Sitting Bull

Accent on bull

SITTING BULL gets large scale but lame treatment in this 1954 farrago, shot down in Mexico, directed by Sidney Salkow, who, with Jack De Witt, co-wrote the gibberish script. He duffed  both jobs. Back in the States, the Sioux were less than pleased that a movie supposedly figuring on their great chief was not being filmed at or near where it took place. The script pretty much provides the answer: “But once again the White man comes.

1876. Hot-headed cavalry Major ‘Robert Parrish’ (Dale Robertson, sporting a 50’s pompadour) has a surly attitude that irritates his superiors, his fiancee (Mary Murphy), civilians and eventually President Grant. Meanwhile, regional tribes led by Sitting Bull (J. Carrol Naish) fight back, leading to to the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the only reason for die-hard western fans to endure the lame plot, writing and acting.

Robertson barks, Murphy mewls, Naish goes for noble, the talky movie plods for most of its 105 minutes. Douglas Kennedy plays George Armstrong Custer as impatient (that’ll cost ya), beginning the run of reversal portraits of that controversial cavalryman.

Hundreds of Mexican extras impersonate the Sioux and soldiers for the big wipeout sequence, which at least is sizable to partially counter its standard inaccuracy. Enough kids trooped in, sitting for the bull enough for it earn at least $1,500,000. Director-writer Salkow re-used some of the footage 11 years later for The Great Sioux Massacre, dashed-off in 1965 and promptly, justifiably forgotten.

With John Litel, Joel Fluellen, Iron Eyes Cody (as Crazy Horse), John Hamilton (a grumpy Pres. Grant), William Hopper. *

* J.-of-all-ethnicities-Naish had earlier played Sitting Bull in the musical Annie Get Your Gun, neither his finest of hours. For some reason Iron Eyes Cody is billed as “Famous T.V. Star” and “technical advisor”, which makes perfect 1950s movie sense since he was Indian by way of Sicily, born in Louisiana as Espera Oscar de Corti. “Iron Eyes” would reprise Crazy Horse for The Great Sioux Massacre (with Australian “Indian” Michael Pate taking over as Sitting Bull).

Make that Irony Eyes: Cody as Crazy Horse.

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