Even though Aldrich himself proclaimed a certain amount of dissatisfaction with the way this Western turned out, it's still one of his very finest films. A bleak and complex account of a platoon's hunt for a small group of Apaches who have escaped from their wretched reservation and committed acts of rape, murder, and mutilation, it never strays into the pitfall of portraying the Indians either as noble savages or as evil barbarians. Rather, Alan Sharp's marvellous script elucidates the issues and psychological causes of racial warfare, with Lancaster's weary army scout as the mouthpiece for unusually honest perceptions about both the Indians and the whites who have simply failed to comprehend them. It's brutally but never gratuitously violent, laden with images of death and destruction (beautifully caught by Joseph Biroc's camerawork), and far more than just an extraordinarily intelligent horse opera: the parallels with America's involvement in Vietnam should be easy to see.
Cast and crew