Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Run of the Arrow

Written and directed by Samuel Fuller, Run of the Arrow is the story of a former Confederate war veteran who leaves his family to move to the West where he joins the Sioux Indian Nation. The film is a western that explores a man dealing with his honor while helping the Indians fight off against the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars of the late 19th Century. Starring Rod Steiger, Sara Montiel, Brian Keith, and Charles Bronson. Run of the Arrow is a compelling and thrilling film from Samuel Fuller.

The film is the story of a Confederate soldier who decides to leave his home of Virginia and his family following Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant to end the Civil War as he tries to find something to fight for when he moves West and becomes part of the Sioux Indian Nation. It’s a film that really more of an exploration of a man who felt like his service in the Civil War had all been for nothing as he was forced to bury his own brothers as he seeks to find meaning in the West where his encounter with Sioux Indians have him wanting to find a role where he can be useful and also gain whatever honor is lost. Along the way, he would deal with a cavalry that wants to build a fort nearby their territory causing tension as O’Meara (Rod Steiger) tries to ensure nothing goes wrong as he does gain the trust of cavalry leader Captain Clark (Brian Keith) but trouble brews due to a rebellious Sioux and a lieutenant whom O’Meara had met in the last days of the Civil War.

Samuel Fuller’s screenplay showcases a man who has become lost in his idea of duty and honor as he refuses to accept the surrender of the Confederacy despite the fact that he knows that the war was lost. That loss forces O’Meara to find a place where he doesn’t have to bow down to the Union where his meeting with an aging Sioux renegade in Walking Coyote (Jay C. Flippen) who takes a liking to O’Meara. Their encounter with the rebellious Crazy Wolf (H.M. Wynant) would show O’Meara’s resilience as he is accepted by the tribe as he would marry a Sioux woman in Yellow Moccasin (Sara Montiel) and gain a sense of peace. Yet, the arrival of the cavalry forces O’Meara to deal with his past in Lt. Driscoll (Ralph Meeker) who distrusts the Sioux. Especially as its third act would have O’Meara try to make Lt. Driscoll see reason and not start a war as well as confront his own demons about his own experiences with the Civil War.

Fuller’s direction is quite grand as he shoots the film on a widescreen format to display that broad stroke of the American West. The use of the wide and medium shots allow Fuller to play into that vast look of the West while doing some very unique ideas to display this game of death known as Run of the Arrow where O’Meara and Walking Coyote would have to run barefoot to survive from being killed by the Sioux. What Fuller did in that sequence was instead of doing wide or medium shots of an entire person in the frame, he just focuses on the feet instead to play into that sense of action. Fuller’s use of close-ups also play into the drama as it relates to O’Meara’s own personal struggle while a few of them are presented awkwardly which suggests that there was some tampering to what Fuller wanted and what the studio wanted. Yet, Fuller is able to keep things lively and also infuse some commentary about the themes of honor and what the Sioux were fighting for as it would help O’Meara regain a sense of identity and honor. Overall, Fuller creates a very exhilarating film about a lost man trying to find himself in the American West.

Cinematographer Joseph Biroc does excellent work with the film‘s colorful cinematography from the vast look of the American desert to the more low-key lights for the scenes at night. Editor Gene Fowler Jr. does amazing work with the editing with its use of dissolves and rhythmic cuts to play into the film’s action and suspense. Art directors Albert S. D’Agostino and Jack Okey, along with set decorator Bertram C. Granger, do brilliant work with the set pieces from the look of the teepees that the Sioux lived to the fort that the cavalry would build. The sound work of Terry Kellum and Virgil Smith is terrific for its sound work from the way arrows are shot into the air to the sounds of gunfire. The film’s music by Sidney Cutner is wonderful for its bombastic orchestral score that includes some somber themes to play into the drama.

The film’s superb cast includes some notable small roles from Billy Miller as the mute Sioux Silent Tongue, Olive Carey as O’Meara’s mother, and Charles Bronson in one of his early roles as a Sioux chief in Blue Buffalo as it’s a true standout performance from the legendary actor. H.M. Wynant is terrific as the rebellious Sioux Crazy Wolf while Jay C. Flippen is excellent as the aging Sioux scout Walking Coyote who would introduce O’Meara the ideas of the Sioux. Ralph Meeker is fantastic as Lt. Driscoll as a young man who had been shot by O’Meara during the Civil War as he is eager to make a name for himself and start a war with the Sioux.

Brian Keith is great as Captain Clark as a cavalry leader who knows what is at stake while understanding O’Meara’s anger towards the Union as he would provide O’Meara some ideas into what he should do. Sara Montiel is wonderful as Yellow Moccasin as a woman who helps O’Meara find peace though her voice work is dubbed by Angie Dickinson who manages to bring that sense of warmth to the character’s voice. Finally, there’s Rod Steiger in a phenomenal performance as O’Meara as this man who lost so much in the Civil War as he tries to find meaning again by being part of the Sioux tribe as it’s a performance full of humility and determination as it’s one of his finest roles.

Run of the Arrow is a fantastic film from Samuel Fuller that features a brilliant performance from Rod Steiger. It’s a film that doesn’t just explore a man trying to regain a sense of honor but also find peace from the troubled world he had just left. In the end, Run of the Arrow is a superb film from Samuel Fuller.

Samuel Fuller Films: I Shot Jesse James - The Baron of Arizona - The Steel Helmet - Fixed Bayonets! - Park Row - Pickup on South Street - (Hell and High Water) - House of Bamboo - (China Gate) - Forty Guns - Verboten! - The Crimson Kimono - Underworld U.S.A. - Merrill's Marauders - Shock Corridor - The Naked Kiss - (Shark!) - (Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street) - The Big Red One - White Dog - (Thieves After Dark) - (Street of No Return) - (The Madonna and the Dragon)

© thevoid99 2014

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