August 23, 2014

Run of the Arrow

I haven't seen the movie Run of the Arrow, but I saw this comment about it somewhere:For Run of the Arrow (1957), Fuller boldly cast real Native Americans. "It was the first picture where the Indians won."Curious, I checked it out and found these reviews:

Run of the Arrow (1957)

By Bosley CrowtherSeveral film historians, notably the late William K. Everson, have noted the striking resemblances between Run of the Arrow and the 1990 Oscar-winner Dances with Wolves. Rod Steiger stars as O'Meara, an Irish-brogued Confederate soldier with an intense dislike for Yankees. Unable to accept the South's defeat, O'Meara heads westward after the Civil War, to start life anew amongst the Sioux Indians. Surving a ritual rite of passage called the Run of the Arrow, O'Meara is accepted into the tribe, and shortly afterward marries Sioux woman Yellow Moccasin (played by Spanish actress Sarita Montiel, whose voice was dubbed by Angie Dickinson). The true test of O'Meara's fidelity to the Sioux comes when his adopted people come into conflict with a Cavalry troop, headed by Northerner Captain Clark (Brian Keith).Run of the Arrow (1957)

August 3, 1957
Screen: 'Run of the Arrow'; Steiger 'Stars in New Film at the Palace

By Bosley Crowther
THE Sioux Indians and the United States Cavalry are mixing it up again in Samuel Fuller's "Run of the Arrow," which came to the Palace yesterday with a new stage bill. The blood and warpaint look good in color. The plot looks pretty much as it always has.

That is to say, a Confederate soldier, embittered after the Civil War, goes to the West, joins a Sioux tribe and takes unto himself a beautiful Indian maid as squaw. When the cavalry comes into the region to build itself a fort, this naturalized Sioux, still sore at the Yankees, is attached to accompany it as scout.

Then along comes a renegade Indian—there's always one in every decent, respectable tribe—and starts shooting arrows at the soldiers. As usual, this means war! The cavalry goes after the Indians, the Indians retaliate. The first thing you know, tents are burning and everybody is having a high old time.

Meanwhile, what's with our turncoat? Well, the cavalry blame him at first, and that damyankee he all but killed at Appomattox is all for stringing him up. But then the Indians arrive, take over and are skinning the damyankee alive, which so horrifies our ex-Confederate that he—guess what!

Don't expect "Fort Apache." This is just an ordinary cavalry-Indian film, conspicuous for a lot of raw blood-letting and the appearance of Rod Steiger in the leading role. Mr. Steiger, familiar as a sullen tough guy in a number of gangster films, slightly overworks the Actors Studio method out there on the dusty frontier.
A Man Without a Country:  Sam Fuller's Run of the Arrow

By William JonesRun of the Arrow is notably similar to—and notably better than—Kevin Costner's Dances With Wolves. Both films are about a Civil War soldier who joins the Sioux nation, but the lengthy, slow-going Costner vehicle suffers from all sorts of excessiveness and look-at-me self-consciousness—traits that are (admirably) absent from Fuller's film.

There's a huge chasm that separates these two similar-on-the-surface but stylistically different movies and the great film critic Manny Farber really nailed it (for me anyway) in a famous essay written many years ago entitled "White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art."

Here, Costner's is the lumbering, overly praised and prized (it won the Academy Award for Best Picture) prestige film while Run of the Arrow is the modest but fast-paced, low-budget yet laudable "B" picture. You'd be wise to pass on the former (Costner's white elephant) and seek out the later (Fuller's industrious termite).
Run of the ArrowKarl Wielgus 12/3/08
Cliches about the Civil War, about the "frontier," about "Indians" about the simplicity of the human character," about the ways we can characterize people into simple codes of good and evil--all are exploded. Before "Broken Arrow," before "Dances with Wolves" this movie shows more than we have seen in westerns or movies in general. Even the "villain" (Ralph Meeker) is not a cardboard cutout. People act because they have made themselves into a certain way of seeing the world--this brings out conflicts and there are no simple villains. The very act that begins the story and the drama, also ends it--but the meaning changes. A great piece of work!

Goetan 4/29/14
An ugly, off-beat Western from director Fuller. Steiger, with a thick accent and a intense performances, is a rouge Southerner who can't accept his loss in the Civil War and joins a Sioux tribe; Monteil was dubbed by Angie Dickinson. Fuller's examinations of civilization, ethnic identity is weak and doesn't have the same impact as his later films. Fine, but dull. I give it a 3/5.
Comment:  I don't see any Native names in the cast, so I question whether Fuller "boldly cast real Native Americans." Even if he did, it wouldn't have been that bold, since Natives have appeared in movies since the early 1900s.

Also, Broken Arrow (1950) preceded Run of the Arrow by seven years.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

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