Managed to catch this the other day under the re-release title of RIDE TO GLORY which sadly looked like a TV edit but it was a very grim, unrelenting movie. “Dirty Dozen Out West” is a very apt description. Bekim Fehmiu was OK, but Slim Pickens and Ricardo Montalban as a pair of army scouts came off great, Woody Strode looked about seven feet tall and bad as hell, Albert Salmi had a great meaningless death scene, and it’s always fun to watch Chuck Connors ape it up in another priceless gimmick role. Pretty violent little movie too, I was surprised to see that upon initial release it was rated GP for all ages: The movie starts off with the hero finding his wife hanging nude by her wrists (!!) barely alive after she’d been raped + SKINNED by bloodthirsty Apaches … and then for reasons that I really didn’t comprehend, he proceeds to put a bullet in her brain himself while Ricardo Montalban looks on approvingly. It’s fun for the whole family!!
One thing I did find odd about the film, and this may have been a continuity error due to the TV cuts, was that Bekim Fehmiu didn’t seem to do much avenging of his wife on the print that I saw. He just sort of splits off from the cavalry and goes to live in the hills for the hell of it until recruited for some suicide death mission, and never cracks a smile during the whole freaking movie. Maybe some scenes of him ruthlessly hunting down the guilty were removed: The runtime is credited at 100 minutes and the version I saw ran about 94, so there was definitely something missing, and it was weird to hear them trying to blank out the cuss words.
And then the gist of the plot was that this ragtag group of “volunteers” rides off into Mexico to more or less slaughter an Apache tribe that wouldn’t submit to the cavalry’s law. There wasn’t one light hearted comic relief moment in the whole movie though it is nearly impossible to listen to John Houston drawling his way through a dialog scene without cracking a smile. Huge cast, big budget movie, seeming to want to pick up where CUSTER OF THE WEST left off and give a big middle finger to the liberal revisionism of SOLDIER BLUE. You know a movie has sort of a cold, mean spiritedness to it when they kill off Slim Pickens just to make a point about how war is hell.
I’m not even sure that I actually enjoyed it so much as it was like a cathartic endurance test; you are along for the ride and death is a part of the package deal. I was exhausted when it was over and definitely desensitized by the violence. Definitely a western for the War on Terror years, somebody is missing the bus by not re-releasing this.