Steve Sinclair is a world-weary former gunslinger, now living as a peaceful rancher. Things go wrong when his wild younger brother Tony arrives on the scene with his new gun and pending bride and former saloon girl Joan Blake.
A greedy Missouri merchant overcharges the westbound settlers for goods and for passage to California while also stealing the Osages' supplies who consequently start attacking all passing wagon trains.
In 1878, the shortest trail West through the Arizona territory passed by the foot of Bailey Mountain. Although the shortest, it also was the most dangerous route because Bailey Mountain was the stronghold of a band of renegade Apache, led by Chief Diablito. A group of land surveyors is attacked and massacred by Diablito's renegade Apache. The Indians abduct Mary Carlyle, the daughter of General Carlyle. As a result of this, Major C. E. Breverly, commandant of the nearby cavalry outpost sends a scout to find prospector and Indian guide Ward Kinsman. Kinsman is secretly mining for gold near Bailey Mountain, under the nose of Chief Diablito. At the cavalry outpost, Major Breverly requests Kinsman's assistance in saving Mary Carlyle from the Apache. Mary's sister, Ann Duverall, also demands her sister's immediate rescue but Kinsman, fearing a great loss of troopers in a confrontation with the Apache, refuses. Not being on the army's payroll allows him to refuse assignments. However, he ...Written by
People only die when they have something to live for.
Ambush is directed by Sam Wood and adapted to screenplay by Marguerite Roberts from a Luke Short serial story. It stars Robert Taylor, John Hodiak, Arlene Dahl, Jean Hagen, Don Taylor and John McIntire. Music is by Rudolph G. Kopp and cinematography by Harold Lipstein.
"In 1878 the shortest trail West through the territory of Arizona crawled across the foot of Bailey Mountain...
The shortest trail but, the most dangerous. For Bailey Mountain was the stronghold seized by Diablito and his hostile Apaches"
Nice! A Western movie for Western movie lovers to sink their teeth into. It's not exactly wall to wall action on offer here, but there is an adultness to proceedings that hits all the right chords for the discerning audience. The opening scene shows us the aftermath of an Apache raid, then it's introductions to the main characters who will come together to go rescue a kidnapped white woman from Diablito's Apaches.
The build up isn't rushed, we are drawn into the lives of the American Fort residents, their love triangles and frets, while mature themes of adultery and spouse abuse are given some skilled direction and performances. Once traits and peccadilloes are established, the band of not so merry men go off to fight the Apache, the latter of which are thankfully shown as a resourceful foe with some cunning tactics.
Taylor saddles up for a scuzzy portrayal, honourable for sure, but happily dirty and his character is shown to be fallible in one of the many machismo contests that permeate the story. Hodiak offers some elegance, Hagen some emotional punch, while Dahl - costumed to enhance her curvaceous figure - lights up every scene she is in.
The great Harold Lipstein photographs much of the picture through black and white film noir filters, adding the requisite turbulence to the story, while Wood, in what was his last motion picture directorial assignment, directs with assuredness and makes the most of the Simi Valley and Gallup locations.
McIntire is wasted and Bruce Cowling as the violent husband is only just convincing, while the blending of painted backdrops with the gorgeous locales becomes a little distracting in the final quarter. Yet as any hardcore Western fan will tell you, often those sort of things are forgiven if the makers don't insult our intelligence, which is thankfully the case here. 7/10
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