Every fan of Westerns has probably read at least one of the many novels churned out by the unusually prolific Louis L’Amour or watched a film adaptation of his books. L’Amour led a colourful life, working as a professional boxer and a merchant seaman, before turning to writing and producing a long list of pulpy novels set in the West. 

L’Amour has been well served on television in recent years by a series of films starring Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott. On the silver screen, adaptations of the author’s works have ranged from the eminently watchable “Hondo” (starring John Wayne) to “Shalako”, a dull and plodding mess despite the presence of Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot.

“Apache Territory” (1958), based on the novel “Last Stand At Papago Wells”, falls somewhere in between. Intended as a star vehicle for Rory Calhoun, who also co-produced, this is a slight entertainment that, at just 71 minutes, does not overstay its welcome.

Rory Calhoun in "Apache Territory"

Logan Cates (Calhoun) is a drifter making his way to Yuma when he spots a group of Apaches trying to ambush three men. After firing a few shots to warn the men, Cates rescues Junie Hatchett (Carolyn Craig) from another group of Apaches who have massacred her parents.

Cates decides to hole up at Apache Wells, a water hole surrounded by rocks at the foot of some mountains. There, he and Junie run into Lonnie Foreman (Tom Pittman), the only survivor from the three men he had warned a short while ago. In due course, the trio is joined at the oasis by Jennifer Fair (Barbara Bates), who just happens to be Cates’ ex-flame, her fiancé Grant Kimbrough (John Dehner), and the remnants of a cavalry patrol led by the inexperienced Sergeant Sheehan (Francis De Sales).

Rory Calhoun and Barbara Bates in "Apache Territory"

The motley group turns to Cates to get them out of their predicament despite some opposition from the cowardly Kimbrough and hot-headed soldier Zimmerman (Leo Gordon in one of his numerous appearances as a baddie).

Of course, a movie like this wouldn’t be complete without the good Red Indian. This time round, it’s Lugo (Frank DeKova, an Italian-American suitably daubed with brown face paint), a Pima Indian who decides to help the whites in their stand against the Apaches after Cates stops Zimmerman from killing him.

With food and water running low, the group prepare for a final showdown with the Apaches.

Director Ray Nazarro, who had a long career that stretched from the silent era to Spaghetti Westerns made in Europe in the 1960s, keeps “Apache Territory” moving along but isn’t served too well by screenwriters Charles R. Marion and George W. George, whose script has some truly clunky lines, especially between the teenage lovers Junie Hatchett and Lonnie Foreman. 

“Apache Territory” is available as a made to order DVD-R in its correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio in the Sony Screen Classics by Request series distributed through the Warner Archive. The print used for this transfer hasn’t been restored but remains watchable despite a few sequences with faded colour.

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