Director: Delmer Daves
Genre(s): War, Western
Runtime: 111 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Alan Ladd and Charles Bronson in a war-western together? What could possibly go wrong? During the Indian Wars of the late 1800s, an experienced fighter of Native Americans named Johnny MacKay (Alan Ladd) is dispatched to the Wild West to bring peace between White settlers and Modoc Native Americans led by “Captain Jack” (Charles Bronson). This movie may have helped Bronson establish himself as an actor, but it’s still rubbish.
When film historians talk about old western flicks that were racist against Native Americans, Drum Beat is probably one of the pictures that they’re referring to. According to this production, “good” natives went to their shitty reservations with big smiles on their faces, while the “bad” natives challenged the Whites’ attempts to steal their lands. The work’s prejudice is pretty blatant, some of the worst I’ve seen in the genre.
To add insult to injury, Drum Beat is just plain boring. The action scenes aren’t terrible (there is a big battle or two), but Alan Ladd doesn’t find himself in the middle of the mayhem as much as he should. The movie seems to have had a respectable budget, but it’s all wasted. The picture should’ve run only about ninety minutes, but, in an effort to make it more epic, it drags on for a little over 110 minutes. President Ulysses S. Grant (played by Hayden Rorke) appears on a couple of occasions, but nothing memorable comes from this.
So, that’s two major strikes against Drum Beat: racism and tedium. Normally, I’d try to come up with a third strike to complete the baseball analogy, but this movie isn’t worth the time. You’re out! The film is more likely to make you want to go to sleep than it is to excite you. Nope, this one is not recommended. If you need a flick to watch that touches on the Indian Wars, check out something like Winchester ’73 (1950) or Ulzana’s Raid (1972), instead of this turkey.
My rating is 4 outta 10.