This is a story of the Seminole Indians and their Chief Osceola ---
A story taken from the pages of History
The movie, directed by the great Budd Boetticher, starts in 1835 with a court martial of Second Lt. Lance Caldwell (Rock Hudson), who has been charged with treason and murder and is facing a death sentence. He tells his story to the court presided over by Col. Zachary Taylor.
Caldwell is a recent West Point graduate to his native Florida to be a scout at Fort King. He is attacked by a Seminole, but gets away. He then meets the fort commander, Major Degan. Degan turns out to be an Indian-hater who doesn't like Caldwell's view of the Seminoles as a peaceful tribe. Major Degan views the Indians as savages who need to be sent West so that their lands, the Everglades, can be developed. The Seminoles are defying Degan, and are led by Osceola (Anthony Quinn), who had a white father and grew up as John Powell. He was best friends with Caldwell growing up.
When Lance visits his childhood sweetheart Revere Muldoon, he asks about John, not knowing that he is Osceola. Revere goes off to see Osceola, to tell him of the return of Caldwell, and we find out Osceola and Revere are lovers.
The crazed Major Degan, along with a protesting Caldwell, lead an expedition in to the Everglades to "wipe out" the Seminoles. Degan is more concerned with a cannon sinking in the quicksand then one of his men, but Caldwell saves him.
When they get to their camp, the blood thirsty Degan wants to wipe them out. At night the troops enter the camp of the sleeping Seminoles, but the Seminoles are gone. The Seminoles then ambush the troops. Caldwell is almost killed, but Osceola saves his childhood friend. When Caldwell awakens he sees his friend is now the chief. Osceola tells Caldwell that he only wanted peace.
The only other survivors are the major, Sgt. Magruder (Lee Marvin) and one other soldier. Major Deegan thinks Caldwell is a traitor. He talks to Revere, and convinces her to get Osceola to come in for peace negotiations. Caldwell is heart sick for having lost Revere to his friend, and Revere tells him that the army thinks he is a traitor.
When Osceola won't sign a bad treaty Major Degan throws him in to a pit. Once again we see the whites breaking their word to the Indians. Caldwell is put in to jail for treason when he demands Osceola's freedom.
When the angry warrior Kajeck (Hugh O'Brian) invades the fort and attempts to kill Osceola, whom he considers a traitor, Caldwell fights him off but Osceola still drowns in the pit. Caldwell is then charged with this murder.
A pretty good movie that shows a peaceful tribe being forced to fight brcause of the greed and prejudice of the whites. We could have done without the crazed Indian Kajeck who balanced the crazed white Major. It would also have been better with real Native actors (instead of Anthony Quinn and Hugh O'Brian), the Seminole language and more exploration of the Seminole lifestyle and culture.
Overall, a good movie by one of my favorite directors (love the Ranown Cycle).