Film review – Revolt at Fort Laramie (Lesley Selander, 1957)

12 Angry Men, 3:10 to Yuma and The Bridge on the River Kwai may be more fondly American films from 1957, but Lesley Selander’s Civil War drama isn’t without its merits, even if the production values and a slightly generic premise make it just short of enjoyable.

The story is set in 1861 at the titular Fort Laramie in Wyoming, an outpost at which a cavalry of northern and southern USA soldiers await a trade with Native Americans of gold as part of a peace deal. However, just before the deal is completed, the American Civil War breaks out. At this point, the inner rivalries within the outpost threaten to bubble over and cause a mini civil war to rival that breaking out throughout the country.

There is a decent cast assembled to play out the film. John Dehner portrays Maj. Seth Bradner, a southerner in charge of the outpost, whilst the two factions are led by Confederate Sgt. Darrach (Robert Keys) and Federal Sgt. Serrell (Bill Phillips). Northern Captain Jamie Tenslip (Gregg Palmer) is in love with the major’s daughter Melissa (Frances Helm). There’s enough complexity to make for an engrossing storyline that should bring with it excitement.

Where it falls down is that the cast seem like they’re going through the motions. They’re delivering their lines, but for some reason the performances are devoid of any emotion. The film should really be much longer to flesh out the various storylines to bring them to life, but I’m not convinced the actors had it in them. The result is that even at 70 minutes the film feels like it’s dragging.

Harry Dean Stanton makes an early appearance in the film as a character called Rinty. The only thing less convincing than his acting is his fake harmonica playing. 

However, the worst performance in the film is from Don Gordon as a Sioux scout. I spent ten minutes wondering why there was a Mexican mixed up in a civil war issue. Fortunately, a Native American accent wasn’t required when he delivered brilliant performances in the likes of The Towering Inferno, Bullitt and Papillon.

It’s not a brilliant film, it’s not the best film about the subject matter and it’s not top of many of the actor’s greatest performances. It’s fine. Just an average western film from a time when the cinema market was flooded with them.

Revolt at Fort Lamarie can be bought on DVD now. Or you can simply watch the entire film online using the link above.

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