A Very Safe and Boring Passage
On one hand "Santa Fe Passage" is a routine western with a wagon train and Indian trouble as well as a romantic subplot. It has some nice ideas which sees a scout branded a traitor when a trade for a peaceful crossing through Indian country goes wrong but with everything telegraphed what happens is obvious. But then at the same time "Santa Fe Passage" is a little bit curious because by the mid 50s the western was changing, Indians weren't being portrayed as just savages and attitudes were changing yet here we have a western with a central character who is a throwback to the 40s westerns with his hatred of Indians. It makes it curious but doesn't make "Santa Fe Passage" anymore entertaining and in the end we are talking a purely ordinary 50s western.
Whilst escorting a wagon train through Indian country Kirby (John Payne - Miracle on 34th Street) and his right hand man Sam (Slim Pickens) decide to try and trade with Kiowa Chief Satank (George Keymas) for safe journey but things go wrong and in his absence the wagon train is attacked. It leaves both Kirby and Sam branded traitors and unable to get work as no one will touch them, that is until they meet Jess Griswold (Rod Cameron - Gunfight at Black Horse Canyon) who is willing to give Kirby and Sam a second chance as scout for his wagon train to Santa Fe. But Kirby's run in with the Kiowa has left him full of hatred not just to the Kiowa but half breeds as well which makes matters complicate when he falls for Jess's girl Audrie (Faith Domergue - The Duel at Silver Creek) who just happens to be a half breed.
I would really like to tell you that there was something special about "Santa Fe Passage" to make you want to watch it but in truth it is as ordinary as they come. In fact it is not just ordinary it is predictable as well and whilst we hear Kirby go off on one about hating Indians and half breeds it doesn't take a genius to work out he will end up with Audrie or the old squaw who travels with Audrie is in fact her mum. It also doesn't take a genius to also work out that Jess will try and set Kirby up when he discovers that he and his girl are falling for each other.
That in the end is what the main focus of "Santa Fe Passage" becomes, the romance between Kirby and Audrie as well as some double crosses. We have Jess double crossing Kirby but we get more before from half breed Tuss who is the wagon train boss to the Kiowa double crossing Jess when he tries to cut a deal with them. None of which is really that entertaining nor to be honest is the action which is as routine as everything else in the movie. In fact the most interesting and entertaining "Santa Fe Passage" is when the wagon train faces a stampede of wild horses and the sound of hundreds of hooves thundering down is impressive.
Other than that we have a lot of standard western characters from Faith Domergue as the pretty Audrie through to Slim Pickens as Kirby's loyal and slightly humorous friend Sam. There is of course John Payne as Kirby who at a stretch is the most interesting character in "Santa Fe Passage" purely because he seems a throw back to western characters from a decade earlier with his racist and bigoted viewpoint. But even then the character of Kirby is in fact ordinary and for all his hatred you know what the outcome of all this will be.
What this all boils down to is that "Santa Fe Passage" is really just an ordinary 50s western which does nothing new or different to set itself aside from the crowd. In truth you will probably remember it more for the beauty of Faith Domergue than for anything else but then that puts it on par with so many 50s westerns.