by Jack Nilan            EMail :

War Drums (1957)

Jack   B-

IMDB    5.7

Tribe(s) : Apache, Comanche

Language : English



   Lex Barker, who was best known for playing Tarzan, plays Apache chief Mangas Coloradas in this movie set in the years just before the Civil War. The film opens with Apaches chasing after some Mexicans who have stolen some horses from them. On the raid Mangas captures a captive named Riva, who is half Mexican and half Comanche.

   Ben Johnson plays Luke Fargo, an old friend of Mangas. Riva and Luke do the Mexican hat dance at the camp fire as the movie swerves very close to being camp. Luke and Riva are about to kiss when Mangas pulls her away. Luke says she is the first woman he ever saw that he would want for his wife. Luke tries to trade a new repeating rifle for Riva. He wants her for his wife. Mangas refuses his friend.

   Mangas admires Riva because she is fearless. Mangas tells his tribe he wants to marry Riva, but some in the tribe are against him marrying a Mexican. When some braves protest Mangas kills both of them in duels. The medicine man who started all the trouble now cheers for Mangas too.

   Riva is not the good little Apache wife. She fights against being domesticated. She doesn't want to be a squaw. She wants to become a warrior, and Mangas goes along with it. Soon Riva is practicing shooting arrows instead of building a wickiup.

   Luke meets up with Mangas and Riva. Luke offers the repeating rifle and a fine horse for Riva, but Mangas says that he is to marry Riva. Luke gives the horse to Riva as a wedding present.

   Mangas confronts some prospectors on his land who have chased two of his people off their land and burned their wickiup. Mangus tells the prospectors where they can go and find gold, but they do not believe him. They beat him and then whip him.

   Since the whites have broken the peace Mangas picks up the knife, the hatchet and the spear and won't put them down until the whites are driven from the land. Mangas and his men kill the prospectors as Riva, with war paint on, cheers them on. When Like sees the smoke signals about war, he rides to find Mangas.

   Luke leads a party to find Mangas and to see what happened. When Luke says that he is a friend of the Apaches and wants to talk, Mangas comes down to speak with him. Riva sees the white gunmen om horseback and says that it is a trap and an Apache shoots the judge with the flag of truce. The whites then attack and they shooting starts. Luke pulls Riva out of the battle, but then he is hit with an arrow. Riva brings him back to the wickiup and tries to fix him. She pushes the arrow right through his back.

   Mangas tells Luke how the prospectors had burned the wickiup and whipped him. Mangas tells Luke that he has closed his ears to the peace talks of the whites. When the Civil war breaks out the troops in the West are sent east and Mangas attacks settlers all over.

   With the Civil war Luke is now an army office and he is out looking for Mangus. When Mangus gets shot on a raid, the Apaches bring him to a white doctor and Riva tells him to heal Mangas, or get staked to an ant hill. The doctor gets the bullet, and Luke and the cavalry appears. Luke lets Mangas and his people escape in to the hills.

   A pale imitation of Broken Arrow with Mangas instead of Cochise. It does have the added twist of having both Mangas and Luke both wanting the same girl and it does have Ben Johnson, which is a plus in any movie. The movie was sympathetic to the Indians, it just wasn't too good.