Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ulzana's Raid (1972)

Director: Robert Aldrich

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Bruce Davison, Richard Jaeckel

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: To Defeat The Apaches, They Had to Be Just as Savage

Plot: Report reaches the US cavalry that the Apache leader Ulzana has left his reservation with a band of followers. A compassionate young officer, Lieutenant DeBuin (Davison), is given a small company to find him and bring him back; accompanying the troop is McIntosh (Lancaster), an experienced scout, and Ke-Ni-Tay, an Apache guide. Ulzana massacres, rapes and loots across the countryside; and as DeBuin encounters the remains of his victims, he is compelled to learn from McIntosh and to confront his own naivety and hidden prejudices.

My Rating: 8/10

Would I watch it again? Yup

Burt Lancaster = Badass. Burt is one of the few people who've earned the title, "The Man" in my book. In the late 60s and early 70s he starred in some fantastic gritty westerns like THE PROFESSIONALS (1966), LAWMAN (1971), VALDEZ IS COMING (1971) and ULZANA'S RAID (1972). He also did THE SCALPHUNTERS (1968) but I haven't seen it YET. I'll have to make it a priority as the other four are outstanding and judging by the cast and plot of SCALP it's going to happen within days.

This flic is violent, violent, violent. It reminded me of a large series of EXTREMELY violent western paperback novels (started in the early 70s) by George G. Gillman about a man called EDGE (also the name of the series). You want violence? EDGE has got it and how. You're sure to find at least one at your local used book shop. I found about a dozen.
Well, in UR lots of people are killed and in grisly ways. There's a FANTASTIC scene in which a trooper is escorting a woman and her boy to the Fort when they are overtaken by Ulzana's men. Knowing what the Apaches will do them if captured, the trooper, without hesitation, shoots the woman between the eyes, takes the boy from the wagon and rides off. They get a few yards when their horse is shot and falls to the ground. Lying on his back, the trooper rolls a few feet to fetch his pistol, grabs it and immediately puts it in his mouth and pulls the trigger! BAM!!! Awesome. But it gets better. He's dead on his back now with smoke coming from his mouth!!!!!!!!! If that's not enough to run out and get this I don't know what is.

There are several in-your-face moments like this throughout the picture. It's refreshing to see such harsh images in older films. It just feels rare but certainly welcome.

Burt has lots of great lines and moments that are in his typical fashion.

Lt. Harry Garnett DeBuin: Well, what's the point, Mr. MacIntosh, if we can't close the gap. McIntosh: Remember the rules, Lieutenant. The first one to make a mistake gets to buryin' some people.


McIntosh: Lieutenant, a horse will run so far, so fast, for so long, and then it will lie down on ya. When a horse lies down on an Apache, he puts a fire under his belly and gets him back on his feet. When the horse dies, he gets off, eats a bit of it, and steals another. Ain't no way you can better that.


Lt. Harry Garnett DeBuin: So they are on foot!
McIntosh: That's a mighty fair description of men without horses, Lieutenant.

Great stuff. So what's not to like? The music, that's what. Frank De Vol (sometimes going by the name of simply De Vol) writes like this is a harmless jaunt in the desert with pretty scenery and Mormons in covered wagons and shit. This is a gritty film that deserved a difficult score. Alex North could've done it justice. Bernard Herrmann could have, too. Shit, Jerry Goldsmith was around then and working like a mo-fo. But Frank De Vol? Ugh. The score rarely works and, for me, detracted in several places that would have benefited with no score at all.
I'm a huge fan of Spaghetti Westerns, owning over 300 of them, largely because they were different. They were violent. They were fun. There was a lot of shit, too, like any genre but the good ones offer so much. ULZANA'S RAID was definitely influenced by them and so much the better for it. If you like westerns of the badass variety then you need to see this one as well as the others I mentioned. They're all fantastic. In a few more days I'll be able to dig into THE SCALPHUNTERS. Can't wait.

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