GRAYEAGLE(director/writer/producer: Charles Pierce; cinematographer/editor: Jim Roberson; music: Jaime Mendoza-Nava; cast: Ben Johnson (John Colter), Jack Elam (Trapper Willis), Lana Wood (Beth Colter), Iron Eyes Cody (Standing Bear), Paul Fix (Running Wolf), Charles B. Pierce (Bugler); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: PG; American International Pictures; 1977)
“The disjointed narrative reduces everything to a mess.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This could have been a great Western in the vein of John Ford’s The Searchers, but told from an Indian point of view, if it wasn’t scalped in the process, as 40-minutes of the film was lopped off for distribution purposes — making it incoherent in parts and failing to give the Cheyennes the dignity they deserved as intended by the filmmakers.
The story is told from an Indian point of view. In the Montana of 1848, fur trapper John Colter (Ben Johnson) devotes his life in a relentless search to track down Cheyenne brave Grayeagle (Alex Cord), the kidnapper of his daughter Beth (Lana Wood, sister of Natalie). Ben is joined in the rescue attempt by Standing Bear (Iron Eyes) and, fellow trapper, Willis (Jack Elam)–in a search that leads to unsuspected truths for both father and daughter that involves Cheyenne Chief Running Wolf (Paul Fix).
The ways of the Indian, their dreams, and their utmost belief in their dreams as a representation of the cycle of life and death seem authentic. The film is intriguingly penned to show the Indian way of life as far less savage than the way the usual Hollywood Western depicts them, though it resorts to using too many clichés to make its points. There are great performances from Ben Johnson and Jack Elam, displaying moments of quiet dignity. But under Charles Pierce’ helm (he also has a part as a madman), this film settles for just being so-so. The disjointed narrative reduces everything to a mess.
REVIEWED ON 4/29/2004 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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