Chuka [1967]

Director: Gordon Douglas
Stars: Rod Taylor, Ernest Borgnine, John Mills, Luciana Paluzzi, James Whitmore
Genre: Western
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 105 minutes

Rod Taylor co-produced the 1967 Chuka and stars as the titular gunslinger whose lonely path leads to a U.S. Army outpost manned by foul-ups, degenerates, and a half-mad, alcoholic commander (John Mills). Surrounded by starving Arapaho Indians clearly getting ready to massacre the fort's inhabitants, Mills' character, Colonel Valois, refuses to yield to Chuka's demand that everyone clear out and allow the Arapaho to take provisions they need to survive. With Valois drunk and unbending, a creepy second-in-command (Louis Hayward) leading a mutiny, a two-fisted sergeant (Ernest Borgnine) defending Valois against any criticism, and the presence of two Mexican women (one of whom has a romantic past with Chuka) who will not be spared during a slaughter, Chuka does what he can to broker a peaceful way out of the dilemma. Directed by Gordon Douglas (The Detective), Chuka is self-consciously arty (camera angles turn up in the weirdest of places) yet dramatically enthralling. Very much an actor's vehicle that, on the one hand, allows the likes of James Whitmore to wallow in mannerisms, Chuka also features several startlingly emotional scenes. Among them is the aftermath of a brutal fight between Taylor and Borgnine, in which their bloodied characters--too exhausted to speak--communicate mutual respect by pawing at each other's heads, like infant brothers. --Tom Keogh

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