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TAZA, SON OF COCHISE(director: Douglas Sirk; screenwriters: Gerald Drayson Adams/from the story by Gerald Drayson Adams/George Zuckerman; cinematographer: Russell Metty; editor: Milton Carruth; music: Frank Skinner; cast: Rock Hudson (Taza), Barbara Rush (Oona), Gregg Palmer (Capt. Burnett), Rex Reason (Naiche), Morris Ankrum (Grey Eagle), Cy Hegan (as Richard Cutting (Hegan), Ian MacDonald (Geronimo), Robert Burton (Gen. George Crook), Gene Iglesias (Chato), Jeff Chandler (Cochise); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ross Hunter; Universal Pictures; 1954)
“An odd pro-Indian western that lacks a lucid narrative and seems compromised.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Douglas Sirk (“Battle Hymn”/”Hitler’s Madman”/”Meet Me At The Fair”) directs the only Western he ever madeand turns it into an odd pro-Indian western that lacks a lucid narrative and seems compromised. It was shot for theater release in 3-D. Though visually stunning and following along usual Sirkian melodrama lines of a good man trapped by his circumstances and forced to humble himself before his lessers, this Hollywood-style favoring of progressive Indians allied with the whites suffers from clunky dialogue and white men who are not too convincing playing redskins. Rock Hudson is not believable as Taza, the peace-loving son of the great Apache chief Cochise (Jeff Chandler), and thereby the pic is never believable. It’s taken from a story by Gerald Drayson Adams and co-written by him and George Zuckerman.

In 1875, in the Arizona Territory, Cochise dies three years after making peace with the US Cavalry. On his deathbed he urges both his oldest son Taza and his second son Naiche (Rex Reason) to follow the peace treaty and bury him where no white man can find him. After the mountain burial ceremony Naiche chooses to join Geronimo (Ian MacDonald) and continue the war on the whites, while Taza opts to follow in his father’s peaceful footsteps. Naiche attacks Taza only to be beaten and arrested, but escapes and his party of six slaughter three white pioneers. They are captured by Taza and tortured as is the Apache custom, but Capt. Burnett (Gregg Palmer) informs Taza that they must be punished by the army and that they broke the treaty and must return to the reservation. Burnett’s weaselly commander, Gen. George Crook (Robert Burton), reluctantly agrees to Taza’s demands of returning peacefully to the reservation only if they can police their own people in the reservation and the army promises to provide tools and food for them in the barren San Carlos reservation until they start farming.

The younger brother teams up with the war-mongering Grey Eagle (Morris Ankrum), who never cracks a smile and talks only of war. They in turn team up with Geronimo and his party of some 27 braves who were captured and also sent to the reservation, as they steal guns from two shifty white gun dealers. The best thing Grey Eagle ever did was have a beautiful daughter named Oona (Barbara Rush), who wants to marry Taza but dad wants her to marry Naiche. You know how demanding Indian father’s can be, so Taza and Oona must suffer as he will not go against Apache custom and marry her without permission.

In the climax, after a few misunderstandings the Apaches under Geronimo attack the US Cavalry, who are rescued in this unconventional Western by Taza and his Indians.

Though the action scenes have some vitality, everything is strained by a sense of incredulity. This is not one of Sirk’s better films.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”