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Dragoon Wells Massacre

1957 | 16:9 WIDESCREEN | COLOR | Quality: VERY GOOD

Dennis O'Keefe

Mona Freeman

Katy Jurado


Shifty Indian trader Jonah McAdam (Sebastian Cabot) happens upon a cavalry troop that has been massacred by the Apaches who are being led by Yellow Claw - the only survivor of the attack is Capt. Riordan (Dennis O'Keefe), who orders McAdam to take him to Fort Dragoon Wells. At the same time, rough and tumble criminal Link Ferris (Barry Sullivan) is being transported by Marshal Bill Haney (Trevor Bardette) to stand tall before a hangin' judge at Fort Smith, Arkansas. As fate would have it, though, they happen upon the massacre site and decide to help bury the dead. Before long, a stagecoach carrying Ann Bradley (Mona Freeman), Phillip Scott (Max Showalter), and Mexican entertainer Mara Fay (Katy Jurado) also arrives. All of them quickly realize they are being stalked by the Apaches and must pull together to aid their mutual defence as they attempt to make a dash to Fort Dragoon Wells. But the Apache are not the only problem facing them, not all in the group are quite what they seem and with food and water at a premium, the odds are heavily stacked against them making it to safety.

Monogram Pictures changed its name to Allied Artists in an effort to change its image from that of a cheap B-studio. For the most part, it didn't really work and Allied Artists' product suffered from the same deficiencies as Monogram's. DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE, however, does not fall into that mold. While the story - survivors of an Indian attack make their way across the desert to safety - may sound like standard fare, what is done with it isn't. Director Harold D. Schuster is hardly a household name, but he has a knack for tight storytelling with extremely compelling characters, and this film is one of his best. Dennis O'Keefe does a very good job as a cavalry officer who survives an Indian attack, and must lead a disparate group to safety across the desert. They come across shifty characters who aren't exactly what they seem to be, but must band together with them for mutual protection. Jack Elam plays a gunfighter who isn't quite what he seems to be, either. There's a fantastic musical score, Schuster handles the action scenes quite well, a very famous catfight scene with two leading ladies, and there are some interesting plot twists. Altogether, a well-paced, intriguing little western, extremely rare to find in widescreen, highly recommended!

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