A bit creaky
Harold Ueberroth was a photographic model in Chicago whose good looks got him work in Hollywood in the late 1930s, as Alan Curtis. He won the third-billed part after Bogart and Lupino in Warners’ High Sierra, led as Franz Schubert in New Wine, and was quite popular all through the 40s. He didn’t do many Westerns: he headed the cast as Emmett Dalton in Universal’s The Daltons Ride Again in 1945 but it was rather downhill after that. He descended to two very low-budget oaters for Lippert, co-starring with Ann Savage in Renegade Girl and leading in Apache Chief, his last Western. It was almost his last film: after Apache Chief it was off to Europe to do a couple of historical dramas. He died after a routine operation in 1953, aged only 41.
To be brutally frank, Apache Chief was rather scraping the barrel. Directed by Frank McDonald, who had worked for most of the studios at one time or another, grinding out Gene Autry and Roy Rogers oaters at Republic especially, and written, clunkily, by producers George D Green and Leonard S Picker (you probably say, who?), it was a 59-minute black & white second feature shot up at Corriganville and made on a shoestring. It used Lippert’s trumpeted ‘Garutso Balanced Lens’ which supposedly gave a 3D effect but that certainly isn’t noticeable now.
There’s a rather annoying overly-sonorous voiceover narration by Reed Hadley which emphasizes the wrongness of taking the warpath against the white man. It opens with an old Apache talking to a young boy, then the screen goes all fuzzy, you know how they do, and we go into flashback mode to tell the tale.
Talking of Fuzzy, he (Fuzzy Knight) provides the comic relief (rather needed, it must be said) as an army sergeant, boasting of his deep knowledge of Indians while clearly being entirely ignorant of the subject.
It’s one of those standard plots in which a wise and statesmanlike chief, this time Trevor Bardette, wants peace with the White Eyes but has to deal with a young firebrand – Russell Hayden as Black Wolf – who is all for the warpath.
Chief Big Crow (Bardette) is advised sagely by his medicine man Mohaska (good old Francis McDonald) who has a pretty daughter, Watona (Carol Thurston, small parts in seven Westerns) who is lusted after by both bad guy Black Wolf and by the chief’s son, noble and brave Young Eagle (Curtis). Which one shall win her hand? Well, I’ll give you three guesses.
These Apaches are therefore played by white actors, as was normal, of course.
There’s a lot of plot crammed into the hour, with much skullduggery and not a few hand-to-hand combats. Black Wolf murders the peaceable chief and urges war. “We will avenge Sand Creek,” he says. Why the Apaches would want revenge for an 1864 attack on a Cheyenne village isn’t quite clear.
There’s a colorized version these days in which the Apaches have sashes and headbands in a rather fetching shade of salmon pink.
The cavalry colonel (Roy Gordon) only has six men in his regiment, budget constraints being what they were. Oh well. Second-billed Tom Neal is the lieutenant.
Rodd Redwing is an Indian, grandly billed as Roderic Redwing.
The whole thing creaks, I fear, as it plods along. At the end the screen goes all fuzzy again and we return to the old gent spinning tales to the young ‘un. The End.
In German it was Adlerauge, der tapfere Sioux. Well, Apaches, Sioux, they’re all Indians, ain’t they? I mean, Sie sind alle Indianer, nicht wahr?
How can I put this? I wouldn’t bother.