Movie Diary 12/6/2017

The Charge at Feather River (Gordon Douglas, 1953). Made in 3D and a big grosser in ’53. Guy Madison leads a group of cavalry misfits to rescue two kidnapped white women before the Indians attack (a perfectly justifiable attack, as the whites are breaking another treaty). Lots of rote plotting and characterizations, but very snappily done by Gordon Douglas, the year before he turned out the excellent duo of Them! and Young at Heart. Guy Madison is all “I could be somewhere else, but I’m here now,” which is oddly appealing. Max Steiner’s music works overtime, with a walloping main theme. This is not the first appearance in filmdom of the Wilhelm Scream, but it is the one that gave the recorded cry its name, as a character named Wilhelm gets an arrow in the leg. Also, Vera Miles plays the kidnapped white woman who actually wants to stay with the tribe because she’s going to become Mrs. Chief Thunder Hawk, and let me just say that Vera Miles’ attitude, bearing, and gaze suggests a whole different, more intriguing movie than Charge at Feather River is up to.

Pillars of the Sky (George Marshall, 1956). Also a rescue-the-kidnapped-white-women movie (Dorothy Malone and Olive Carey here). Jeff Chandler on the case, Lee Marvin occasionally doing an Irish accent, Ward Bond as the preacher educating the Walla Walla and Nez Perce Indians, Michael Ansara as the most belligerant of the Native chiefs. Pretty slow overall, but it gets explicit about the white Americans breaking another treaty.

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