In The Indian Fighter Kirk Douglas is a scout who guides a wagon train, led by Walte Abel, through the spectacular mountains of Oregon. The Sioux furnish the party’s main hazard, though two interlopers (Walter Matthau, Lon Chaney Jr) trying to trade whisky for gold with the Indians do not help the cause. Eventually, Douglas sues for Sioux peace with Chief Eduard Franz and makes eyes at his daughter Elsa Martinelli.
Douglas in his buckskins is one those ineluctable cinematic icons and this is the movie from which it derives. It was the first output of his own Bryna production company and so naturally, while Andrew de Toth (a striking director deservedly undergoing a re-evaluation of his cinematic contribution – not least for making the superb 3D House of Wax , despite having just one eye) was able to put his stamp on proceedings, Douglas was even more in control of the cut. The scenery looks fantastic in bright Technicolor and CinemaScope and so does Elsa Martinelli, smouldering taciturnly in her first American role and dropping censors’ jaws everywhere with her bathing routine. But the portrait of the native Americans is fuller than usual for this date and the whole has pace and continuous diversion.
USA / 1955
Director: André De Toth
Writers: Frank Davis, Ben Hecht from a story by Ben Kadish
Cast: Kirk Douglas, Elsa Martinelli, Walter Matthau, Walter Abel, Diane Douglas, Lon Chaney Jr, Eduard Franz, Ray Teal, Elisha Cook Jr, Alan Hale Jr