In 1864, due to frequent Apache raids from Mexico into the U.S., a Union officer decides to illegally cross the border and destroy the Apache, using a mixed army of Union troops, Confederate POWs, civilian mercenaries, and scouts.
The Civil War Yankee sergeant Yellowleg saves the cheater Turkey from hanging after a card game, and together with Turk's gunslinger buddy Billy Keplinger, they ride together to Gila City with the intention of heisting a bank. When other bandits rob a store, Yellowleg shoots at the outlaws and accidentally kills the son of the cabaret dancer Kit Tilden and the grieving woman decides to bury her son in the town of Siringo in Apache country where her husband is buried. Yellowleg Enlists Billy and Turkey to escort Kitty and the coffin through the dangerous land.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The corresponding novel written by screenwriter Albert Sidney Fleischman actually came after, rather than before, the finished script. At producer Charles B. Fitzsimons's request, Fleischman, himself a previously published novelist of some note, proceeded to novelize his own screenplay in order to gauge potential demand. The resulting work would sell 500,000 copies in the space of four months, more than enough to get the cameras rolling. See more »
When the three males leads of the film are seen right at the beginning riding horses in the desert, they pause to talk to each other. In less than 15 seconds, the cloud formations behind them all change dramatically during this time. See more »
It's strange - I feel I know better than any man I've ever known, yet I hardly know you at all.
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The print distributed by UPA for television in the seventies was in black and white. See more »
This film is best seen as an apprentice work, falling neatly between Peckinpah's TV work (The Rifleman etc), and the string of Western masterpieces that began with Guns in The Afternoon/Ride the High Country. For the only time in the director's work there is no sense of the 'old West' passing, as Peckinpah still works broadly within the established Western tradition - one which he would shortly transform and make his own.
Brian Keith and O'Hara work surprisingly well together, even though in the light of the director's later work the insistance upon a strong and sympathetic female co-lead seems uncharacteristic. Apparently Maureen O'Hara's role in producing the film influenced the emphasis and development of her role.
The film suffers from a poverty of budget (most noticeable in the opening scenes where the bar room appears cramped and two dimensional), as well as over-insistent musical score - one which occasionally detracts from the rhythm of the film. The trademark Peckinpah montage editing has yet to make itself felt and, very unusually for this director, the first few moments of the film seem (to this viewer) slightly rushed and confusing - almost as if Peckinpah is just finding his feet, sketching on a larger canvas than he had previously been used to.
Peckinpah fans will find much to enjoy here, though: the character of 'Turkey' (played by Chill Wills) is as colourful and as rounded as any of the minor low-life characters that appear in the later films. He even hides a 'Major Dundee' military cap under his coat, - in retrospect one which can be seen as an appropriate cinematic "embryo". Even with a limited budget, the film is always in safe hands, the story intriguing and ironic. Riding into town, the desperate trio see a group of children playing and mildly tormenting each other - another Peckinpah trademark. When the desperadoes are confronted by a frontier prayer meeting, the anticipation of the grander meeting at the beginning of 'The Wild Bunch' is obvious. The preacher is in fact the first in a long line of religious failures and bigots featuring in Peckinpah's films.
Perhaps the biggest surprise to those used to Peckinpah's work is the lack of violence (even the end shoot out, although effective, is somewhat muted). Peckinpah, it seems, had yet to discover the stylistic hallmark which later was to mark his career in controversy.
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