The Indian Fighter

1955

Western /

1
IMDb Rating 6.4

Synopsis


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23.976 (23976/1000) fps /
88 min
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English
23.976 (23976/1000) fps /
88 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by ([email protected]) 7/10

&quot;The Indian Fighter&quot; was filmed entirely in the outdoor beauty of Oregon.The scenery and color are breathtaking. The action scenes are expertlystaged and executed, particularly the Indian attack on thefort.<br><br> Kirk Douglas stars in the title role as a scout who is hired to guide awagon train through Indian Territory to Oregon. Walter Matthau (in an earlyrole) and Lon Chaney (wasted again) play the villains of the piece who startup an Indian war by trying to steal gold from their land. Eduard Franz playsRed Cloud the Sioux chief who tries to keep the white man from encroachingon his people's land. <br><br> Elsa Martinelli is an Indian maiden who becomes Douglas' main love interestand Diana Douglas (Kirk's wife at the time and mother of MIchael) plays asettler woman with designs on Kirk but who has to settle for hard-workingAlan Hale instead. I wonder how Diana Douglas felt about Kirk rolling aroundin a creek with Ms. Martinelli?<br><br> Rounding out the cast are a number of familiar faces. Walter Abel plays thearmy captain, Elisha Cook a frontier photographer and Ray Teal, Frank Cadyand Lane Chandler as various settlers.<br><br> &quot;The Indian Fighter&quot; rises a step above similar westerns through itsbeautiful scenery and exciting action sequences. It is a truly exciting andcolorful outdoor adventure.<br><br>

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Reviewed by FilmFlaneur

At the heart of De Toth's oeuvre lies an interesting contradiction. He hasan abiding interest in suspense, action, and the wellspring of violentevents (a fact underlined by the number of thrillers, frontier yarns anddramas he helmed during his career), but, as a director, characteristicallydisassociates himself from their process. This 'distancing' effect has beennoted by a number of viewers, creating some critical debate about De Toth'sengagement with his material. In my view his detachment is not to beconfused with aloofness - an interesting comparison can be made with StanleyKubrick's alleged 'coldness' - but is rather De Toth's way of resolving whatreally 'matters'. It is this intelligence, revealing itself sharply in hisbest films, that makes him such a worthwhile study. <br><br>Along with De Toth's assured debut 'Ramrod' (1947) and the austere 'Day ofthe Outlaw' (1959), 'The Indian Fighter' is probably the finest of hisWestern films, revealing a characteristic response to the demands of thegenre. In 'Ramrod' the moral questing springs from a noirish plot that isunsettled and full of tension. In 'Day of the Outlaw' issues are resolvedmore formally, played out against the stark landscape of Winter. In 'TheIndian Fighter', De Toth's concerns manifest themselves in his most lyricaland sensuous work. He thereby creates a film which, in emphasis, is indirect contrast to most other 50's Westerns.<br><br>This is ostensibly a tale of a famous frontiersman Johnny Hawks (played withusual lusty gusto by Kirk Douglas), back from the wars. Ultimately he has toredeem his reputation, discovering balance within the indigenous people hehas previously warred against. Gold has been discovered on Indian land, andthe bad guys (a marvellous performance by Walter Matthau, ably supported byLon Chaney, Jnr) are out to kill and cheat to secure the riches. This, andthe related fear of a tribal uprising, provide the main action point of thefilm. <br><br>As the Indian fighter of the title, ironically the first thing we noticeabout Hawks is his reticence. In fact he hardly fights at all - only when heis obliged, or when called upon to at the climax of the film. For him,combat is not a prerequisite, although he is not slow to react when needsbe. A comparison with the bitterness of Ethan Edwards, say, in Ford's 'TheSearchers' is revealing. Edwards loathes the Commanches, with a bitternessentirely absence from De Toth's hero. As Hawks' opponents observe, he ismore of an Indian lover than fighter. And, of course, in the most obviousway, they are right. Almost more important to the hero than his professionalreputation is his preoccupation with the Indian maid Onhati. Hissingle-minded pursuit, and later dalliance, with her initiates the maincrisis of the film, as he leaves the wagon train to be by her side, aftertaking it 'two days out of my way and half way up a mountain'.<br><br>This is a film full of sensuality, placed in contrast to 'duty', the callingof action. We are constantly reminded of the cool pools, green foliage,closeness of the earth, just as much as of the teachery and turmoil of thefrontier. Franz Waxman's score is lyrical and evocative, frequently idyllic.The glorious cinematography gives nature's perpetual garden a pantheisticgloss, sometimes intense, and always resplendent. Just as the main filmcaptures these images, so in mimicry does Briggs, a supposed prot&eacute;g&eacute; ofcivil war photographer Matthew Brady, who frequently accompanies Hawks. Heis eager to capture the grandeur around him. His camera is as significant tous as it is to Hawks, who makes a point of rescuing it at one point (duringthe battle at the fort). An important minor character, Briggs emphasises theappreciation of the sublime and beautiful that the film invites. A couple oftimes De Toth pauses the action (once at the fort and then at the wagontrain), to pan his camera for long seconds along sets and people, recordingtheir place in the Oregon landscape. Like Briggs he wants to admire, andrecord.<br><br>A circular film, 'The Indian Fighter' begins with Hawks gazing at Onhatibathing naked in a pool. It ends with him joining her in the water, forminga happy couple. The whole world of action is thus enclosed by their bonding,their sensual preoccupation usurping the violent demands of Indian-whiteconflict. <br><br>The scenes between the two lovers caused a murmur at the time. Considered'risque' for the conservative 50's Western, De Toth simply inserted them,and their sexual self-absorption, as entirely fitting his plan of things.What is more eyebrow-raising today is how he allowed the encounters betweentwo lovers to backstage the expected intrigues of masculine action, andactually assume greater significance, reversing regular audienceexpectations. This stress, an essentially feminine one. is completelyuncharacteristic of the Western at this time. Add to that a sympathetic viewof Indians and nature conservation (the Indian Chief's environmentalconcerns are a main reason for his refusing to exploit the land with mining)and you have an excellent film - a career highlight of this greatlyunderrated director.

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Reviewed by Varlaam 7/10

I had noticed this video for rent several times, but had always thought thatthe cover photo showed Kirk Douglas with Natalie Wood. Much to my surprise,it turns out not to be Natalie at all, but someone far more unusual, ElsaMartinelli, someone it seems I know best as Charlton Heston's love interestin &quot;The Pigeon That Took Rome&quot;, the slim but pleasant comedy from1962.<br><br>In fact, this film is &quot;introducing Elsa Martinelli&quot;, a fresh import fromItaly at the time. Bell' Italia indeed. Elsa introduces herself to us in theopening scene by undressing completely to go for a quiet dip in the river.So it's going to be la dolce vita along the riverbank, it seems...<br><br>As the beautiful long-haired Indian maiden, Elsa finds herself teamed withKirk, brandishing his chin and his triangular physique. The Wild West livesup to its name, not only with the Indians' fiery attack on the army fort,the film's climax, but also with the steamy roll in the &quot;surf&quot; by our twoprincipals, a couple of years after &quot;From Here to Eternity&quot;.<br><br>The film offers Elisha Cook an unusual part to play, a photographer who hadworked with Matthew Brady during the War, and who now wants to immortalizethe West with his camera as advertising to attract settlers. The filmunderstands the dichotomy of preservation and destruction that his characterrepresents.<br><br>Walter Matthau and Lon Chaney are the bad white men, while Alan Hale(Gilligan's Skipper) and Frank Cady (Green Acres' Mr. Drucker) round out anostalgic supporting cast.<br><br>Produced by Kirk Douglas's own production company, Bryna, &quot;The IndianFighter&quot; can't help but have a social conscience. It does show the stronginfluence of the message Western -- in its interracial romance, Cook'sproto-Ansel Adams character, and so on -- but without sacrificing theadventure elements of the story.<br><br>The film boasts some spectacular Oregon scenery. It's not the MonumentValley desert landscape we're used to seeing in so many other epic Westernswhen directed by John Ford, but rather mountainous and riverine terrain,more like what Ford showed us in &quot;How the West Was Won&quot;(1962).<br><br>Andr&eacute; De Toth provides good solid Cinemascope direction, letting thewidescreen process work its own wonders on the audience. The film howeverdoes betray more brutality than I would have expected, especially for itsday.<br><br>All in all, an adventure story intelligently and attractively handled, withsome depth for those who care to look.

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