28 May 2007 | lost-in-limbo
Looks like an even battle on both fronts.
Lieutenant McAllister and a raw recruit of soldiers have to travel through Apache territory to deliver some much need ammunition to the awaiting Fort Conchos. Scout Jess Remsberg tags along with revenge on mind and horse broker / former trooper Toller who unwillingly receives an order to ride with them to finish off breaking the horses, if he wants the rest of his money. However McAllister and his small party find themselves trying to survive an Apache onslaught led by Chata, as the lady Ellen Grange that Jess rescued from the Apaches has something of importance to the chief.
A competently well-made and satisfying western that's highlighted by the prominent cast and exhilaratingly taut and unsparing action sequences. Ralph Nelson smoothly paces this drum-beating foray, with its adeptly bold and old-fashioned direction. His professional touch lifts the screenplay. Going a long way to giving it a real bravado feel amongst the gritty, dusty and sprawling rocky terrain, which is masterfully framed with a lot of ticker and claustrophobic channelling by cinematography Charles F. Wheeler. The main feature of the film that strikes a chord, has got to be composer Neal Hefti's effectively novel, melodic score that seems to match and illustrate the sequences and overall feel rather well, despite the uncanny tone for this type of film. I found the dynamic cues to be rather contagious. Albert and Michael M. Grilikhes' open screenplay (which is based on the Marvin Albert's novel, "Apache Rising") is pretty much to the point and a little lacking by simply going through the motions. But even with those vague moments, it still thrives on well-rounded dialogues from its sturdy script. In there are configurations of racism, and the unfair treatment of the Indians, but it's the personal confrontations and torment that makes for one gruelling exercise. It never lets any of this get carried away, but the starkly harsh nature stays throughout. The performances are richly devised, to stew up depth and realism due more to their favourable acting than in the way of the material. James Garner's winningly focused performance as rugged, seldom Jess is first-rate. Sidney Poitier classy turn as Toller is a different stroke and admirably good one. Bill Travers' growing performance is very strong and humane. Dennis Weaver eclectically solid. Bibi Andersson was mildly okay, but was hindered and the modest John Hoyt didn't see enough time as Chata.
Dated, but a well handled, compelling and tough as nails western, which finally shines through.