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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Chuka (1967)


Dir: Gordon Douglas - Cast: Rod Taylor, Ernest Borgnine, John Mills, Luciana Palucci, James Whitmore, Victoria Vetri, Louis Hayward, Michael Cole, Hugh Reilly, Barry O'Hara

Violent but clich├ęd cavalry versus Indians western, produced by and starring Rod Taylor, who also contributed to the screenplay. Taylor is the proverbial man-in-between, a knowing professional who may - or may not - be able to avoid a massacre. There are a few similarities to Director Douglas' own Rio Conchos, which was better paced and had more complex characters. 

In Rio Conchos, Richard Boone played an obsessive man, an Indian hater hired by the army to do an illegal job across the border. In Chuka, Taylor's titular character is also struggling with a few inner demons (his violent past and feelings for a long-lost love), but it all sounds a little hollow. However, the premise is interesting and there are even a few original story elements: The Cavalry unit is shown as totally inept, led by an alcoholic officer, while the Indians only plan to attack because they're hungry and are after the fort's ammunition, so they can defend themselves in the future against more redoubtable opponents. 

Douglas' direction is adequate, especially during the well-staged, tough action moments; there aren't enough of them, but they're quite potent and owned the movie (the equivalent of) an R-rating in most European countries. The characters are stereotypes, but they're played by an ensemble of  fine actors. Good-old Ernie Borgnine comes off best as an impulsive and violent, but deep down inside honest sergeant who refuses tot let down the man who once saved his life. 

The problem of this movie is not that it's bad - it isn't - but that it could easily have been a lot better. All scenes within the fort are shot on sound-stages, multiple shadows circling around the actors, and the romantic subplot - a failed attempt to give some depth to Taylor's character - adds very little to the story (unless the beauty of Luciana Paluzzi). 

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review. I've never seen this one, but will check it out!

    ReplyDelete