The Black Dakotas (1954)
“When the Mighty Sioux Nation Beat the DRUMS OF WAR!!!…and the black hills of Dakota roared with the thunder of battle!”
Director: Ray Nazarro
Cast: Gary Merrill, Wanda Hendrix, John Bromfield
Synopsis: The leader of a Confederate spy ring attempts to disrupt an attempt by the Union to make peace with the Sioux Indians.
The Black Dakotas is an efficient, briskly plotted B-movie which devotes an unusual amount of screen time to its undercover bad guy, Brock Marsh (Gary Merrill – All About Eve) – possibly because its hero, Mike Daugherty (John Bromfield – Sorry, Wrong Number), is such a colourless nonentity. Marsh is a confederate sympathiser at the time of the US Civil War. He’s smooth and cultured, and he’s efficiently ruthless, thinking nothing of cold-bloodedly shooting the luckless Presidential emissary with whom he shares a stagecoach and assuming his identity. The emissary was on his way to a meeting with the Sioux to offer them $130,000 in gold as part of a peace treaty. Marsh’s mission is to renege on the promises he makes to the Sioux in order to stir unrest which will divert Yankee soldiers away from the War.
The nearest town to the Sioux reservation is populated by typical B-Western characters. Wanda Hendrix is the daughter of the local leader of the Confederate underground who finds himself swinging from a rope early on. She’s a tiny woman, doll-like with a large wide forehead and she demonstrates her B-movie credentials with a perfunctory acting style. Bromfield is forgettable, and Noah Beery Jr doesn’t really convince as another Southern sympathiser with a tendency to enter Marsh’s room through the window. It’s left to Merrill, usually the blandest of leading men, to carry the picture and he does reasonably well. Ray Nazzaro directs with tightly-reined efficiency, as he should: he’d made more than seventy of these kind of movies and, like us, he must have struggled to tell one from the other after a while.
(Reviewed 31st October 2014)