19 September 2003 | django-1
impressive German "Winnetou" western, w/ Stewart Granger instead of Lex Barker
RAMPAGE AT APACHE WELLS played theatrically in the US and used to get a lot of TV play as late as 1991. Its popularity is not hard to understand. Like all of the German-made westerns from the "winnetou" cycle, based on the literary works of Karl May (this one from his novel The Oil Prince, which IS available in an in-print English translation for those so inclined), this is well-mounted, beautifully photographed, beautifully scored, and well-acted. As I remember, Lex Barker made SIX films in the role of Old Shatterhand, Stewart Granger made two in the role of Old Surehand, and Rod Cameron made one in the role of Old Firehand (and I have not seen the latter...). As rugged and manly as Barker was, Granger also does well with the role, bringing his own unique humor and elegance to the character. If only he had made more of these! One surprising appearance here is Terence Hill (under his real name, Mario Girotti) as a complex, not-really-admirable character who grows throughout the film and sees the error of his ways. Hill plays the snivelling role convincingly, and he will be a surprise to those who only know his later heroic and comedy roles. Another interesting aspect of this film (more evident in the novels than in most of the films) is the details about German immigrants in America. As I live in South Texas, I live near some of the German settlements of the 1800s and have learned about the history of Germans in Texas-- it's interesting to see particularly German qualities in some of the settlers instead of just making them generic Anglo settlers. Of course, I don't go to films like this (or any film) for detailed history, but the particularity has a interesting flavor to it. The late Stewart Granger was a man with real star quality, with a charm and wit and elegance that is seen in every frame. While he camps it up in some of his European work of the 1960s (although always in an entertaining manner!), he certainly took the role of Old Surehand seriously. He is a nice mesh with Pierre Brice's warm but stoic interpretation of the Winnetou character. The film also has a full array of colorful supporting characters. Overall, while this may not have the depth or philosophical profundity of the finest Italian Westerns, it is a satisfying, impressively mounted Western that fires on all cylinders and deserves wider fame.