Apache (1954)

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Released 18-Aug-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1954
Running Time 83:51
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Robert Aldrich

Starring Burt Lancaster
Jean Peters
John McIntire
Charles Bronson
John Dehner
Paul Guilfoyle
Ian MacDonald
Walter Sande
Morris Ankrum
Monte Blue
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music David Raksin

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This film is based on a true story. Chiracahua Apache Massai (Burt Lancaster) refuses to surrender along with Geronimo (silent screen star Monte Blue), but he is captured and put on a train with other Apache warriors bound for Florida, away from the reservation. En route to Florida Massai escapes and finds himself in St Louis. Forced out into the countryside, he finds himself at the farm of a Cherokee who has adapted himself to the white man's ways (Morris Ankrum). The farmer suggests that Massai turn to farming, and gives him a bag of corn to plant. Massai is reluctant, but events along the way to the reservation, some 1,500 miles away, change his mind. But when he arrives at the reservation, he is betrayed and re-arrested. Escaping again, he becomes a one man terrorist outfit, burning Army supplies and generally causing a nuisance. Massai and his squaw Nalinle (Jean Peters) are pursued into the hills by Al Sieber (John McIntire). Will Massai be hunted down and sent to Florida, or will Nalinle convince him to give up fighting and become a farmer?

    I opened this review by stating that the film is based on a true story. Well, there really was a Massai and there really was an Al Sieber. The latter was chief of the Indian Scouts in the army, and seems to have dealt with Indian problems by killing the Indians involved, quite unlike the character portrayed by John McIntire here. Massai probably didn't have blue eyes, but what is known is that he was a bloodthirsty killer who spent several years living in the wilderness, stealing, killing, raping and generally making a nuisance of himself. Not the sort of sympathetic character Lancaster wanted. What was true was that Massai escaped from the train bound for Florida and trekked back across the country to his homeland. The rest is Hollywood fiction. There is a link to a later Lancaster-Robert Aldrich film, Ulzana's Raid, as Massai may have taken part in the real-life raid on which that film was based.

    The film suffered a change to the ending, forced on the producers (Lancaster and Harold Hecht) by United Artists. Instead of the intended ending (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) which had Massai shot in the back by a soldier, there is the open-ended happy ending instead. Both endings were shot, but UA chose their favoured one over the director's objections.

    This is an average western, notable because of the star power and fine supporting cast, but also because of the sympathetic portrayal of the Indians. The white men are venial (John Dehner as Weddle) or sympathetic but ineffectual (Walter Sande as Lieutenant-Colonel Beck), while the Indians are either accepting of their fate or driven to drink like chief Santos (Paul Guilfoyle, father of the actor of the same name from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation). There is also a bad Indian, the scout Hondo (played by Charles Buchinsky, later known as Charles Bronson), whose only interest is in taking Nalinle for himself.

    This is one of a clutch of pro-Indian films that began with Broken Arrow in 1950, though there were favourable treatments of the Indians dating back to the early silent era. It did not all start with Dances With Wolves, which despite all the accolades heaped upon it is no great advance on Apache, except perhaps in the polish of the execution. Robert Aldrich's direction is less than assured here, and the film suffers slightly as a result. Parts of it seem perfunctory, and as a narrative it does not flow like the best of his work. The next film he made that same year, Vera Cruz, also starred Lancaster and is far better.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.30:1, not far removed from what was probably the original 1.37:1 aspect. There is no 16x9 enhancement.

    The material used for the transfer has been reasonably well transferred to DVD, but it was unfortunately not in the best condition to begin with. While sharp, it is not greatly detailed, and I have seen much better from the same era. Despite this it is still better than VHS. Shadow detail is lacking a little, and night scenes tend to be a little dark. Contrast is adequate.

    This is a Technicolor film, and by the exacting standards of that company this falls a little short. Colour is acceptable, but it lacks the brightness and richness of the best Technicolor transfers. Flesh tones are reasonable though there is some variation in the shade of makeup on the Indian characters' faces. Some sequences seem a little too green, such as when Massai is on board the train. Black levels are good.

    Apart from some slight edge enhancement, there is nothing in the way of film to video artefacts present. Film artefacts are in evidence, such as some obvious splice marks at 9:23 and 78:29, plenty of white flecks (a brief flurry at 21:08) and reel change markings at 30:49, 48:10 and 64:26.

    Optional English subtitles are provided, which may be necessary to understand some of the more obscure words spoken. They are quite clear and readable, and well-timed with the dialogue.

    The film is presented on a single-layered disc, obviating the need for a layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The default audio track is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, and some alternative language tracks are provided.

    Dialogue is clear and distinct, with the stilted delivery by the Indian characters (a deliberate artifice) making their dialogue easier to understand, if anything. The audio generally is adequate to the task, with some slight thinness at the top redeemed by good bass. I did not detect any problems with audio sync.

    The music score by David Raksin is reasonable, though this composer has produced more distinctive scores. It does not draw much attention to itself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer

    The sole extra is an original theatrical trailer. It gives away a fair bit of the plot, but the narration has to be heard to be believed, and is one of the worst I have heard. It sounds like a live broadcast of a reporter trying to work out what is going on on-screen, like a newsreel. More embarrassing than humorous.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Both the US Region 1 and the UK Region 2 appear to be identical to the Region 4, so there is no need to look overseas for a decent set of extras or a better transfer.


    A reasonable but minor western with some differences from the average western fare.

    The video quality is average.

    The audio quality is satisfactory.

    Just the trailer for an extra.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, October 15, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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