on Indian land. Audie Murphy's role as an Indian-hating cowboy is a bit out of character for him but he's okay in spite of his clean-cut, easygoing manner. Walter Brennan, a surprise member of the cast, is great in the role of Murphy's father and friend of the Indians. There are nice battles between the cowboys and Indians and the scenery is terrific. Lyle Bettger is the heavy and gives his usual fine performance. Jay Silverheels figures prominently in the picture and is stern but dignified as an Indian chief. Morris Ankrum and Mara Corday are also good in limited roles.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Crown City, Colorado was born and built on gold, but by 1880 the town was tapped out, with the only remaining mineral left to mine located in the San Juan Mountains, right in the middle of Ute Indian Territory. Gary Brannon (Audie Murphy) is on the side of the miners, and wants to see his town survive along with it's citizens. But father Sam (Walter Brennan) has been able to maintain an uneasy peace with the Utes and their Chief Ouray (Morris Ankrum), even after the death of his wife at the hands of a drunken Ute brave. Gary finds it harder to forgive and forget, and would rather consider all Indians his enemy based on the actions of a few.

    Heavy Frank Walker (Lyle Bettger) leads the mining faction and insists on creating havoc with the Indians, finding ways to undo the truce established with the Utes by the elder Brannon. He brings in a black clad gunman named Morgan, enthusiastically portrayed by Hugh O'Brian in an uncharacteristic role. The future TV Wyatt Earp plays his part with gusto until brought down by Gary.

    Ouray's son Taos (Jay Silverheels) becomes Chief when the elder Indian dies, setting the stage for what will figure in the movie's finale. With young Brannon present for the Chief's burial on sacred ground, Taos warns him never to return at the risk of death. Knowing this, and having been framed for murder by Walker, Brannon leads Walker and his men into the sacred mountain area to be ambushed by the Utes, thereby risking his own neck in order to save it.

    In 1954, Jay Silverheels was still in the middle of his co-starring role as Tonto in the Lone Ranger Television Series. In this film though, he's brought to more regal bearing as the Indian Chief Taos, and looks particularly impressive in full war bonnet. For his part, the young Audie Murphy looks a bit out of his element among the heavies of the film, though he manages to prevail against every henchman presented. The film ends with the Utes and the Crown City citizens exchanging mining rights for hunting privileges on each other's side of the mountains, a reasonable enough compromise that probably could have been worked out without the bloodshed, but then, there wouldn't have been a story.
  • A Colorful, Winner Western with Audie Murphy in His Element and a Solid Back-Up Cast including Walter Brennan in an atypical Super Serious Role as Murph's Dad.

    Some Recognizable Bad-Guys including the always Grinning Lyle Bettger, Bob Steele, and Hugh O'Brian as a Psycho Gunslinger. Jay Silverheels and that always Recognizable Voice has a Small but Important Role as an Indian Chief.

    It is quite Striking just how much Plot was Woven into these 80 Minute Westerns, it's just a Treat to Watch it Unfold at a Blistering Pace. The Action Never Lets Up and the Story Layers are Simple and Significant.

    The Movie features that Glorious Technicolor that Drips from the Screen, a Look that has been Lost in Time. Overall, this Cowboys and Indians Movie is the Stuff that made Saturday Matinees the Favorite Spot for Kids of the Fifties.

    Downtown at the Movie Palace there were Western and Sci-/Horror Entertainment along with Color Cartoons, and Short Subjects and the Kids were there because that was where it was at, through the 1950's.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    As this film opens with Gary Brannon preparing to lead a group of men in to the San Juan Mountains; the mountains are the territory of the Ute Indians but with no other gold left near the mining town of Crown City people are prepared to take a chance and cross the river into the San Juans. Gary's father tries to persuade him not to go but he ignores him; shortly after the group leaves his father is attacked; that doesn't stop him heading after the group though. They don't get far into Ute territory before they get jumped and one of the group is captured. Gary captures an Indian and thanks to his father's negotiating they trade him for the captured man. This wasn't what Walker, the man who hired Gary wanted... he wanted to ferment a war with the Indians so that the army could be called in to force them off their land and into a reservation. To this end he and his men open fire on the departing Indians killing many of them. A war seems inevitable but Gary goes to the Indians alone and talks to the new chief; it looks like he has established a peace but Walker hasn't given up yet. He has a second plan that will frame the Brannon's for a robbery and make it look as though they were working with the Utes... Gary will have his work cut out if he is to save his father, avoid getting hanged and prevent a war!

    This is another solid western staring Audie Murphy; as usual he does a fine job as the hero. His character is given a bit of depth by the fact that he can't forgive the Utes because one of them killed his mother; we later learn that the killer was the chief's son and the chief had him killed for his crime... of course Gary comes to see that he can't judge a people by the actions of one man and comes to respect them. The bad guys are suitably villainous; Lyle Bettger does a decent job as the devious Walker and Hugh O'Brian is menacing as the hired gun Morgan. Director Nathan Juran kept the action going nicely with fistfights, shootouts and villains being dragged behind Indian horses. Filmed in California, as were so many B Westerns, rather than in Colorado the film still looks good with some spectacular scenery shot in vivid Technicolor. While this isn't a classic I'm sure fans of the genre will enjoy it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Drums Across the River" is another of the excellent 80 minute Audie Murphy westerns turned out by Universal in the 1950s. This one has a fine supporting cast filled with recognizable faces.

    The story in brief has all of the gold mines around Crown City Colorado being played out and the only way to save the town is to cross the river into Ute Indian lands and mine the gold found there. Gary Brannon (Murphy) is conned into helping unscrupulous townsman Frank Walker (Lyle Bettger) convince the town elders to support a trek across the river into Indian lands. Gary's father Sam (Walter Brennan) tries to prevent him.

    After the group crosses the river Walker along with his two brothers (James Anderson, George Wallace) and the Costa brothers (Bob Steele, Lane Bradford) incite an attack on the Indians sent to stop them. Townsman Nathan Marlowe (Emil Meyer) is captured by the Utes. An Indian brave is also captured by Gary and an exchange is arranged. Sam having been wounded allows Gary to go in his place to the Indian village.

    Meanwhile Frank Walker sends for all in black gunman Morgan (Hugh O'Brian) to assist him. Later, Walker stages an "Indian attack" on the stage where a gold shipment is stolen. Gary gets blamed for the resulting deaths and ends up being tried for murder. In bargaining for his life, Gary agrees to lead the bad guys to the gold but..............

    Others appearing in the cast include Lisa Gaye as the good girl, Mara Corday as the bad girl, Morris Ankrum as the dying Chief, Chief Yowlachie as the Ute Medicine Man, Howard McNear as townsman Stillwell, Regis Toomey as the town Sheriff and Robert Bray and Edmund Cobb in other roles.

    Audie Murphy was a better actor than most give him credit for. His portrayal of the prejudiced Gary is quite good. Brennan has a few good moments in the early part of the film but is tied up for most of the second half. Lyle Bettger was one of the best of the smooth talking villains of the 50s. He would appear with Murphy again in "Destry" the following year. Bob Steele and Lane Bradford, veterans of the "B" westerns of the 40s have hardly any lines although Steele gets to work Brennan over and has a campfire fight with Murphy.

    One of the better Murphy westerns.
  • An Audie Murphy western from 1954. A father/son transpo enterprise are hired to bring a shipment of gold to an embattled location where the Ute Indians hold a tenuous truce w/the passersby. Murphy & Western vet Walter Brennan play the business owners & what they don't know is there are outside forces at play hoping that a war will ignite between the white man & the native peoples so that the Ute's land can be properly exploited. Brennan is hurt in an early skirmish so its up to Murphy to smoke the peace pipe, as it were, w/the Indian elder but he carries a deep seated grudge against them since the chief's son caused the death of his mother. Being a film on the cusp of being truly great & memorable, it's a shame some of the individual elements are glossed over (something a more insightful director may've focused on) so that finish line could be crossed at the 90 minute mark. Look for Jay Silverheels (TV's Tonto from the Lone Ranger series of the 50's) in a pivotal role as the chief's son.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Director: NATHAN JURAN. Screenplay: John K. Butler, Lawrence Roman. Story: John K. Butler. Photographed in Technicolor by Harold Lipstein. Film editor: Virgil Vogel. Art directors: Bernard Herzbrun and Richard H. Riedel. Set decorators: Russell A. Gausman and Julia Heron. Costumes: Jay Morley. Make-up: Bud Westmore. Hair styles: Joan St Oegger. Assistant director: Tom Shaw. Sound recording: Leslie I. Carey and Richard DeWeese. Producer: Melville Tucker.

    Copyright 11 May 1954 by Universal Pictures Co, inc. A Universal- International picture. No New York opening. U.S. release: 1 June 1954. U.K. release through G.F.D. on the lower half of a double bill: 2 October 1954. Australian release: 10 December 1954. 6,913 feet. 77 minutes.

    SYNOPSIS: A villainous white man tries to stir up an Indian war for his own commercial advantage.

    COMMENT: Very attractively photographed. The studio night scenes particularly appeal. The camera-work reveals a dramatic depth of creative composition not usually associated with the work of Nathan Juran (though the man is a former art director after all).

    A few other inventive touches like the track ahead to the tree stump and the constantly clever use of pans in establishing shots, lend Mr Juran's direction even added luster and style. The exteriors are equally impressive. In fact, production values generally — even though lumbered with one or two obvious stock shots — are of an unusually high order.

    Unfortunately, the script and most of the players are something else again. The story is almost an entry in the unusual alliances cycle, except that this device is not over-emphasized in the manner of many later movies. Lyle Bettger, as usual, shines as the smiling heavy.

    It's also great to find Bob Steele in a meaty role as a bad-favored henchman. But Lisa Gaye makes a ridiculous if well-proportioned heroine, whilst Mara Corday is only slightly more credible as Bettger's moll. Still, neither girl has much of a part.

    "Drums Across the River" boasts enough action to satisfy the fans, even if the doubles do all the work.
  • sandcrab2779 September 2018
    Like every film he was ever in, lyle bettger definitely portrays the image of slime ... he oozes it from start to finish ... if you ever need a slime ball, then hire him