Ambush at Tomahawk Gap (1953)
Another Western, Another Ambush
Having watched and loved many westerns I have a loose rule, if I haven't heard of a western the chances are it will be ordinary, a typical b-movie which retreads familiar ground on a low budget. That rule is proven by "Ambush at Tomahawk Gap" a stereotypical 50s western which gives us a few cliches from convicts trying to recover the money they hid before being caught through to being pinned down by Indians. It throws a couple of nice variations into the mix and delivers everything in a raw, often brutal manner but it doesn't stop it from being just a typical 50s b-western which you won't remember a week after watching.
After being released from prison Egan (David Brian), Doc (Ray Teal - Distant Drums) and Kid (John Derek) plan to head to Tomahawk Gap to recover the money they hid before being arrested. McCord (John Hodiak) also released from prison is going with them because whilst he didn't rob the stagecoach that they did he ended up arrested and serving time instead of the fourth member of the gang who got away and now McCord wants to be compensated for doing time for a crime he didn't commit. Along the way they find themselves picking up a Navaho girl and having to deal with in fighting as they make their way to Tomahawk Gap, a ghost town in the middle of Indian country.
For the most "Ambush at Tomahawk Gap" is little more than recognizable cliches, convicts go looking for the money they hid, Indian trouble, picking up a woman prisoner also means a bit of romance and of course tension between the men. It does try and mix things up a bit and having McCord as an innocent man who served time when he was accused of being in their gang adds a nice twist on the usual. But for the most it plays out in a less than surprising manner and it will be no spoiler when I tell you that the money isn't where they thought it should be leading to more issues and tension.
The thing is that whilst director Fred F. Sears makes "Ambush at Tomahawk Gap" a gritty movie, surprisingly brutal at times when we see the ferocity of a fight it is all unimaginative. For all that is good about the movie it all comes down to just some action scenes, a fight between the men, a skirmish with another man who shows up and of course the big climax where we have Indian trouble. Yes there is an explosive ending to try and make it different but it never feels it, it just feels like a typical 50s b-western and nothing more.
What also doesn't help matters is that despite having 4 men and a woman, as well as a couple of other characters they are all one dimensional angry guys. John Hodiak gives us angry as McCord, David Brian gives us angry and nasty as Egan and John Derek gives us greedy and angry as Kid, I could go on because pretty much all the characters are the same. The only one which is different is María Elena Marqués as the Navaho girl they pick up and it seems she has been cast because she is sweet and beautiful.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Ambush at Tomahawk Gap" has a more brutal streak than other 50s westerns it is just another typical b-western which whilst moderately entertaining for western fans is ultimately forgettable.
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