Rent Fort Apache (1948)

3.8 of 5 from 80 ratings
2h 3min
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The first of John Ford's trilogy of Cavalry Movies set during America's struggle against the Apache Indian. Henry Fonda plays the stubborn Colonel Thursday whose Textbook methods of warfare appear as pure as suicide to everyone but him. John Wayne stars as Captain York, a soldier experienced in Apache warfare, from whom Thursday will take no advice. The film builds to the inevitable confrontation with the Apache masses, and Thursday leads his men into the Lion's Den.
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John Ford, Merian C. Cooper
Frank S. Nugent, James Warner Bellah
Universal Pictures
Action & Adventure, Classics
Release Date:
Run Time:
123 minutes
English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
English Hard of Hearing
DVD Regions:
Region 2
Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen 1.33:1 / 4:3
B & W
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Reviews (1) of Fort Apache

Classic Western. - Fort Apache review by Steve

Spoiler Alert

The great strength of Fort Apache is Henry Fonda's multi-faceted portrayal of a narcissistic and mediocre cavalry officer, Lieutenant Colonel Owen Thursday. If a new leader announces himself with 'I am not a martinet but...' you know where this is heading. Fort Apache is a remote camp intended to simply keep Native Americans on their reservation but Thursday's vanity escalates this task into the bloody massacre of his own men.

The other impressive factor is its interpretation of the 'Indian' wars, which isn't flattering towards the Americans. The Apaches are portrayed as sophisticated warriors who fight in harmony with their environment and who have been wronged by political expediency. Ford deserves credit for revising the representation of Native Americans usually seen in Hollywood westerns, and indeed in his own films.

However these themes and Fonda's great performance are set adrift into a vast epic of sentimental Irish whimsy. The constant, idiotic quest for whisky supplies. The knockabout horseplay and punch-ups. The singing group harmonising nostalgic Irish ballads. The comedy cliché of the bad drilling of new recruits. The actual story constantly wanders off into long diversions of high-spirited tomfoolery.

Ford's stock company of character actors is well capable of carrying off this broad comedy and slapstick. The photography and the familiar locations are fine. John Wayne has a badly written support role as a more experienced veteran of the Indian territories. There is the standard western theme of what too much power does to the few that exercise it. Fonda dominates, but what is intended as comic relief ultimately overwhelms the film.

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