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Captain Stanton (Audie Murphy) is sent to an army outpost in Arizona to
guard the locals - mainly miners - from the Apaches led by Victorio
(Joseph Vitale), who have left their reservation and threaten the white
settlers. Initially, Stanton is full of prejudice against the Indians, but
soon, he is convinced by Dawn (Linda Lawson), a half-breed missionary,
that it was the white men who broke the peace between settlers and Apaches
first. Somehow he manages to broker a peace between the two factions, but
a handful of miners aren't happy, so they use an Indian arrow to kill the
local Indian agent (Howard Wright), just to make the others believe the
Indians are actually on the warpath and lead a revenge expedition ... and
suddenly, Stanton and his soldiers find themselves guarding the Apaches
against the settlers in a shoot-out (in which Dawn is seriously wounded by
the way) - but this does not go by without consequences: Stanton is
relieved of his command, replaced by Colonel Perry (John Archer), who is
more sympathetic to the cause of the white man. And to add insult to
injury, Stanton is kept at the outpost as Perry's adjutant. When he still
tries to act on behalf of the Apaches, he is even placed under arrest ...
Colonel Perry and the soldiers try to track the Apaches down, but they are
led into an ambush, and it looks as if Red Hawk (Michael Dante), son of
Victorio (who has been killed off-screen in the meantime), is going to
snuff them all out. However, Stanton is called onto the scene just in time
to once again broker a peace ... but as soon as he has succeeded, it turns
out that Perry has only used Stanton to lead the Apaches into a trap, and
as a thank-you, Stanton is even speared by an angry Red Hawk ...
end, Stanton, still injured but recovering fast, quits his duty with the
army, but Red Hawk, who has in the meantime seen his (understandable)
error, urges him to stay on, while he and his tribe are shipped off to
For the most part, this is little more than a rather
conventional, even old-fashioned Western - even though its treatment of
the American natives is laudable -, and the work of action specialist
William Witney fails to make it special ... until the finale, which has
Audie Murphy drag a white outlaw (L.Q.Jones) through the battlelines to
the surrounded army battalion he's trying to save - this is where Witney's
class and his strength for action setpieces actually show.
film is far from an actual classic, due in part to a low budget, in part
to Audie Murphy as the rather uncharismatic lead, in part to the less than
special story. That said, Apache Rifles is still totally watchable.