Chief Crazy Horse (1955)
Chiefly Cheesy Over Acting
I don't often say this but I would love someone to remake "Chief Crazy Horse" or "Valley of Fury" as it was renamed because whilst not a terrible western, in fact on par with many westerns from the 50s, it has the potential to be a great western. The reason I say this is that firstly it is basically the biopic of legendary Lakota Indian Chief Crazy Horse and secondly tells the story of various historical battles such as Battle of the Little Bighorn from the perspective of the Indians. It certainly makes "Chief Crazy Horse" a much more interesting western than many of the time but certain things spoil it, from dodgy editing through to too much posturing from the actors which at times sadly ends up being cheesy.
As a young boy Crazy Horse (Victor Mature - My Darling Clementine) had a vision of a mighty warrior and whilst puzzled by what he saw grew from a boy into a man, into a mighty warrior respected by others amongst the Lakota. Along the way he marries the beautiful Black Shawl (Suzan Ball - War Arrow) much to the ire of his cousin Little Big Man (Ray Danton) who after a jealous attack is expelled from the tribe. But when gold is discovered on the sacred ground of the Black Hills, it is Crazy Horse who leads the men into victory chasing of prospectors and the army, leading him to become Chief with his greatest battle still to come.
So as already mentioned "Chief Crazy Horse" is basically the story of Crazy Horse and what surprised me is that certain things which I thought were gimmicks thrown in to make the story work were in fact true. One of which is early on in the movie we see the young Crazy Horse as a boy head off and have a vision, a vision of a great warrior, now I though this was just a gimmick used to create a story of Crazy Horse's life fulfilling a prophecy but evidently as a young boy he did have a vision. That is not the only thing which feels false but ends up being true and to be honest all these things work to create an interesting look of a legendary Indian Chief.
Now this means we learn a lot about Crazy Horse outside of being a fighter including his marriage to Black Shawl and her bearing him a daughter. Some things are missed out, mention of a second woman in his life doesn't show up and we also have supposedly a jealousy between Crazy Horse and his cousin over Black Shawl. But it develops this picture of a man who loved his family and was brave and generous, loyal to those who were loyal to him.
But what really makes up the majority of the movie is Crazy Horse as a leader who led his men into battle with the army when again the white man broke treaties they had signed. And we witness how Crazy Horse having observed the way the army fought out smarted them in one battle after another all the time doing so not out of pure hatred but to protect his heritage. Of course we get mention of some significant battles such as the Battle of the Little Bighorn but it generally paints a picture of a clever leader who planned how to fight rather than just charging into traps.
Now I won't tell you exactly what happens, although it is well documented but we do witness Crazy Horses death, a death which yes fulfils the vision he had as a young man. But it is a surprisingly good ending which may differ from the history books but makes you wonder whether it could have happened in the way shown.
All of which makes "Chief Crazy Horse" a very good movie with a fascinating story which delivers a twist on what you expect from a movie which is western. The trouble is that it is spoiled by various things, dodgy editing, fake looking back drops and worse of all far too much posturing. You can see when you have Victor Mature as Crazy Horse trying to look thoughtful he stands with one leg rested on a tree, chest puffed out and looking vacant into the distance. It's just wrong but so are the embraces he shares with Suzan Ball who plays Black Shawl, unbelievably tight hugs with there faces pressed together looking vacantly into the distance. Basically there is a lot of cheesy posturing and acting and in the end the most entertaining performances comes from the various supporting cast of Native Indians who make up the tribes, well at least they look and act believable.
What this all boils down to is that "Chief Crazy Horse" is a great idea for a movie and entertaining because of its different perspective. But it ends up a wasted idea because it is spoilt by some cheesy acting; shoddy editing and as such turns into just another 50s western. As I said this is a movie which would be ideal for a remake because the potential for something truly great is there.
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