FRONTIER HELLCAT (Unter Geiern) (director: Alfred Vohrer; screenwriters: from a novel by Karl May/Eberhard Keindorff/Johanna Sibelius; cinematographer: Karl Löb; editor: Hermann Haller; music: Martin Böttcher; cast: Stewart Granger (Old Surehand), Pierre Brice (Winnetou), Elke Sommer (Annie Dillman), Götz George (Martin Baumann Jr.), Walter Barnes (Martin Baumann Sr.), Sieghardt Rupp (Preston), Mihail Baloh (‘Reverend’ Weller), Georg Mitic (Wokadeh), Terence Hill (Baker Jr.), Renato Baldini (Gang Leader); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Horst Wendlandt; Columbia Pictures; 1964-France/West Germany/Italy/Yugoslavia-in English)
“Lacks too many of the adventure elements that made the other films in the Winnetou series so much fun.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The only thing this European shot dark Western, the fourth of Rialto Studio’s Westerns based on the German writer Karl May’s novels, had going for it was some surefire ugly violence. Though the series proved popular with the public, it’s nothing more than a B-film spaghetti western with stilted acting. Stewart Granger takes over from Lex Barker and Guy Madison, and plays the hero white man adventurer Old Surefire. Alfred Vohrer (“Old Surehand”/ “Old Firehand”) shot three of the Karl May Westerns, and directs this one stressing the action scenes. It was photographed in Yugoslavia and the Alps. The hellcat of the title is Elke Sommer, playing the traveller Annie Dillman. She’s a feisty frontierswoman who accepts Granger’s help in crossing the plains while carrying across her waist a moneybelt with gold she’s delivering to her father.
While the father and son Baumann ranchers in Arizona are hunting a bear that has been raiding their flock with friendly Apache chief Winnetou (Pierre Brice), their ranch was set ablaze and the son Martin (Götz George) finds his mother and sister dead. There are arrows around the ranch, but Winnetou suspects it’s the white gang known as the Vultures who framed the peaceful Shoshones. The father (Walter Barnes) however becomes embittered with all Indians and refuses Winnetou’s help, and later insults the Shoshone chief Wokadeh (Georg Mitic). Old Surehand (Stewart Granger) arrives on the scene with young Annie Dillman (Elke Sommer), and convinces Martin Jr. to help track the white gang. Meanwhile, Annie gets kidnapped by the Vulture gang, who want the gold she’s carrying in her money-belt. Martin, who fell for Annie, rescues her; at the same time, his father is captured by the Shoshones in retaliation for his insult. Old Surehand comes to his rescue; then Old Surehand and Baumann Sr. learn that the wagon train in which Annie and some settlers are traveling in is about to be ambushed by the Vultures, and they fight off the gang until the Shoshone come to the rescue. In the end, they find the Baumann family jewels in the hands of the white gang and peace is restored between the Indians and the settlers.
The film captures in an artificial way the flavor of the Old West and lacks too many of the adventure elements that made the other films in the Winnetou series so much fun.
REVIEWED ON 6/8/2008 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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