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Monday, February 28, 2011

Smoke Signal (1955)

After a massacre at their fort by Ute Indians, a small handful of surviving soldiers plus a prisoner (Dana Andrews) awaiting court martial, a girl (Piper Laurie) and a skin hunter (Douglas Spencer) flee in canoes down the treacherous, uncharted Colorado river in an escape attempt. Thus, the film becomes more of an adventure than a traditional western as the bulk of the film takes place on the river. While the locations (Utah and Arizona) are lend authenticity to the film, the majority of the river rapids sequences are obviously done in a studio against projected backdrops which lessens the excitement. Still, some suspense is generated, not only by the "will they or will they not make it" plot but also by the tension between Andrews and the martinet Captain (William Talman) determined to bring Andrews through to court martial. Perhaps it is a routine western but it's compact and efficient and successfully completes its modest ambitions. Directed by Jerry Hopper and with Rex Reason (as Laurie's slimy fiancee), Robert J. Wilke, Milburn Stone and William Schallert. A western that I think non-western fans might enjoy even more than western fans.

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