Directed by Lesley Selander
Produced by Hayes Goetz
Screenplay by Don Martin
Cinematography: Ellis W. Carter
Film Editor: William Austin
Cast: Sterling Hayden (Bart Laish), Coleen Gray (Christella Burke), Keith Larsen (Lt. Steve King), Tom Tully (Crowshaw), Jimmy Wakely (Pvt. Carqueville), Tudor Owen (Tillotson), Lee Van Cleef, Iron Eyes Cody
With Arrow In The Dust (1954), Allied Artists seems to have splurged a little. With both Sterling Hayden and Coleen Gray in the cast, there’s a bit more star power than usual — and we’re treated to the vivid hues of Technicolor on the then-new wide screen. But this was made not long after Poverty Row’s Monogram Pictures made the transition to Allied Artists, so some of their typical B Movie trappings are very much in evidence. And that’s not a bad thing.
Sterling Hayden’s Bart Laish, a cavalry deserter who poses as an officer to lead a wagon train through Indian territory. And boy, do they need his help — the Indians attack the settlers and soldiers again and again (for reasons that become clear in the last reel).
Along the way, Hayden is revealed as a solid leader and undergoes a real transformation (though we’re never given his reasons for deserting in the first place). Along with his redemption, he develops a relationship with Christella Burke (Coleen Gray), a woman heading west with the wagon train.
Working with a crack team of stuntmen and a sizable amount of stock footage, Lesley Selander really piles on the action. And when it comes to action, Selander’s the guy you want in the director’s chair. While you may feel there’s little character development here, it seems to me that there’s quite a bit of it, given how much screen time is devoted to action. Hayden and Gray are as reliable as ever, rounding out their characters very well. Tom Tully, as an old scout, is also very good. Incidentally, Hayden and Gray (and Vince Edwards) would appear in Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing (1956). Think Kubrick and his team screened Arrow In The Dust during casting?
Arrow In The Dust is no epic. No one’s ever gonna mistake it for one. But it’s a revelation to see its 1.85 framing (presented as a more TV-friendly 1.78) reinstated. And while the DVD from Warner Archive is the best I’ve seen the movie look, there are some problems — and I fear they come from the original material, not the transfer. The stock footage doesn’t match the rest of the film, which is a small gripe. The day-for-night scenes are painfully obvious, and I suspect the print material doesn’t reflect the lab work that went into first-run prints. And you’ll see some dust and scratches here and there.
Sterling Hayden’s performance really boosts Arrow In The Dust, and Lesley Selander’s command of action and pacing keep things moving toward a very satisfying conclusion (I’m a sucker for a redemption story and would watch a movie of Hayden brushing his teeth). This is a solid, if slightly cheap, mid-budget Western that’s certainly worth another look — especially given the improved picture quality and original framing. Recommended.
Laura’s already reviewed this one.