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Author Topic: A Distant Trumpet (1964)  (Read 462 times)
Spikeopath
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« on: February 08, 2017, 06:28:38 PM »

War Eagle-Probably the greatest guerrilla fighter in the world today.

A Distant Trumpet is directed by Raoul Walsh and written by John Twist with the adaptation from Paul Horgan's novel by Richard Fielder & Albert Beich. It stars Troy Donahue, Suzanne Pleshette, William Reynolds, Diane McBain, Claude Akins & James Gregory. Max Steiner provides the musical score and William H. Clothier is the cinematographer.

1883, Fort Delivery, Arizona, and newly posted Lieutenant Matthew Hazard (Donahue) is about to be thrust into two wars. One is of the heart, the other pits him against the last pocket of Indian resistance: the Chiricahua's, led by the mighty War Eagle.

A blunderbuss "A" class production from Warner Bros that feels like a "B" class Oater from the 50s, A Distant Trumpet has much to recommend to the Western fan. Driven by a rousing cavalry themed score by Steiner, and beautifully photographed by Clothier around Red Rocks (New Mexico) & Painted Desert (Arizona) in Panavision/Technicolor, it's a film that carries a message and pays respect to the topic to hand. Without doubt the makers are keen to mark it out first and foremost as an adrenaline fuelled Cavalry Vs Indians based picture, with Walsh grandly staging the action sequence with skill (100s of extras/stunt men, no CGI here), but although the script could have done with some more work as regards the characterisations, the screenplay does make rich on the promise of adult themes. While the decision to let the Indian characters speak their own language is also a major bonus.

Where it falls down is three fold. Firstly is the problem of asking the average Donahue to carry the film, he may be easy on the eye to those so inclined, but his one note, expressionless, performance is often a distraction to the many splendours around him. Secondly is that the twin lovelies of McBain & Pleshette are underwritten and underused respectively, which in a film that's nearly two hours long (too long and that's the third point) is an act of stupidity. Some would argue that the love triangle sub-plot is an uneasy fit on context to the "war" at the film's core, but it does have value in regards to showing the point of view of the ladies marrying into the army way of life. Yes it should have been formed better, particularly from McBain's (yellow hair, yellow dress and vanilla ice cream skin) character's angle , but it does exist in the narrative and it's good to see.

It's far from the great swansong that Raoul Walsh deserved, but its pluses far outweigh the negatives. Be it battle orchestration (cliff top attack rules!), observing the thorn between two roses dynamic or just that it affords respect to the Indians, it's a film easily recommended to the genre fan. Besides which, Steiner and Clothier make it essential viewing. 7/10

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mike siegel
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« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2017, 09:56:45 AM »

Yeah, that about mirrors my sentiments.

Hollywood had a problem regarding young leading man in the early 60s. They
wanted successors of the Tony Curtis' and Rock Hudson and Troy Donahue, well he can't carry a film.
The same happened to Wellman in a way with his last film, Tab Hunter tried hard, but to portray Wellman on-screen
you need another kind of hero Smiley.

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Spikeopath
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« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2017, 12:00:14 PM »

Yeah, that about mirrors my sentiments.

Hollywood had a problem regarding young leading man in the early 60s. They
wanted successors of the Tony Curtis' and Rock Hudson and Troy Donahue, well he can't carry a film.
The same happened to Wellman in a way with his last film, Tab Hunter tried hard, but to portray Wellman on-screen
you need another kind of hero Smiley.

Yeah good point. I wonder if the fact the American Western was waning in the decade was a reason why they sought out hot young bucks (as it were), to salvage what had once been a productive gravy train?

 Afro

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mike siegel
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« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2017, 01:40:04 PM »

I don't think it had anything to do with a genre, the world was changing in the early 60s. Beatles, Marihuna, Nouvelle Vague. That generation more or less hated the 50s when they had been teenagers. They wanted their own thing, more authentic. And BEACH BLANKET BINGO surely wasn't  Smiley. The studios had no answer to that, they just tried their luck with old winning formulas, matinee idols and glamorous cinematography. The younger generation was up to other things.   Hence the immediate success of the not-so-pretty faces, the anti-surf boys, Dustin Hoffman, Belmondo, Peter Fonda, Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland...

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« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2017, 03:12:30 AM »

I agree that Troy Donahue is a weak lead and the story isn't that good either. I think that Suzanne Pleshette is at her most gorgeous in this one. But this is just another waste of her acting talent. I can't understand why she was never given better parts.

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cigar joe
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« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2017, 03:58:01 AM »

I agree that Troy Donahue is a weak lead and the story isn't that good either. I think that Suzanne Pleshette is at her most gorgeous in this one. But this is just another waste of her acting talent. I can't understand why she was never given better parts.

Agree about Pleshette.

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