Double Crossing in Dakota

Gary Merrill in The Black Dakotas (1954)

With the Government willing to hand over thousands in gold to make peace with the Sioux the South seeks to turn this to their favour. As government agent Zachary Paige (Frank Wilcox) heads to Dakota by stage he ends up on the wrong end of a bullet as Confederate sympathizer Brock Marsh (Gary Merrill) kills him in order to masquerade as him in Dakota. The plan is to take the money destined for the Sioux and use it to support the Southern cause whilst Brock masquerading as Paige is to rile up the Sioux and lead them to attack the town. But when Brock along with local Mike Daugherty (John Bromfield) visit the Sioux things don't go to plan as he discovers a sect of the tribe are not interested in peace and his life is at risk.

Okay so that synopsis is the simplified version of what goes on in "The Black Dakotas" and going on that simplified account of the movie it is okay. It has some familiar western action, a storyline which is born out of history when it comes to the South trying to rile the Indians against the North and lots of other typical elements which appeared in westerns during the first half of the 1950s. It is also nicely paced if all you want is some cowboy and Indian style action.

But that is the simplified version of "The Black Dakotas" and I will tell you now there is a lot more going on than the synopsis tells you. We have the man who hired Brock ending up dead with a noose around his neck with his daughter proclaiming she will have revenge on the locals who in turn also want to kill her; we have the second in command trying to guide Brock and help the daughter, plus plenty more including some double-crossing and dead bodies showing up. Considering "The Black Dakotas" only lasts 65 minutes it actually has a lot more going on than you might expect and as such it is both complex and contrived. It is in some ways its downfall because it ends up all over the place and has far too much going on to work in just 65 minutes.

What this all boils down to is that "The Black Dakotas" ends up an entertaining western for those who enjoy the westerns of the early 1950s. But other than cramming a lot of story into 65 minutes it isn't anything special.

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