Sunday, September 12, 2010

DVD-MIA Sam Fuller’s Run of the Arrow: Irish Confederate-War Vet Cowboys IS Indians!

Run of the Arrow (1957)
Producer/Director/Screenplay: Samuel Fuller
Cinematography: Joseph Biroc
Film Editing: Gene Fowler, Jr.
Original Music: Victor Young
Cast: Rod Steiger (O'Meara), Sarita Montiel (Yellow Moccasin), Angie Dickinson (uncredited; Yellow Moccasin’s voice), Brian Keith (Capt. Clark), Ralph Meeker (Lt. Driscoll), Jay C. Flippen (Walking Coyote), Charles Bronson (Blue Buffalo), Olive Carey (Mrs. O'Meara), H. M. Wynant (Crazy Wolf), Frank DeKova (Red Cloud).
RKO Pictures/Universal, 86m.

A must-see for all fans of Sam Fuller movies (DVD Savant, whose opinions I absolutely respect, calls it a “near masterpiece”), but I am not sure Run of the Arrow is “essential viewing” for all cinephiles.

I’m not sure why Run of the Arrow is unavailable on DVD;
(Although I am going to slam the flick a little, so it would be disingenuous of me to claim to not see any reason why a company might not want to spend the bread on a flick nobody’s going to buy):
Its original studio, RKO, went bankrupt during production,
but Universal picked up the film and released it in 1957.

If you are not interested in Rod Steiger’s method-ology,
the films of that triple-threat auteur of the hard-boiled Sam Fuller,
and/or the young, hot Charles Bronson
(there isn’t an ounce of fat on him in this flick!
No wonder Jill Ireland dumped David McCallum for Chuck!),
then Run of the Arrow isn’t for you.
(I know, how could anyone not fit into one of those slots? I dunno, you tell me….)

I would consider Fuller’s Shock Corridor or The Naked Kiss as “essential viewing” to anyone interested in the Great American Films of the 20th Century.

Meanwhile, The National Film Board of Ivanlandia highly recommends these Sam Fuller films:
The Steel Helmet
Shock Corridor
The Naked Kiss
Fixed Bayonets
Pickup on South Street
Underworld USA

even though we don’t really like it, we absolutely recognize the importance of
The Big Red One
as Fuller’s most autobiographical film
(And I’m particularly fond of Fuller’s goofball 1970s thriller Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street)

--All these flicks need to be watched before you have to snoop around for Run of the Arrow.

BUT! If you are interested in Rod Steiger’s method-ology,
the films of that triple-threat auteur of the hard-boiled Sam Fuller,
and/or the young, hot Charles Bronson--
Be that as it may, there are downloads and bootlegs out there, if you know where to look.

One website says Run of the Arrow was released to DVD in Italy, another thought the film was still owned by Universal, and a third said its rights were owned by Warner Brothers--which means it could end up in their Warner Archives, like The D.I., or still in limbo, like Ken Russell’s The Devils?
For me, Run of the Arrow stumbles--
I would never say it fails, but certainly stumbles--
because it never quite gels.
Fuller has put too many ingredients in the stewpot--
Steiger’s character is an Irish immigrant (with thick brogue) who fought for the Confederacy,
and fired the last bullet of the Civil War,
and then, upset at the surrender, headed West to start a new life,
and becomes a member of the Sioux tribe.
Oh wait, I forgot--the man who Steiger shot on that last day of the war, he’s with the cavalry now, riding against the Sioux.

So, Mr. Fuller, the story of an Irish immigrant fighting for the South wasn’t enough?
Nor was the story of the last bullet fired in a war?
Neither was the chronicle of all the disenchanted Southerners who headed West to get away from the rotten Yankee carpetbaggers?
Nope, you had to tie it all together with our protagonist becoming blood-brothers with the Sioux.

Big Sam F. is just making an absurd sandwich, piling on roast beef, pastrami, glazed ham…

Not that Run of the Arrow
isn’t a fascinating ride,
but I have to add that finally seeing it
after knowing about it
and craving to see it for over 30 years
(and hearing it praised to high heaven)
was a bit of a let-down
(but really, what wouldn’t be?)

Run of the Arrow is a good entry into the White Man Going Native subgenre of the Westerns, very much in the tradition of
revisionist Westerns, like A Man Called Horse and Dances With Wolves--not to mention Avatar.
(Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin Costner--and then James Cameron--had something to do with keeping Run of the Arrow out of print… so they could corner the market…)

Sad News:
Kevin McCarthy, Ivanlandia fave, has passed away.

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