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  • Warning: Spoilers
    John Payne's character spouts all the native Indian racist and anti-feminist diatribes he can muster in this wild west actioner taking place on a pack train to Santa Fe. Kirby Randolph (Payne) and his partner Sam (Slim Pickens) look to redeem themselves from a prior scouting job that ended in disaster for settlers on a wagon train passing through Cottonwood Draw. This might be the first time I've seen an Indian tribe actually get drunk on screen, as Randloph's attempt to placate Chief Satank (George Keymas) only gets him fired up for revenge.

    Credit the film makers with a significant historically accurate scene in which the main street of a Western town consists of about six inches of mud. You get to hear Payne in his role as the wagon scout refer to men required for point, swing, and drag duty. The film also has a great action scene involving a horse stampede that threatens the Griswold party, full of colorful sequences and quite well done.

    At the center of the story lies a romantic triangle involving Randolph, his boss Griswold (Rod Cameron) and Griwswold's partner and expected future wife Aurelie St. Clair (Faith Domergue). The revelation of St. Clair's heritage as daughter of a Kiowa mother brings out a few more Injun clichés before the story's progress brings Randolph full circle in his thinking about accepting individuals on their own merits. By the time the Kiowa's make their final attack, Randolph can say "I won't have a squaw who won't take orders" with a nod, nod, wink, wink, and have St. Clair accept it with an understanding smile.

    The one thing that kept distracting me though was the casting of Irene Tedrow as St. Clair's aide Ptewaquin. I never quite caught on that she would figure in one of the story's twist endings, probably because I kept trying to figure out where I'd seen her before. Checking out her career credits, now I know.

    Best line of the picture - Satank describes the Mexican Chavez (Anthony Caruso), ally of Griswold - "Don't like him, stink too much, like dead buffalo." It conjures up as colorful a picture as the traitor McLawery (Leo Gordon) winding up as buzzard bait.
  • Once again, Republic Studio brings together a great cast in a superior Western tale. Payne is the discredited scout, Pickens his side-kick, hired to guide a wagon full of guns through hostile Indian territory. As the action unfolds, Payne must overcome the hostiles, gun-runners and his own prejudice to win out. There is a lot of suspense here, and never a dull moment. An excellent watch!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Managing to be both standard and unusual at the same time, this western should entertain most viewers for its 91 minute running time. Payne plays a trail scout who, with his sidekick Pickens, helps wagon trains cross hostile Indian territory. After one of his jobs goes horribly wrong, he has trouble finding work until Cameron hires him to assist his team of packhorses (and three wagons) on a drive to Santa Fe. Also on the trip is tough, skeptical Gordon as the trail boss and Domergue, who plays Cameron's girlfriend and owner of the cargo being transported. Domergue has an Indian companion (Tedrow!) who combs her hair and gets her gussied up each night at camp in one pretty gown after another. Before long, a love triangle develops between Payne, Domergue and Cameron, with Domergue harboring a shameful secret. Meanwhile, the Indians (led by chief Keymas) try everything they can think of to destroy and loot the wagon train. Some of the usual "Pioneers versus the Indians" clichés are touched on here, but the film does have more than a few unique and interesting touches. (It must have the most authentically muddy city streets of any film from this period.) It's also quite picturesque and relatively full of action and interest. Payne does a decent job and shows off a still fit and trim physique (in a memorably uncomfortable scene involving being caught in his drawers by Domergue.) Domergue, outfitted with some distracting and anachronistic earrings, is also strong in her role, though her storyline borders on the preposterous. Cameron, who at 6'5" towers over everyone (making even 6 foot tall Payne seem diminutive!), is solid and tough throughout. He has a memorable scene involving the handling of a traitor. Pickens is authentic and mildly entertaining in his sidekick role. What really sends this flick into Bizarro-Land is the presence of Tedrow as an old Indian squaw. Stone-faced, smeared with tan Ben Nye make-up, borrowing Groucho Marx's eyebrows and speaking in a tone 3 octaves lower than usual, she is hysterically funny. Best of all is when she comes alive near the end of the film and turns into a knife-wielding Super Squaw, running at the speed of light, fiercely riding a horse and taking part in skirmishes with her enemies! No viewer of Tedrow as Miss Lucy Elkins on "Dennis the Menace" could ever have envisioned that she once played this role in a movie! The viewpoint towards Native Americans in the film is mostly the standard unsympathetic one of this time with some exceptions. Keymas is wounded at one point and sports some hilariously unconvincing injury makeup. One memorable sequence involves a very dusty pony stampede and the attempts to divert it. There's also a big "twist" ending that is completely discernible within the first 15 minutes of the film. It's a familiar type of tale, but one told with a diverse cast, lots of activity and some edge in the story and direction.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Perhaps most interesting about this memorable B+ western is that it's the only Republic color western that doesn't look like a Republic color western - meaning that their usual color film stock, which makes everything appear to be a bizarre blend of soft blues and hot pinks, is not what we see. Rather, this looks (and feels) like one of oaters that Columbia Studios churned out at that time, particularly in terms of the color stock that was employed, and the only dead give away that this is indeed from Republic is the presence of Rod Cameron, one of their stock company members, as the second male lead who veers back and forth between being an okay fellow and a total villain, adding a patina of interest to the characterization. The plot itself is quite fascinating: John Payne plays a frontier scout who, along with his gruff sidekick (Slim Pickens), was disgraced when he tried to trick some Indians into letting his wagon train through hostile territory and inadvertently got the pioneers massacred. No one will hire him until he gets a job with a 'questionable' train run by Cameron and a gorgeous woman (Faith Domergue). Cameron wants to marry her, and doesn't care one whit that she's a halfbreed. But Payne, who has developed a fierce and vicious prejudice against all Indians owing to the despoiling of his reputation, fumes at her racial background - even as he too falls in love with her, creating an intriguing romantic triangle. Ultra PC types might mistake this for a racist western, though in truth its anti-western, as the hero arcs away from his own absurd prejudices and comes to accept her as a person. Slim Pickens is, as always, a joy to watch, particularly when high atop his bucking mule that would also be used in Walt Disney's THE SAGA OF ANDY BURNETT two years later. Terrific skirmishes with the Indian warriors, all of them well staged by William Witney, an old hand at above average B westerns.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Although this is director William Witney's best film, it seems to have been overlooked by most critics, including Paul Simpson who doesn't even mention Witney at all in his "Rough Guide to Westerns" (2006). Witney was the guy who turned Roy Rogers from a singing clothes horse into a tough hell-fighting hero. This film, however, stars John Payne, then at the height of his box office appeal, thanks to vigorous promoting by Howard Hughes at RKO. Yet somehow the Payne name didn't work its usual magic. In fact, the movie suffered a bad break right from the beginning. Although it was made on an "A" budget, it wasn't even released in New York. Consequently, no reviews from the country's most prestigious critics. Even a thumbs down collection of reviews from New York is better than no reviews at all. Anyway, although there are a few obvious studio scenes, this little gem was photographed for the most part on actual locations in Utah. Director Witney and his photographer make such atmospheric use of desert browns and reds sharply outlined against powerful blue skylines, the film is always a wonder to look at. It's chock full of action and great stunts (never mind that some of the stunt players are a little too obvious at times), but nevertheless directed with a bit of style as well as pace and vigor. The interesting support cast lines up Rod Cameron – playing the heavy for once – and Leo Gordon giving his usual vigorous study in villainy. No expense was spared on full throttle running inserts for the action spots. At 90 minutes, the movie is maybe a bit talky, and the plot is pretty predictable. But all the same, it's entertaining, exciting, and great to look at. Based on an Esquire magazine story.
  • A scout with a questionable reputation guides a wagon train through hostile Indian country in an okay but predictable western. John Payne and Rod Cameron are the top cast names and their main interest here is a half-breed girl as the train makes its way to Santa Fe. Good support is given by Slim Pickens, Anthony Caruso and Leo Gordon, old hands in the western genre, and Faith Domergue does what she can with a one-dimensional role. The action is decent and a wild horse stampede adds excitement to the film but otherwise there's nothing about the movie that separates it from dozens of others of its type. The picture has beautiful camera work and displays pretty Utah landscapes to good advantage. The film was based on a novel by Clay Fisher who had some of his other works made into excellent westerns.
  • While leading a wagon-train through Indian territory, "Kirby Randolph" (John Payne) attempts to prevent an attack upon his people by negotiating with the Kiowa chief named "Satank" (George Keymas). What he doesn't know is that Satank has already sent his braves to attack the wagon-train and is essentially stringing Kirby along. Not long afterward Kirby is told that all but a very few people on the wagon-train were murdered. To make matters worse Kirby's reputation is completely destroyed and nobody wants to hire him any more. Fortunately, his luck changes for the better when he comes across a wagon-train in desperate need of a scout. What he doesn't know is that this particular wagon-train is carrying rifles to the Mexican Army and that the Kiowas know about it and want them very badly. Complicating matters even further is an attractive woman named "Aurelie St. Clair" (Faith Domergue) in this wagon-train who the wagon master "Jess Griswold" (Rod Cameron) is in love with and begins to get jealous of Kirby the longer the trip to Santa Fe lasts. Now rather than reveal any more of this movie and risk spoiling it for those who haven't seen it I will just say that, although there was an obvious "anti-racism message" in this film, it was still enjoyable for the most part. The sad fact is that the 50's had its share of problems and racial injustice was just beginning to become recognized. Be that as it may, I liked this film overall and rate it as slightly above average.
  • John Payne plays Kirby Randolph, a disgraced Indian scout who along with his trusty side-kick Sam Beekman (Slim Pickens) finally gets hired by Aurelie St. Clair (Faith Domergue) & Jess Griswold (Rod Cameron) to escort a wagon load of guns through Indian territory. With the past hanging over him like a bad smell and the Indians on their trail, the last thing Kirby needs is Aurelie catching his eye. Especially since she's Griswold's girl. This is sure to be one perilous and life changing journey.

    There's a lot of common words been used in reviews for this William Witney directed film. Routine, different, exciting, boring & unusual, all of which proves just how divisive cinema can be. Adapted by Lillie Hayward from an Esquire Magazine story written by Heck Allen, Santa Fe Passage is out of Republic Pictures and is shot in the Trucolor process on location at St. George, Utah {Bud Thackery photographs}. Personally speaking I found the film something of a chore to get thru, which in a Western that has a high action quota is some what surprising to me. A lot of it can be put down to the wooden acting from the principals and the rather bland screenplay.

    Payne never convinced in Western's, and here he is showed up by the reliable Pickens. In fact ex-convict Leo Gordon who is also in the piece would probably have been a better choice for the lead role of Kirby! Domergue is a picture of doe eyed sexuality, her engaging features benefiting from one of Republic's better color prints, but she struggles with the meandering script and looks bored in love scenes with old stiff Payne. Worst of the bunch tho is Irene Tedrow as squaw Ptewaquin, if you manage not to laugh then you deserve a medal.

    The failings in the cast are a shame because Witney manfully does a good job with the action. A horse stampede and two Indian attacks are real entertaining highlights fit to be in some other higher budgeted Western. But then the focus has to revert back to uninteresting characters being given uninteresting portrayals. It's clear what the makers were trying to do. The old Anti-Western/Anti-Racist core to be mixed with action and a potential complex love triangle, looks good on paper. But when you come out of the film only remembering Domergue's green eyes and an unintentional comedy squaw character, well you got problems. A creaky 4/10 from me.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a Republic Pictures production, filmed in Trucolor, mainly in various parts of AZ and UT, with mostly dry rocky backgrounds, supposedly on the Santa Fe trail, which crossed the plains of Kansas, to NM. It concerns a wagon train scout(John Payne as Kirby) and his partner Sam(Slim Pickens), who are responsible for protecting two wagon trains, which are in grave danger of being attacked by Kiowa, lead by Chief Satank(Sitting Bear)(George Keymas). Incidentally, Satank was a famous historical Kiowa chief, famed as a fierce warrior in battles with various surrounding tribes early in his career, later switching mostly to fighting white settlers, wagon trains, and even army posts. before being arrested for murder.

    Aside from interactions between the wagon trains and Kiowa , the plot emphasizes a developing love triangle between Kirby, a woman called Aurelie(Faith Domergue) and the organizer of the wagon train(Rod Cameron, as Jess Griswold). Initially, Aurelie was opposed to choosing the duo as their scouts, because the last wagon they scouted for was ambushed and annihilated by Kiowa, while Kirby was negotiating with Santank elsewhere. However, when Kirby saved her from sever burns when her skirt caught fire, by smothering it, she changed her attitude toward him, and they began a romantic relationship. However, Griswold, who also had a romantic interest in her, threw cold water on their relationship by telling Kirby that she was a Kiowa half breed. Kirby had previously said that he hated all Indians, and especially half breeds. Thus, Kirby was cool toward Aurelie for a while. But, especially after her mother saved his life in a knife fight with Satank, he warmed up again. He came to understand that not all Kiowa were murdering madmen. Meanwhile, Griswold had asked Aurelie to be his wife. She gave him a non-committal answer each time. Not apparent why. Kirby and Griswold have a physical fight over Aurelie, rolling down a steep slope, until Griswold drops off a short ledge, breaking his leg. This would prove fatal, as the Kiowa warriors swarmed over him after Kirby and Aurelia rode off, as he requested.

    Aside from the climactic battle between the Kiowa and wagoneers, perhaps the most exciting episode is the stampeding horses the Kiowa drove toward the wagon train, in a draw. Kirby directs the wagons and pack animals to get out of the way of the probable path of the horses, so that only minor damaged resulted.

    Available in color at YouTube.
  • sandcrab21 July 2003
    Why Payne is in any western is the question. Rod Cameron is clearly suited to perform both roles at the same time. The guy that played the indian chief Satang was also totally unbelieveable. I like my westerns with less wimps. This reminds me of several other that were miscast because the producer wanted to star in a western. Willie Nelson comes to mind.
  • Some rather questionable character motivations make this particular Republic western something of a mixed bag for me. John Payne's dislike of Indians and his distrust of mixed blood people make it a rough road in courting Faith Domergue who is half Indian.

    Santa Fe Passage casts John Payne as a frontier scout who lost his last wagon train going to Santa Fe because of some bad judgment he made about the Kiowas and their chief. Now he and sidekick Slim Pickens can't get a job in their profession and have a lot of people ready to shoot them on sight.

    That is until Domergue and her partner Rod Cameron hire them over the objections of Leo Gordon their trail boss. They're taking a shipment of rifles to Mexico for sale and of course that perks up interest among the Kiowas.

    There was a little too much doublecrossing and all the males of the cast Payne, Cameron, and Gordon are thinking with their male members and truly beyond reason. Even Slim Pickens gives Domergue more than a second glance. The plot made little sense to me, but the action was pretty good.
  • A strikingly photographed but also strikingly ordinary western. Payne leads a cattle drive through 'Injun' territory. Do you reckon they're going to let him through peacefully? It's admittedly never short on action, but such trifle now seems more than a bit outré considering the contemporarily modish spate of 'be nice to Indians' Westerns. Fair to say though, that even though 'Broken Arrow' had set such a trend 5 year back, traditional Western audiences regarded the concept with less-than macromolecular significance. With Faith Domergue being typically insipid (This Island Earth was still one year off), but looking as if she thinks she deserves to be paid like Barbara Stanwyck.
  • fredcdobbs510 February 2016
    Disgraced Indian scout and his sidekick lead a wagon train carrying freight through Kiowa country to Mexico. John Payne is the scout, Slim Pickens is his sidekick and Rod Cameron and Faith Domergue are the wagon train "bosses". Director William Witney was an expert at making tight, fast-moving westerns, but he had a bad day here. Except for a well-handled wild-horse stampede and a couple of slightly less well-handled Indian attacks, this picture moves like molasses, with performances ranging from enjoyable (Pickens) to stiff (Cameron) to indifferent (Domergue) to awful (Irene Tedrow as a Kiowa "squaw" accompanying Domergue on the train). Payne looks like he'd rather be somewhere else and doesn't connect at all with Domergue, his ostensible love interest. Only Pickens and Leo Gordon as a villainous (what else?) trail boss manage to breathe any life into their characters, and the script holds no surprises for anyone (especially the "twist" ending). An OK time-waster, that's about all.