Cast & Crew
When Mangas Colorado and his band of Apaches raid a camp of Mexican bandits who have stolen their horses, they retrieve their property and also take Riva, a half-Mexican, half-Comanche Indian girl whose father was killed by the horse thieves during a raid on his ranch. Mangas, pulling Riva along by a leash, and his band visit the camp of trader Luke Fargo, Mangas' old friend. When Judge Bolton, who is in the area to make a peace treaty with the Apaches, asks about the girl, Fargo explains that the Apaches kidnap Mexican girls to sell to white saloon owners. The judge is disgusted at the Indians' blatant practice of white slavery, but Fargo compares their actions to the U.S. government's placing of Indians on reservations as well as to the Southern states' legalized slavery. Around the campfire Riva sings and dances with Fargo, and smitten, he offers to trade guns for the girl, but Mangas refuses. The Apaches return to their village, where Mangas announces that he wishes to make Riva his wife. The Apaches, including Mangas' best friend Ponce, are distressed, and medicine man Chino says that the spirits will retaliate if Mangas marries outside of Apache custom. Although Ponce changes his position, two other warriors challenge Mangas, who fights them to the death. Mangas' cousin Yellow Moon and his sister Nona do not easily accept Riva, and when they attempt to force her to do squaw's labor, including building a wicky for her husband-to-be, Riva brawls with them and then tells Mangas that she will be treated as his equal. Mangas agrees, and then teaches Riva to shoot and hunt. At the wedding ceremony, Fargo, disappointed that he has lost Riva, nonetheless offers her a horse as a wedding present, and on the couple's wedding night, Riva teaches Mangas to kiss like an American. Later on, gold miners violate the American peace treaty by panning in Apache territory, and when Nona confronts them, they beat her and then shoot and injure her son, Little Owl. Mangas tries to convince the miners to go away peacefully, but they capture him and whip his backside, leaving humiliating scars. The enraged Apache chief then alerts Riva and the other warriors, and they raid the camp, killing all but one of the men. Later, Judge Bolton and Fargo meet at the site of the recent raid, and Sheriff Bullard announces his intent to teach the Apaches a lesson. Fargo asks that he may be permitted to go see Mangas to ascertain the truth, before they resort to violence. The judge agrees, but insists that the troops be shown the Apaches' hiding place. With the troops behind him, Fargo approaches the Apache band with a white flag, but as Mangas leaves his cover, Riva, spotting the troops assembled, cries out a warning. Ponce, in a panic, fires the first shot and kills Judge Bolton. During the ensuing battle, Fargo is wounded, and Riva nurses his wounds. When Mangas shows up, he recounts his humiliation at the hands of the miners, and Fargo says farewell. As the Apaches continue their raids on miners' camps, wagon trains and settlements, the Civil War breaks out, and Fargo becomes a U.S. Army major. Mangas is shot in a skirmish, and Riva, refusing to entrust her beloved husband to Chino, has him taken to a white settlement where an American doctor can treat him. After the doctor has finished tending Mangas' wounds, Fargo and his troops arrive at the settlement, and Fargo goes to see Riva and Mangas. Fargo explains that he has received orders to kill the Apache warriors and send the women and children to Fort Stanton, unless the Apaches put down their weapons and go peacefully to the reservations. Mangas refuses that option, but makes peace with his old friend Fargo. Fargo, realizing that Mangas will never give up, calls a temporary truce in order to allow the Apaches to seek refuge in the mountains. Riva, Mangas and their band of warriors depart with dignity.
Gerald Drayson Adams
John A. Bushelman
Jack T. Collis
Wesley V. Jefferies
Howard W. Koch
F. A. Partichela
John F. Schreyer
War Drums (1957) - War Drums
This Bel-Air production from independent producers Howard W. Koch and Aubrey Schenck was one of several westerns to star Lex Barker, then attempting a Hollywood makeover by swapping his Tarzan loincloth for buckskins. Based by scenarist Gerald Drayson Adams on true events, the film makes a hero of Apache chieftain Mangas Coloradas, who tangled with the US Cavalry in the years leading up to the Civil War and whose colorful nickname was a gift from the Mexicans with whom he fought and traded. (A translation of the sobriquet provided the film's working title - Chief Red Sleeves.) Mangas Coloradas had been a character in Bel-Air's Fort Yuma (1955), which had a similarly progressive inclination but etched the character as a ruthless killing machine. The historic figure is treated more sensitively in War Drums, partnered romantically with Joan Taylor's half-breed concubine (who refuses squawdom to redefine herself as a quiver-carrying she-brave) and politically with Johnson's Luke Fargo, a prairie trader turned cavalry major.
To direct War Drums, Koch and Schenck chose Reginald Le Borg, a Hollywood journeyman whose earliest work in Hollywood had been handling the music scenes for A Night at the Opera (1935). Le Borg's reputation as an efficient director-for-hire had earned him a shot at actualizing a pet project but the box office failure of The White Orchid (1954) knocked him back to contract directing. The Viennese expatriate had directed a number of horror films for Universal in the 40s and scored big for Bel-Air with The Black Sleep (1956), which featured aging monster men Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, Basil Rathbone and Lon Chaney, Jr. After accepting Bel-Air's assignment of Voodoo Island (1957), a Boris Karloff quickie shot in Hawaii, Le Borg retrenched with the DeLuxe color War Drums and another black-and-white oater, The Dalton Girls (1957), before disappearing from the big screen for several years. He would cap his career with another run of horror pictures - among them, Diary of a Madman (1963) with Vincent Price - before his retirement in 1974.
Apart from a location fire that destroyed a wardrobe trailer and a lightning strike that took out a generator, principal photography for War Drums was briskly completed within two weeks of its mid-July 1956 start date. The feature had its Los Angeles premiere on April 11, 1957 and received generally good notices when it occupied the top bunk of a double bill with Sidney Salkow's Gun Brothers (1956), a United Artists acquisition starring Buster Crabbe. (Written as well by Gerald Drayson Adams, Gun Brothers also boasted a protagonist named Fargo.)
Ben Johnson would enjoy another lead role in Bel-Air's Fort Bowie (1958), directed by Howard Koch, but the balance of his long and illustrious career lay in character work, in such films as Hang 'Em High (1968), The Wild Bunch (1969), Dillinger (1973) and Bite the Bullet (1975). In 1972, Johnson received a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his work in Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show (1971).
Producer: Howard W. Koch
Director: Reginald Le Borg
Screenplay: Gerald Drayson Adams
Cinematography: William Margulies
Music: Les Baxter
Film Editing: John A. Bushelman
Cast: Lex Barker (Mangas Coloradas), Joan Taylor (Riva), Ben Johnson (Luke Fargo), Larry Chance (Ponce), Richard Cutting (Judge Benton), John Pickard (Sheriff Bullard), James Parnell (Arizona), John Colicos (Chino), Tom Monroe (Dutch Herman), Jil Jarmyn (Nona).
by Richard Harland Smith
The Films of Reginald LeBorg: Interviews, Essays and Filmography (Filmmaker Series, No. 3) by Wheeler Winston Dixon (The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1992)
War Drums (1957) - War Drums
The film's working title was Chief Red Sleeves. The Apache Chief Mangas Colorado, along with Cochise, led much of the warfare against U.S. outposts during a twenty-five year period of Apache unrest beginning in the early 1860s. Colorado was also the father of one of Cochise's wives. The scene in the film in which "Riva" and the warriors force the white doctor to tend to "Mangas'" wounds was based on a true incident, in which his warriors brought their chief, who had been shot in the chest, to a doctor in Janos, Mexico, and forced the man at gunpoint to remove the bullet.
War Drums was shot on location in Kanab, UT. According to July 1956 Hollywood Reporter news items, the set was beset by several accidents, including a fire that destroyed a wardrobe trailer and a lightning storm that destroyed a generator, which delayed production for a few days. The Motion Picture Herald review incorrectly included Mona Freeman's name at the end of the cast list. A July 25, 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item adds Victor Millan to the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. According to an August 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item, the film was edited at American National Studios. Although in the film Riva states that she is half Mexican, half Comanche, ads for the film describe her as a "White Warrior Woman." "Mangas" was also a character in the 1955 film Fort Yuma.