Rio Conchos (1964)
It’s not everyday I see a film where an image that just doesn’t seem to shift, which means just one thing, inspiration has struck once more. I am usually inspired by more well-known films, which is not a rule just coincidence. Taking place in the mystical Monument Valley, with the robbery of Army rifles a group of soldiers and prisoners go on a mission to retrieve them. Sadly the landscape is not so well filmed as John Ford had repeatedly captured it. At times you never know you are there, having only the skyline to remind you. Rio Conchos (1964) is a not just a mission but a journey of self discovery for one lonely man Maj, James Lassiter (Richard Boone) who has been filled with hatred by the Apaches that massacred his family years before.
After army capture he has a chance to get out along with another prisoner Juan Luis Rodriguez (Anthony Franciosa) who was destined for the noose is given another chance to change things. They leave alongside a captain and sergeant. Hoping to catch up with the Confederate colonel that has not conceded defeat after the end of the civil war, going on to sell artillery to the Apaches, a dangerous move that no one wants to really allow.
With hints of The Searchers (1956) Ethan Edwards who has to terms with another family massacre, is repeated here with at first more effect. Yet as the film progresses a different resolution is made, as he meets an Apache girl who would easily commit more murders. Also a visit to another home forces him to see what he thankfully was saved from, leaving only a baby alive.
It’s not very clear that who we are looking for are in fact Confederates until we meet them in them in a surreal camp where stands a mansion house still under construction, which makes the job of the set builders very easy. The idea of the whites world intruding in such a grand form is a sight to see. Whilst at the same time violates this sacred ground if we remove ourselves from the film for a moment or two. There is also intent to progress in an undeveloped part of the world on an aggressive scale. The structure looks very out of place in such an environment that will never really be touched by man. It’s an invasion with intent to make routes like no other. Also an image of the past that the confederates are not willing to give up easy. The big house, away from the plantation that was worked by the slaves. Here they wish to set up a new America with no interference, hoping to control the natives by outfitting them with artillery they control.
A brutal end that brings the film to an abrupt end with no real confusion, full of action that is warranted yet not reacted to in terms of dialogue, no one rides off, they are all left to deal with the consequences of the explosions. Will the Confederates admit defeat, will the captain and sergeant return to the fort. Has Lassister really come to terms with the loss of his family. There was already a rich film before we reached the inclusion of renegade soldiers why did they carry on adding extra weight to the film? It does add another layer and create a what if scenario, seeing them not give into defeat as seen in Hangmans Knot (1952) but slowly admit defeat, whilst later on we see in The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) a rampage of murder is began for personal reasons. The South didn’t give up easy, no loser does that unless they know they are truly wrong.