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USA 1951
Directed by
Gordon Douglas
105 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars

Only The Valiant

Gregory Peck is mis-cast in this tedious Western about a by-the-book army Captain and a group of rag-tag soldiers holding off a horde of Apache warriors who are intent in wiping out their beleaguered post. The supposed dramatic interest turns on the fact that when Captain Richard Lance (Peck) is mis-understood by his men and love interest (Barbara Payton) for having issued an order that results in the death of his best friend (Gig Young) and rival for the former’s hand, he is too proud to explain to anyone that it was not only not his doing but that he unsuccessfully protested against it.

Henry Fonda or John Wayne, for different reasons, could bring off this kind of honourable perversity but Peck has far too rational a persona to let everything go to hell for the sake of an empty principle. He then picks a group of bad-ass soldiers à la The Dirty Dozen, most of whom hate him and leads them on a “suicide mission” to protect the fort.

If the rag-tag group of soldiers, including Ward Bond, unusually, playing a Victor McLaglen-type whiskey-drinkin’ Irishman and  Lon Chaney Jr as an A-rab, certainly an unusual character in a Western are two-dimensional the Injuns are faceless fodder for the guns of the White Man, in the final showdown, which recalls the thematically similar Zulu, 1964, being mown down en masse by a Gatling gun).

If the film is a dud dramatically it is also, poorly made with studio director Gordon Douglas mechanically realizing the equally mechanical script by Edmund North and Harry Brown. The tacky, papier maché sets hidden frequently by low-level lighting which keeps the actors in obscurity a good deal of the time are indicative of the lack of quality, that blights this film.

FYI: Whilst Peck apparently and deservedly regarded this as his "least admirable" film it was a career high for Barbara Payton, with whom Peck had a fling during its making. A casualty of the Hollywood high life, she made a few more low budget films before disappearing from the limelight and into a life of petty crime. She died of heart and liver failure in 1967




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