Aldrich's first Western is a fine, muscular piece anticipating Ulzana's Raid in its acceptance of the alien nature of the Apache. Set in 1886, it opens with a superbly staged skirmish in which, with Geronimo having already surrendered, one of his braves (Lancaster) launches a fresh attack and is captured, but denied the death he sought: 'You're not a warrior now, you're just a whipped Indian'. What follows, as Lancaster is forced to adapt, is very much of the '50s in its view of the alienated Indian; but the Apache's odyssey is delineated with considerable complexity, alternately confirming and challenging his distrust of the white man's ways. Sadly, the logic of the film, with the Apache eventually stranded between two worlds, was compromised by interference which imposed an upbeat ending instead of accepting the inevitability of the Apache's death. Originally, after conducting his one-man war and then abandoning it, Lancaster was to have been shot needlessly in the back by Federal troops.
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