In this variant of The Searchers (1956), a tough frontier trapper tracks the young Cheyenne warrior who kidnapped his daughter.In this variant of The Searchers (1956), a tough frontier trapper tracks the young Cheyenne warrior who kidnapped his daughter.In this variant of The Searchers (1956), a tough frontier trapper tracks the young Cheyenne warrior who kidnapped his daughter.
While the plot is reminiscent of 1956's "The Searchers," it's different enough to not be a rip-off. "Grayeagle" may be far from a big-budget Western, like "The Searchers," but I like it better. It genuinely surprised me for a number of reasons. For one, it's not a typical Western; it's just as much a Native American film as it is a cowboy/settler Western; and the Natives are portrayed quite well, considering the time period.
Secondly, everything about the movie is over-the-top, like the acting, the (melo)drama and the blaring score. Speaking of the score, it plays like the bombastic music of the original Star Trek TV series, but updated to the mid-70s and fitted for a Western. It's quite good, sometimes even moving, albeit decidedly dated.
The plot similarities to "The Searchers" is interesting in that Lana Wood's sister, Natalie, played the kidnapped girl in that film. Speaking of Lana, she's just gorgeous. You might remember her as Bond girl Plenty O'Toole in 1971's "Diamonds are Forever."
The annoying, half-crazy character Bugler was played by the director, Charles B. Pierce, who made the similar "Winterhawk" (1975). You might remember Iron Eyes Cody (aka Standing Bear) as the American Indian shedding a tear about litter in one of the America's most famous television public service announcements, "Keep America Beautiful," from the early 70s. While Cody certainly looked Native American and claimed his father was Cherokee (and his mother Cree), he offered conflicting data on his heritage. Evidence shows that he was a 2nd generation Italian-American based on an interview with his half-sister and documents, which included a baptismal record. But Cody denied the claim. He was likely part Native, but who knows?
Shot in the Helena National Forest Northeast of Helena, Montana, the landscapes are picturesque. "Grayeagle" is full of gusto and reminiscent of the later "The Mountain Men" (1980). It must be respected because the creators gave it their all to entertain the viewer; in fact, I include it on my hallowed "Favorite Westerns" list, perhaps as more of a guilty pleasure since the flick is so overdone that it sometimes borders on ridiculous. So I can see why some people don't like it. While it's often supremely entertaining, the sacred words are fitting: "Just because you like a movie doesn't mean it's good."
THE FILM RUNS 104 minutes.
GRADE: B/B- (6.5/10)
- Dec 18, 2014