George Sherman’s “Tomahawk” is one of those colorful 1950’s western films of surprising quantity that are (in theory) sympathetic to the American Indian (in this case the Sioux) as victims of duplicitous double talk from the government while altogether maintaining an unwavering mindfulness of the importance of thrill inducing sporadically inserted cavalry charging action.
However, one can’t help but sense the earnestness of the movie’s initially asserted anti-establishment intentions by the almost ludicrously pompous gravitas with which the narrator imparts his information, not unlike those occasions in Cecil B. DeMille epics when the filmmaker attempted to masquerade the hoarier aspects of his epics by dubbing over them with portentous voiceovers; the equivalent of artistic spackle, though in this case, the effort is slightly undercut as the narrator sounds suspiciously similar to Criswell from Ed Wood films. This attempted earnestness often acts as a dampening agent, inducing an unnecessary wet blanket on an already formulaic but nevertheless competently told yarn, which manages to maintain an adequate level of interest in the ultimate outcome of the tenuous frontier tensions between clashing cultures, while seriously shortchanging on the far more interesting historical facts. If there are undeniable pleasures to be taken from the film (there are a few), they are dependent on the professional execution of elements that have become comfortably familiar in westerns rather than by any remarkable extension of said tropes.
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