40 GUNS TO APACHE PASS (director: William Witney; screenwriters: Mary Willingham/Willard Willingham; cinematographer: Jacques Marquette; editor: Grant Whytock; music: Dick LaSalle; cast: Audie Murphy (Capt. Bruce Coburn), Byron Morrow (Col. Reed), Michael Keep (Cochise), Ken Tobey (Cpl. Bodine), Kay Stewart (Kate Malone), Laraine Stephens (Ellen Malone), Willard Willingham (Fuller), Michael Blodgett (Mike Malone), Michael Burns (Doug Malone), James Beck (Higgins), Ted Gehring (Barrett), Robert Brubaker (Sgt. Walker); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Grant Whytock; Admiral Pictures/Columia Pictures; 1967)
“Covers the usual western clichés in a lackluster fashion.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A low-budget, routine, overlong Western with little zip that covers the usual western clichés in a lackluster fashion. It’s the last Western of William Witney, noted for his action-packed serials.
It’s set in the Arizona Territory after the Civil War, where Cochise (Michael Keep) and his Apache nation are on the warpath and plan to kill all the white homesteaders. Tough-as-nails Captain Bruce Coburn (Audie Murphy) is on a patrol rounding up stray settlers and taking them to Apache Wells for safety and where they can fight off the expected Indian attack together. Apache Wells is a fort serving the cavalry and homeless settlers, and is under the command of a beleaguered Colonel Reed, who is undermanned, has a rag-tag army of mostly misfits, and doesn’t have enough rifles to fight off an Indian attack. After being turned down repeatedly by Washington, he’s finally to receive 40 repeating rifles. Coburn is sent on this vital mission to bring back the rifles through Indian territory in the hills and asks for volunteers. His faithful Sergeant Walker volunteers, but the rest of the volunteers are all either troublemakers or inexperienced soldiers. The worst of the lot is Corporal Bodine (Ken Tobey), a criminal and former Confederate who still hates the Union, and only joined to get released from prison. The Malone boys, the older Mike and Doug, joined because their settler father died at the hands of Cochise before reaching the safety of the outpost and the oldest one wants revenge. Their pretty sister Ellen (Laraine Stephens) is sort of going out with Coburn, when he’s not busy fighting Indians.
On the way to pick up the rifles, the Indians attack and Mike is captured and tortured to death when his cowardly brother fails to help him. Left with only seven men after the attack, Coburn secures the rifles but Bodine causes a mutiny and steals the rifles with the help of the others leaving only the Captain and Sergeant tied up and set to die in the abandoned rifle wagon that has been ignited. But Coburn escapes and manages to take back alive to the fort the severely wounded sergeant. The Colonel admonishes Coburn for losing the rifles and confines him to quarters, but Coburn disobeys and goes alone into the hills to find the traitors. With the help of Doug, who redeems himself, Coburn brings Bodine and the deserters to a quick justice after he learns they were trying to sell the rifles to the Indians and single-handedly defeats Cochise and the Apache nation while holding them off from his vantage point on a mountain pass.
REVIEWED ON 3/29/2005 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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