AMBUSH AT TOMAHAWK GAP (director: Fred Sears; screenwriter: from a story by David Lang/David Lang; cinematographer: Henry Freulich; editor: Aaron Stell; music: Ross DiMaggio/Paul Sawtell; cast: John Hodiak (McCord), John Derek (Kid), Ray Teal (Doc), David Brian (Egan), John Qualen (Jonas P. Travis), Otto Hulett (Stranton), Maria Elena Marques (Navaho Girl), Percy Helton (Marlowe – the prospector), Trevor Bardette (Twin Forks Sheriff); Runtime: 73; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Wallace MacDonald; Columbia; 1953)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Fred Sears (“Mission over Korea”/”Fury at Gunsight Pass”/”Ghost of the China Sea”) directs this bloody Western in a grim, no-nonsense fashion; it’s all about greed, violent fights, Indian attacks, a falling out among thieves, and a man succumbing after being hit by a flaming arrow. It’s not pretty, but it has the requisite crisp action sequences many Western genre fans love. It’s written by David Lang, who authored the story.
After serving a stretch for five years for a stagecoach robbery at the Yuma Territorial Prison, the four felons –McCord (John Hodiak), Kid (John Derek), Egan (David Brian) and Doc (Ray Teal)–are dropped off in the town of Twin Forks, Arizona and told by the sheriff (Trevor Bardette) they have one hour to leave town. The men go into Indian Territory and arrive at the ghost town of Tomahawk Gap to locate where their ex-partner, the gang leader, Egan’s brother Frank, hid the stolen loot. At this time the men also learn that Frank is dead. McCord forces his way along, as he is the innocent one who served time in place of Frank when the outlaws framed him so he can escape and now he wants his share of the loot for his lost cowboy wages during the years in prison. Along the way the men capture a Navajo woman (Maria Elena Marques) who was on their trail and bring her along. In Tomahawk Gap they come across the cemetery caretaker (Jonas P. Travis), the sole town resident, and when they dig up the grave where the money was buried are startled to find the strongbox is empty. Also popping in on the gang is Stranton (Otto Hulett), a government agent, who trailed them to Tomahawk Gap to recover the stolen loot and he takes the gang hostage. Meanwhile his partner, Marlowe (Percy Helton), is making contact at a nearby fort, where the agents intend to return the stolen money to the Army. But the Indians attack, the money gets scattered to the wind and only two survive the Apache attack to ride off in the sunset.
The brutal story made little sense and it was unappealing, but if it’s a gory B-Western you favor this one fits the bill.
REVIEWED ON 6/3/2008 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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