Another trip to the movies, courtesy of Mr. Dale Goble...
WAR DRUMS (1957) Ben Johnson, Joan Taylor, Lex Barker.
Okay, somebody tell me why didn't Ben Johnson never become a leading western star? Damn. Here he loses the girl to a wild Injun, played by Tarzan. I guess he needed better scripts. The guy who wrote this also wrote the screenplay for THE BIG STEAL. This is not in that league. But it is interesting, in spite of my frustration about Ben Johnson.
Lex Barker is the Apache chief Mangas. He doesn't become Mangas Coloradas until late in the film, a clever plot device. He is the noble savage, and friends with Luke Fargo, a friendly trader who respects the Indians and their ways. (With screen names like Luke Fargo, no wonder Johnson never made it to the Bigs.) Enter trouble, in the guise of Riva, a Mexican maiden (?) played by Joan Taylor. She is rescued from captivity by evil Mexicanos into captivity by Mangas. Luke Fargo is smitten with her. He tries to buy her from Mangas, to make her his wife. She seems okay with the deal, but Mangas declines. Back in the Injun camp, Mangas declares that they will marry. Riva acquiesces only after Mangas agrees that she will be a fellow warrior and not a stay-at-home squaw. She learns to hunt and fight and wear a push-up bra. Everyone is happy but Luke Fargo, but he's too nice a guy to make a fuss.
Then some shit happens: Gold is discovered, the Civil War, nose-rubbing. Mangas is captured by villainous bad guys, gets horse-whipped and gives up his peaceable ways. (Peaceable to everyone but the Mexicanos. It is always open season on Mexicanos for the Apache.) Mangas paints for war. (Did Apaches paint for war?) It's all a big misunderstanding, but people get killed, and so forth and so on. Luke Fargo, now a Captain of cavalry, rides out to do what he can. Big battle.
I wouldn't depend on this very heavily as a history lesson. It's not big on battle scenes either. The love story is semi-tragic but otherwise rather lame. Mangas wears his pants up to his armpits. Ben Johnson gets shafted again, but not by the Injuns. The scenery is good. Everyone wears clean, new clothes. It's in Technicolor. The horses are not named. The smoke signals are really badly done. No microphone booms or airplanes appear. Not awful. -Gobe