Another highly enjoyable Richard Widmark Western, although this one has a few problems, mostly stemming from the fact that it can't quite make up its mind whether it wants its central character to be a hero or an anti-hero, and that leads to a few plot problems, particularly the ending, which goes a bit out-of-the-blue Hollywood. However, I didn't really mind, because Widmark was absolutely fabulous, the action was fast and entertaining, the Arizona scenery spectacular, and did I mention that Widmark was wonderful? This was pretty much a win-win film!
Widmark plays Comanche Todd, a white man raised by Comanches. The film opens with him on the run/getting caught by one of the nastiest, most brutish sheriff's I've ever seen. Egads! This guy was pure meanness, and the actor (George Matthews) was perfectly cast. (How nasty is he? He shoots at a young boy and beats up a teenager half his size! Dude! At least Widmark is a grown man and can take care of himself -- mostly.) Timothy Carey shows up briefly as the sheriff's ill-fated brother in the beginning. Fortunately for Widmark, they meet up with a wagon train heading to Tucson, and the settlers don't take kindly to the nasty sheriff's behavior, even if Widmark's character is a murderer and the sheriff tells them repeatedly he deserves it.
The story changes direction abruptly when the wagon train's young adults take off in the night to go swimming and when they return... Apaches have massacred everyone else in the wagon train. The wagon Widmark is shackled to is shoved off a cliff, but he survives the fall. The rest of the movie's action is about Widmark helping the young people get out of Apache country alive. Trust and overcoming prejudice become the main themes through the rest of the film. Nick Adams plays one of the survivors who gives Widmark the most attitude (naturally). Felicia Farr plays the oldest of the group, and the most sensible. I've liked her since I saw her in 3:10 to Yuma. She and Widmark fall for each other, and I liked their quiet romantic moments, snatched in moments here and there between attacks and running for their lives.
I watched this one twice while I had it from Netflix, and wouldn't mind owning it on DVD either.