Apache (1954)



Director:  Robert Aldrich.

Starring:  Burt Lancaster (Massai), Jean Peters (Nalinle), John McIntire (Al Sieber), Charles Bronson (Hondo), John Dehner (Weddle), Paul Guilfoyle (Santos), Ian MacDonald (Clagg), Walter Sande (Lt. Col. Beck), Morris Ankrum (Dawson), Monte Blue (Geronimo).

the last Apache warrior, Massai



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Pretty good movie. 1886.  Geronimo is surrendering to the US Army.  Massai rides in shooting trying to stop the surrender.   The young woman Nalinle, who is the daughter of Chief Santos, tries to help him.  He tells her that he does not want to be sent to Florida like the others.  But then Massai is captured by the famous army scout Al Sieber.

Geronimo, Massai and the others with Geronimo are placed on a train headed for Florida.  They proceed from Albuquerque, New Mexico to St. Louis, Missouri. The nasty Mr. Weddle is in charge of the prisoners.  Somewhere east of St. Louis, Massai escapes by jumping out an open railway car window.  He begins a long and painful journey all the way home to his village.  Along the way he jumps a man on a farm only to find out that the man is a Cherokee living in Oklahoma Territory.  The man tells Massai that the days of the warrior are over and that the Cherokee live in peace with the whites.  He gives him some Talaqua corn to plant.  Massai then continues on with his journey, finally reaching home after surviving vicious storms, including snow storms. 

Back home, Massai finds that Hondo is courting Nalinle, who is not interested in the newly promoted Corporal with the Apache scouts.  Later Nalinle and her father find Massai in their tent.  While Massai tries to catch up on his sleep, Santos has his daughter tied up and Al Sieber and the scouts called out to capture Massai.  When the warrior is captured, he says that he will return to kill Santos and do harm to his daughter, who he thinks has betrayed him. 

Nalinle goes to the fort to ask for the release of Massai.  She shows them the Talaqua corn and insists that Massai only wants to be a farmer.  Al Sieber cynically replies: "No Apache has become a farmer yet."  Her request is rejected.  Sieber and the cavalry men chastise Weddle for not reporting that Massai had escaped.

Mr. Weddle is put in charge of taking Massai and three other Apaches back to the train station so they can to transported to Florida.  Weddle and his partner decide that Massai has caused them too many problems already and that they will kill him and the three others along the way.  The two white men present the Apaches with a chance to escape and start to kill them when they take the opportunity.  But Massai is too quick and too clever for them.  Massai overturns their wagon, grabs Weddle and uses his gun to kill the partner.  He then sends Weddle on his way to walk back to the fort. 

Massai now starts a one-man war against the army and the settlers.  The army does not know who is causing all the damage.  But they learn who the culprit is when Weddle finally shows up at the fort.  He just gets out the word "Massai" when from his hiding place inside the fort Massai shots and kills him and then escapes.  Massai then kidnaps Nalinle.  He is very rough with her until she manages to tell him that she never betrayed him.  With Al Sieber and the Apache scouts on his trail, Massai wants to leave Nailinle behind, but she keeps following him until he gives up and agrees to take her with him.  They get married on the run.

The newlyweds decide to head for the mountain to the west.  Seiber has to give up and return to the fort. 

In the mountainous wilderness, Massai builds a shelter for his wife who is pregnant.  Just about the time the baby is to be delivered, Sieber shows up again.  Massai makes the decision to die fighting.  In the fight he is wounded and hides in the cornfield he and his wife had planted.  Sieber heads into the cornfield to find and capture Massai.  But Massai captures Sieber instead.  Just at this critical junction, Massai hears the voice of his crying baby.  He gives up the fight and heads back to the shelter to be with his wife and child.  Sieber says to his colleagues:  "Looks like he called the war off." 

It's not a great movie, but it's all right.  Lancaster is always pretty dependable to give a good performance.  It's just a little funny and a little disappointing  that Hollywood just couldn't use any native Americans in the roles of the Apaches.  I know there are reasons for this, but it is still disappointing. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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