Indian fighter/Indian lover
I have mixed feelings about Kirk Douglas as a Western lead. He could be very good, for example as Doc Holliday to Burt Lancaster’s Wyatt Earp in Gunfight at the Ok Corral, as the lawman up against rancher Anthony Quinn in Last Train from Gun Hill and, especially, as the cowboy out of his time in Lonely Are the Brave. But some of his oaters were less than brilliant (The Way West) or even downright bad (There Was a Crooked Man, The Villain). He made an uncertain start in the genre in 1951 directed by Raoul Walsh in Along the Great Divide, did too ‘Big’ pictures in 1952, The Big Sky and The Big Trees, and The Indian Fighter was his fourth. He was prone to overacting and often had a look-at-me style. He is very acrobatic and dashing in this one, and in fact broke his nose when doing his own riding stunts. It is said that John Wayne turned down the lead (and a payday of $400,000) and so Kirk took the part himself. He is brash man-who-knows-Indians, hero Johnny Hawks.
Kirk often overdid it
With la Martinelli
Lon and Walter get Hank drunk to find out where the gold is
Red Cloud and his alter ego Eduard
Alan Hale is stolid settler who woos Susan...
...but she prefers the dashing scout (her ex-husband, in fact)
And Hank Worden managed to land two parts. I don’t know how he wangled that. He is an Army corporal who locks Lon and Walter up in the guardhouse, then he is the whiskey-sodden Crazy Bear, in a wig and with his voice dubbed, as if for one moment that disguised him. Both were really obviously Hank. This was already his hundredth Western appearance! Amazing.
And you can spot good old Lane Chandler as the head settler (sadly uncredited).
So it’s a good line-up.
It was a big picture, shot in Technicolor and CinemaScope in lovely Bend, Oregon locations (with a fair bit at Kanab Fort, Utah) by the talented Wilfred Cline. Visually, it’s an attractive film. And the music, by Franz Waxman, is rather unusual, often dark and sinister, and well done. So The Indian Fighter certainly has its points.
DP Wilfred M Cline
It all climaxes in a (fictional) attack by Red Cloud’s Sioux on the palisade (it’s one of those wooden stockades that Hollywood loved, not an open army post like Fort Laramie or Fort Apache) and the Indians use rather nifty fire-slings (created by Ted V. Mikels) to try to burn the fort down. This is done without music and is actually more exciting for that.
The Sioux attack the fort
Kirk (who has finally turned up again) offers to go out and bring the two villains to justice, in order to bring the Sioux back to the way of peace. The captain (Walter Abel) refuses, threatening to lock him up for dereliction of duty instead, but he goes anyway and heroically sets off to locate the bad guys, with Elsa’s help, and you may guess the result. It’s all a bit cheesy at the end.
All rather daring for 1955