Bugles in the Afternoon (1952)
“WHEN FLAMING ARROWS WERE THE SCOURGE OF THE DAKOTA TERRITORY! “
Director: Roy Rowland
Cast: Ray Milland, Helena Carter, Hugh Marlowe
Synopsis: Kern Shafter arrives at a Dakota army post to find it commanded by his old nemesis Edward Garnett.
WARNING! This review contains SPOILERS!
In Bugles in the Afternoon, Ray Milland plays a rather taciturn chap who most people unaccountably take a shine to, not least of whom is a young lass who just happens to have also caught the eye of Hugh Marlowe, Milland’s arch-rival. It seems Marlowe dallied with one of Milland’s previous squeezes (although we are only drip fed this information) for which Milland ran him through with a sabre (as you do). This understandable crime of passion resulted in Milland being drummed out of the cavalry. Having re-enlisted after struggling to adjust to civilian life, he finds himself at the same fort as his nemesis, and being given increasingly dangerous missions.
This is the kind of western I used to love when I was a kid: plenty of action, lots of Indians, cavalry, chases, and do of the derring variety. Near the end of the film, Milland races on horseback to a group of besieged soldiers under Indian attack, not to help them but to have it out with Marlowe. He’s pursued by a pack of bloodthirsty warriors whooping and hollering and, without breaking stride, Milland (or, more accurately, his stunt double) flips over so that he is hanging from the side of the horse and facing the Indians so that he can shoot it out with them face to face. This sort of film isn’t out to deliver any messages or to preach about how badly the Native Americans were treated by the white man, but seeks merely to provide kids (and kids at heart) with some Saturday matinee thrills. Look out, also, for the character Donovan’s death scene; mortally wounded, he hums calmly to himself as he leisurely picks off one or two of the mob of Indians descending on him. If I’m ever faced with angry marauding Indians closing in on my scalp, that’s how I want to go — after performing some horseback acrobatics first of course.
The story is crap, by the way.
(Reviewed 5th August 2009)