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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Arrowhead



Picture: C+     Sound: C     Extras: D     Film: C-



Just before The Western went into its final phase of transitions before its demise, films were still being made in the genre that was vilifying Native American in the most outrageous ways.  Arrowhead was released in 1953, opens with the pretense of being solid history, but lands up being as accurate as D.W. Griffith’s Birth Of A Nation form 1915.  The Apaches, especially tarnished in this kind of revisionist campaign, are led by an especially “clever” leader Toriano played by Jack Palance.  He takes on the “good guy” Cowboys headed by Charlton Heston as Bannon.


Of course, the whole film is a lie and revision of what actually happened, but this was a time when just having a good cast, production values, and pacing was more important because this was “just a movie” for “entertainment” purposes.  However, we know (and most always knew) that it really becomes propaganda to negate the truth, the genocide of a people in this case.  No film is absent an ideology, no matter what someone tells you.  With that said, is the film still watchable.  Well, no really.


Despite some competent editing and booklike narrative, the film still drags and the idea of the simple good/bad dichotomy is a problem to begin with, let alone who it is assigned to.  The more I kept watching, the more I kept thinking how brilliant John Ford’s The Searchers was three years later, no doubt a response to this film and the many films like it.  That is it script-adapted by directed by Rawhide and Gunsmoke creator Charles Marquis Warren speaks volume about the formula and how that become a trap, a way to do a rolling revisionist history.  Some would say Fascist, I would just say obvious and shallow.  It is competent late Classical Hollywood product, extending to how it was shot.


The full frame 1.33 X 1 image was originally released in three-strip Technicolor and shot by Ray Rennahan, A.S.C., which adds to the phoniness when taking it as a historical piece in this case (sets counted or not) and is the highlight of the film if it has one.  The print itself is not always color consistent, but the use of color is interesting, making a viewing more bearable by default.  Paul Sawell’s music is much more typical and as average as the weak Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono of the original theatrical mono sound.  There are no extras, but then there is nothing more to say about this film.  It is what it is and it is no surprise it has been forgotten.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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