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: The Fighting Seventh (1951) (Little Big Horn)  ( 394 )

« : May 18, 2017, 05:44:38 AM »

The Army works on the principle that it's better to sacrifice a few to many. It's hard to be one of those "few."

Little Big Horn (AKA: The Fighting Seventh) is directed by Charles Marquis Warren who also adapts the screenplay from a story by Harold Shumate. It stars Lloyd Bridges, John Ireland, Marie Windsor, Reed Hadley and Jim Davis. Music is by Paul Dunlap and cinematography by Ernest Miller.

A small U.S. Cavalry unit snake their way towards Little Big Horn to warn General Custer of the mortal danger that awaits. But beset with inner conflicts and with the Sioux on their tails, chances of achieving their goal gets slimmer by the hour.

Low on budget but big on impact, Little Big Horn may just be the finest film to come out of Lippert Productions. With history as it is, the only thing going against Warren's film is that we know this band of men will not achieve their ultimate goal, but that's OK, for this is not about cheap heroics. Film is very grim, both in texture and thematics. With Warren and Miller painting a stark noir look to the visuals, story unfolds with futility the order of the day.

Heading the group are Capt. Phillip Donlin (Bridges) and Lt. John Haywood (Ireland), who we have witnessed at film's beginning forming a messy love triangle with Celie Donlin (Windsor). Captain Donlin is stickler for the rules, but are his motives clouded now? With the rest of the troop believing Haywood is a wife stealer, friction is palpable, yet Haywood keeps proving himself to be an admirable man, consistently doing things to make the troop reevaluate their feelings towards him. The group dynamic set up by Warren is first class, it crackles with intensity.

As the journey proceeds a number of potent scenes and scenarios come into play. A man staked up like a scarecrow as a trap, the drawing of cards to see who rides point - which the men know is almost certainly going to result in death - unmarked graves and wedding rings of the dead, these things really strike grim emotional chords. The Sioux are a constant threat out in the rocks or shadows, this troop, as we soon find out, are at the mercy of their better equipped enemy. There's a resignation residing within the group, yet it is that which binds them together. Arrows thud into bodies and blood pours from mouths, and then the finale comes storming in to close down this quite excellent film noir Western.

DVD packaged with Rimfire (1949) as a Kit Parker double bill of film noir Westerns, Little Big Horn is very much the better film. Both have the considerable visual skills of Ernest Miller to enjoy, but LBH is the more essential film on account of its across the board excellence. 8/10

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