The success of Fox’s Broken Arrow in 1950, in which Jeff Chandler played a fine Cochise, and Universal’s slightly less than epic (but enjoyable) Indian picture The Battle of Apache Pass of 1952 with Chandler as Cochise again, provoked Universal into this rather exploitative ‘Cochise 3’ which has none of the quality of the earlier films. Douglas Sirk was no Delmer Daves and Rock Hudson was no Jeff Chandler.
Those 'Son of...' titles never inspire confidence, do they
Jeff appears in it only briefly, just long enough to die and urge his two warring sons to continue the peace he had made with James Stewart. The elder, Taza (Rock, Sirk’s favorite American actor), is, naturally, statesmanlike yet brave while his younger brother Naiche (Bart Roberts aka Rex Reason) wants to follow the way of Geronimo and fight the white eyes. You may guess who wins out.
Cochise off to the happy hunting ground
There had to be a beautiful Indian damsel, of course, and this time Barbara Rush fulfils that role, gracefully. The brothers are rivals for her hand but her dad (Morris Ankrum) is all for the warpath and does not favor Rock.
Ian MacDonald (Frank Miller from High Noon) is Geronimo. All the Indians are played by whites, as was the custom.
Director Sirk only did two Westerns, this one and Take Me To Town the year before, a pathetic ‘comedy’ starring Ann Sheridan and Sterling Hayden. Hamburg-born Dane Sirk (Hans Detlef Sierck), who had worked in Germany for Josef Goebbels but who escaped to the States because of his Jewish wife, said that Taza was actually his favorite American film. Can’t imagine why.
Rock being dignified and statesmanlike
George Zuckerman wrote the rather wooden screenplay from a Gerald Drayson Adams story. The dialogue is plodding, obvious and corny. Zuckerman did one of the better Audie Murphy Westerns, Ride Clear of Diablo, also in 1953. Adams had written the story for The Battle of Apache Pass and also did the Van Heflin Mexican picture Wings of the Hawk in ‘53. The writing is the movie’s weakest point, alas, but I think Zuckerman was more to blame than Adams.
The location shooting by cinematographer Russell Metty in the Arches National Monument Park is attractive. The movie was shot in 3D, all the rage in 1953, and there are therefore shots of knife-wielding Indians lunging at the camera, but it was released in 2D in ’54 when 3D was old hat. The music (Frank Skinner) is too obviously ‘Indian’.
Rock Hudson isn’t that bad, in fact. His make-up is quite convincing and he rides well. He brings a toughness and even integrity to the part though he too suffers from clunky lines.
The real Taza
General Crook (Robert Burton, small parts in some good Westerns later, such as Broken Lance, Jubal, The Tall T, and a mass of TV work) is portrayed as a fool (which he was not). In general the white military is crude and lacks understanding or wisdom and our sympathies are supposed to be for the peace-making Apaches.
Rock not too bad in fact
Geronimo attacks the US Cavalry but Taza comes to the Cavalry’s aid. Right.
Hudson said, "If you're cast in crap like Taza, Son of Cochise, it doesn't matter if you experiment with a scene and it goes wrong. Who's gonna notice?" This is just a low-grade Western without much to recommend it and certainly does not merit a DVD purchase but as with all Westerns, there are saving graces and it’s worth a watch if it comes on TV.
Probably just as well