Directed by John English
Written by Norman S. Hall
Director Of Photography: William Bradford
Film Editor: James Sweeney
Cast: Gene Autry (Himself), Gail Davis (Melody Colton), Kirby Grant (Lt. Randolph Mason), James H. Griffith (The Apache Kid), Philip Van Zandt (Curt Reidler), Pat Buttram (Shadrach Jones), Champion
This might put me in the minority, but I prefer Gene Autry’s later pictures. Could be for any number of reasons. His acting’s better. There’s a greater emphasis on action. Gail Davis is often around. And some actually take place in the Old West.
Case in point: 1950’s Indian Territory. Autry’s a Confederate veteran serving with the U.S. cavalry now that the war’s over. He’s been sent to get to the bottom of Indian attacks on settlers — and ends up tangling with The Apache Kid (James H. Griffith) and an Austrian gunrunner (Philip Van Zandt). With the help of sidekick Shadrach Jones (Pat Buttram) and the daughter of a local rancher (Gail Davis), Gene restores order to Apache Springs.
The supporting cast can really make a movie like this, and this one is certainly no exception. James H. Griffith wouldn’t be my top-of-mind pick to portray an Apache renegade, but he’s so good, you have no trouble looking past that. Gail Davis displays some of the spunk that made her Annie Oakley series (produced by Gene’s company) such a treat. And Pat Buttram’s sidekick role doesn’t feel nailed onto the story as is so often the case.
Indian Territory was filmed around Pioneertown, the live-in movie set not far from Joshua Tree and Palm Springs — developed by Russell Hayden, Dick Curtis and Roy Rogers.
Pat Buttram (from the Melody Ranch Theater introduction included on the DVD): “They thought it’d be a great location and they built this Western street… they built it to turn a stagecoach around in. That made it so wide, when you had a crowd scene, you had to send seven busloads of people up there to even be seen on those streets. We’d have to use a little corner here and a little corner there.”
Indian Territory is available in Volume 2 of The Gene Autry Collection — put together by Image Entertainment and later Timeless. There was a stand-alone release (from Image) prior to that. With either one, you get a gorgeous transfer and plenty of extras, from the Melody Ranch Theater stuff featuring Gene and Pat to a radio show and still gallery. Gene’s films have been treated with great care, as Indian Territory proves. Recommended.
UPDATE: Came across this signed still of James Griffith. Judging from the costume, it’s from Indian Territory.