Apache Drums (1951)

Article 2314 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-27-2007
Posting Date: 12-13-2007
Directed by Hugo Fregonese
Featuring Stephen McNally, Coleen Gray, Willard Parker

A small western town is threatened by an attack of Apache warriors. The citizens find themselves trapped inside a church with no way to escape.

I will state at the outset that there is no fantastic content in this western, and that I’m covering it because it is listed in John Stanley’s CREATURE FEATURES STRIKE BACK MOVIE GUIDE. So why did John Stanley include this one? Because, despite the lack of fantastic content, he thought it was an interesting movie to watch in the light of it having been the last production of famed horror producer Val Lewton, and I agree on this point. It has a feel quite unlike any other western I’ve seen, and this is partially due to the fact that Lewton uses music in much he same way as he did his horror movies; I like the use of native music, and part of the plot hinges on the drumming and singing the Apaches use when they have the church surrounded; you’ll find yourself listening closely for the music to change, as this will signal an ensuing attack. There are a number of nice touches; I like the sequence where the preacher and the gambler join forces to hold off a band of attacking Apaches, and the final moment of the movie where we discover that someone else outside of the Apaches was trying to get into the church as well. I also like that when the villagers get trapped in the church, the camera never leaves the area, so we feel like we’re trapped as well. The characters are likable, though the acting is uneven, but I found that to be true of his horror movies as well. The main characters are given individual story arcs, though they are a little more simplistic than they should be. Nevertheless, I find this quite entertaining, and I do wonder what it would have been like if Lewton had made other westerns; unfortunately, he died of a heart attack before this one was even released.



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