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USA 1972
Directed by
Robert Aldrich
105 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Ulzana's Raid

Ulzana’s Raid is an engrossing Western, less for its traditional genre credentials than for the way in which it represents White vs Indian attitudes. Screenwriter Alan Sharp tackles the subject with a degree of complexity although even at the time it was seen as quite reactionary (note the end credits which conventionally acknowledges that the film was shot on location on various Government-owned lands but makes no mention of Native American ownership and the Marlboro Man style music by Frank Devol).

Burt Lancaster plays McIntosh, a chief scout on a mission to bring to heel the Chiracahua Apache leader, Ulzana (Joaquin Martinez), who has left the Government reservation in Arizona and with nine other braves has gone on a killing spree. From the get-go the script opposes the dispassionately cynical McIntosh’s view of the Apaches with that of his commander on the mission, the newly commissioned officer, Lieutenant DeBuin, who dealistically aspires to maintain a Christian ethic. Adding to the mix is Ke-ni-tay (Jorge Luke), the mission’s Apache scout who is also Ulzana's brother-in-law. Thematically the film centres on DeBuin’s attempt to reconcile his Christian beliefs with the apparent inhumanity of the Apache. Although in the latter respect the Apaches are not represented with traditional two-dimensionality, they remain largely ciphers and, as the final confrontation between Ke-ni-tay and Ulzana shows, ultimately doomed to be dispossessed by history (rather than the White Man per se), the film ending with a Zeitgeist typical sense of the individual ground down by the system.

Lancaster, in typically good form as the grizzled world-weary scout, Joseph Biroc’s location photography is first class and Aldrich’s direction (apparently he was not happy with the studio cut) make this, despite its period limitations, a film that modern Western fans will find a treat.




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