Robert Stack in War Paint (1953)

On the War Path

With a new peace treaty to deliver, Lieut Billings (Robert Stack) is put in charge of delivering the peace treaty to the Indian Commissioner which turns out not that straight forward as he has gone missing. With just nine days to find Chief Gray Cloud and hand over the treaty the looming threat of war hangs over them. Fortunately the Chief's son Taslik (Keith Larsen) offers to help them find his father and deliver the treaty. But between their water supply running short and various close calls as well as some danger they begin to question whether Taslik is helping them or intentionally trying to prevent them from succeeding especially as he is wearing war paint.

I have mentioned this before but director Lesley Selander made a lot of westerns and whilst they were never bad movies very few stuck out from the crowd. That is sadly the case of "War Paint" a movie which I am going to say was possibly handed to the wrong director as the potential in the story is lost by Selander's solid but less than spectacular direction which often allowed actors to force their characterisation as that appeared to be attention grabbing.

The thing about "War Paint" is that it isn't an action western; it isn't about Cowboys and Indians or Cavalry Men riding in to the rescue. Nope this is a western about a group of men in a situation which causes tension and stress between them as not only do they find themselves initially relying on an Indian to guide them, something which some do not like, but with water short, health suffers and those who are not physically and mentally strong start to crumble. Yes we have some close shaves thanks to Taslik's deception but this is all about the characters and how they cope in adversity. But because Selander doesn't allow the actors to really deliver this, preferring to go with more standard characters acting tough it never becomes as gripping as it should be.

What this all boils down to is that "War Paint" is another solid but typical Lesley Selander western, the sort which whilst entertaining to watch fails to be a memorable experience.