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Sunday, January 25, 2015

GERONIMO (1962)

THE RIFLEMAN must have been on hiatus for tv star Chuck Connors to get into Apache drag as this film’s blue-eyed Geronimo. Made with that popular show’s creative team, it’s not as bad as you might expect . . . but then, what were you expecting? By ‘62, there’s not much frisson in seeing this tale of defiance told from a Native American POV; or even in having the US Army as the villain, chasing a once proud people off their land treaty or no. But it is a surprise to find the Apache principals still being played by non-Indian actors. A surprise and a disappointment; heck, Chief Thundercloud played Geronimo on screen back in 1939 and again in 1950.) Connors does his low-rent Charlton Heston thing as the noble warrior and lets his soon-to-be wife Kamala Devi deliver English elocution lessons as his takeaway bride. They’re largely unconvincing, but the soul of verisimilitude next to Ross Martin’s aide-de-campfire from 2nd Avenue. At least, the largely made up story has a big, lux feel to it; and a clever idea in giving Geronimo a wound that won’t heal. It’s positively Wagnerian, like Amfortas. It’s not only a swell metaphor for enduring Native American troubles, it also helps set up a much needed action set piece (a well-staged escape-from-town) in the middle of a drawn out siege.

DOUBLE-BILL: 1993 had two GERONIMO pics, a forgotten TNT tv film and a major miss in GERONIMO: AN AMERICAN LEGEND which did serious career damage to helmer Walter Hill, writer John Milius & Jason (Black Hole) Patric, an actor able to suck the life out of anything near him.

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