APACHE WAR SMOKE
US, 1952, 67 minutes, Black and white.
Gilbert Roland, Glenda Farrell, Robert Horton, Barbara Ruick, Gene Lockhart, Harry Morgan.
Directed by Harold F. Kress.
Apache War Smoke is an MGM supporting feature of 1952 – although, in theme, in technique, it could have been made twenty years earlier. The film was directed by Harold F. Kress, one of the few films he made as director whereas he had won Oscars for editing for How The West Was Won and The Towering Inferno. The film is rather static in its presentation of characters and events, an unmoving camera – except when tracking the Indians on horseback.
Gilbert Roland had been a top actor for some decades and is at home in the role of the Mexican outlaw, Peso. Glenda Farrell, a star of the 30s, is the frontier woman. Robert Horton is the craggy hero, the son of the outlaw. Character actors like Gene Lockhart, Harry Morgan and Douglass Dumbrille feature in the supporting cast.
The film was based on a story by Ernest Haycox who had written the original Stage Coach for John Ford. This film has a stage coach, with a range of motley characters, who find themselves at a post and besieged by Indians. They suspect that the blame is on the outlaw for killing some of the Indians – whereas, it is another outlaw who confronts Peso, wants him to go out to give himself to the Indians – but the roles are reversed and Peso sends him out where he is killed and the Indians move away.
There are the usual themes of the military outpost, the trade outpost, the stage coaches and the transport of gold, the role of the military (with the major going out to try to make peace with the Indians but failing). There are also Mexican families, some jealousy in romance, the love story.
Gilbert Roland is a kind of laughing hero, swaggering through the film – but, finally making a heroic gesture which actually may mean that he wants to rob the gold after all.
A slight western – not so sympathetic to the Indians as were the films that were beginning to emerge around 1950 including Devil’s Doorway, Broken Arrow.