For our latest Western Night gathering, Robert Nott brought AMBUSH AT TOMAHAWK GAP (1953), a breakneck-paced B Western, the kind that made Saturday afternoon matinees so much fun.
Avarice and determination drive this movie about four prisoners released from Yuma Territorial Prison who ride off to the town of Tomahawk Gap. There’s stolen money they left there and they intend to get it. But one of the four wasn’t in on the job and unjustly sent to prison. He wants a piece of that money because he figures he’s entitled to it. Then there are a couple of scoundrels who’ve been waiting for these boys to get out so they can follow them and get their dirty hands on the money. And this is only the first ten minutes.
What makes it so much fun to watch is that each of the actors plays their character to the hilt. John Hodiak (LIFEBOAT) is the face of grim resolve as McCord, a man of honor among thieves. David O’Brian (THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY) plays Egan, a big brute who hits first and thinks, well, maybe later. As Doc, Ray Teal (great as the corrupt sheriff in ACE IN THE HOLE) sees his life as a waste now and tries to convince angry, young Kid, played by John Derek (THE TEN COMMANDMENTS), to change his outlaw ways. There’s also Mexican actress Maria Elena Marques (THE PEARL) as a Navajo woman who ends up with the group, along with some surprising results.
The script is by David Lang who also wrote FURY AT GUNSIGHT PASS that we watched at a Western Night a few years ago. It, too, is a fast, enjoyable hoot and was directed by Fred F. Sears, who also directed this film. In both pictures, Sears uses a windstorm to great effect, though some of the stunt work here is a little cheesy with punches obviously pulled and falls a hair hesitant. Sears, who directed 54 films in a short nine year career, is arguably best known for the science fiction classic EARTH VERSUS THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956) and the sci-fi schlocker THE GIANT CLAW the following year.
With a running time of 73 minutes, AMBUSH AT TOMAHAWK GAP is available on DVD and on YouTube.
Along with Robert, award-winning journalist and author of several books on Western films, including THE FILMS OF RANDOLPH SCOTT and his most recent THE FILMS OF BUDD BOETTICHER, our group includes Johnny D. Boggs, record eight-time Spur Award-winning author and Owen Wister Award winner whose work includes A THOUSAND TEXAS LONGHORNS, Kirk Ellis, Emmy-winning writer and producer of HBO’s JOHN ADAMS and TNT’s INTO THE WEST, Kirk’s wife, Sheila, and David Morrell, award-winning author and New York Times best-selling author of FIRST BLOOD, the novel that introduced the character Rambo.
Watch Ambush at Tomahawk Gap