Five women jailbirds, conveniently housed in a frontier US army fort stockade, are offered eventual freedom if they pose as wives of settlers(actually army surveyors), in an expedition to smuggle rifles and cannon to American forces down near the lower Rio Grande, while mapping a better route through Texas for US troop movements during the imminent war with Mexico over Texas. Throughout the film, in the background and once in the foreground, the very familiar western pioneer ballad "Sweet Betsy from Pike" is heard. Being in the public domain, it offered a cheap, appropriate and endearing accompaniment to the sometimes mundane travel across Texas. Along the way, they have a non-lethal confrontation with some Apaches. Upon reaching the apparently abandoned American settlement, where they are supposed to rendezvous with some Texas Rangers, they instead encounter a nosy Mexican patrol that says the Rangers have been executed. Unfortunately, the patrol commander isn't fooled by the settler deception, recognizing one of the women as the former madam of a bordello he had visited several times. Later, he returns with more troopers. Killian(Hugh O'Brian), a veteran independent frontiersman, who shares command with young Lt. Charring, conceives a plan to lure the Mexican patrol into being boxed in within the settlement by their wagons, where the 'soldiers' and women shoot them to pieces. By now, the women have all become quite attached to their fake husbands, except for Jean, who still fancies handsome swaggering 'fiddlefoot' Killian. The screenwriters presumably flunked US history, substituting 'Hollywood history'. The fact that when this story takes place, in 1845, Texas had been an independent country for nearly a decade, is totally ignored. True, Mexico still didn't fully officially recognize it, even though they had signed a treaty so stating. The real problem was the still disputed southern border. Both sides had been too weak to press a settlement. With the US about to inherit this problem, and with their recent failed attempt to pressure Mexico into selling the New Mexico and California provinces, war seemed imminent. The other glaring historical inaccuracy is the identification of Mescalero Apaches as the Native Americans to be feared during the traverse of Texas. Historically, the mounted warriors to fear in this region, of course, were the Comanche, with the Mescaleros normally confined to New Mexico. True, there were probably still a few Lipan Apaches left near the southern border of Texas, but they aren't usually mentioned in conflicts between settlers and NAs in this region. Interestingly, the young defiant, though repressed, Apache woman(Mit-O-Ne),who is one of the 'wives', says she is a Lipan. She stabbed a trooper who tried to rape her, but has reason(probably, man trouble) not to want to return to her tribe. Although defiantly uncommunicative for most of the trip, she saved everyone from thirst through her knowledge of a secrete Apache spring. But, this angered the small Mescalero Apache patrol that had been shadowing them(why?). This confrontation is resolved by an agreed-upon hand to hand contest been Killian and the Apache leader, within the pond formed from the spring. The unexpected result suggests a rather sympathetic attitude toward NAs by the script. The women include : Mit-O-Ne, paired with Lt. Charring, whom she comes to respect as a gentle and wise man, and eventually proposes marriage. Lottie: 50ish, a former member of a holdup gang, crack shot, and, during the trip, gives shooting lessons to the other women and 'soldiers'. Maude(Marilyn Maxwell): also 50ish, a buxom former famous madam, who recognizes most of the 'soldiers' as former customers. Nancy is a former Virginia belle who shot dead a suitor who tried to go too far with her. She thinks herself above the rest, and has a catfight with Mit-O-Ne when she objects to sharing a covered wagon at night with 'that savage'. Jean(Anne Francis) is a former dancehall girl, who once slept with Killian(whom she usually calls Fiddlefoot, in recognition of his wandering lifestyle). She's clearly still his favorite, as brought out in a night encounter in the stable. At one point, the bored women make an amazingly potent intoxicating brew of horse liniment, lamp whale oil, and lilac water)(doesn't sound promising to me!). They get most of the men drunk, as well, in a farcical episode worthy of the 3 stooges. Hugh O'Brian, whom audiences still remembered from his "Wyatt Earp" TV series, comes across as a laid back, but nauseatingly swaggering, leader: very different from the quite, self effacing, Lt. Charring, who lacks one ounce of O'Brian's natural charisma. Amazingly, Hugh, who was then in his 40s, is still around, as of this writing: a lifelong bachelor until his 80s! Now part of an 8 westerns DVD release.
Action / Adventure / Drama
Action / Adventure / Drama
Five female convicts are recruited to secretly transport arms into Mexican-held Texas in 1840.
May 28, 2020