USA / 1966
Director: Ralph Nelson
Writer: Marvin H Albert, Michel M Grilikhes (based on the novel Apache Rising by Marvin H Albert)
Cast: James Garner, Sidney Poitier, Bibi Andersson, Bill Travers, Dennis Weaver, William Redfield, John Hoyt
“Duel at Diablo packs enough fast action in its cavalry-Indian narrative to satisfy the most avid follower of this type of entertainment,” Variety wrote about this James Garner/ Sidney Poitier western, adding that the Utah-shot movie “is long on exciting and well-staged battle movement.” Garner stars as Jess Remsberg, a scout who works for the US cavalry. He’s charged with navigating a troop of raw recruits to Fort Concho, although he’s equally determined to find the anonymous white man who sold the scalp of his dead Comanche wife.
Lieutenant Scotty McAllister (Bill Travers) leads the expedition; also in the party are Grange (Dennis Weaver), an embittered man who’s rejected his wife because she didn’t commit suicide when she fell into Apache hands, and Toller (Poitier), a black ex-cavalryman who makes a living ‘breaking in’ horses. Jess moves ahead of his posse, but the rest of the men are soon under attack from hostile Apaches. The scout manages to turn the tables on the Indians at Diablo Canyon before riding ahead to Fort Concho for reinforcements. While at the fort, he discovers the identity of the white man he’s been seeking. He heads back to the scene of the battle with more than just one fight ahead.
James Garner was at the height of his appeal in 1966, releasing no fewer than four movies in the year (Grand Prix is the best known nowadays), and this western exploits his likeable tough guy persona. Sidney Poitier, however, was just about to peak, starring in In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner the following year. The film reunited Poitier with Ralph Nelson, who had directed him in Lilies of the Field, for which Poitier won an Academy Award.