When a handful of settlers survive an Apache attack on their wagon train they must put their lives into the hands of Comanche Todd, a white man who has lived with the Comanches most of his life and is wanted for the murder of three men.
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It lacks all the sophistication of Carpenter's morals. But it has moments of rare beauty (the shots of the indians, which are few but breathtaking in a Fordian way) and a magnificent sense of landscape (essential in the way that space represents the primitive, animalesque and violent origins of America in the western genre). But the happy end is absurd: in Carpenter there is no reconciliation and that requires guts.
The worst part of this isn't the mythical displacement and moralization of threatening histories, or even the constant high-tide of sentimentality; it's the conflation of marriage with verdict, the outsider condemned, as it were, to the "custody" of a woman and boy "for as long as they both shall live." Underneath it all is a homily of tolerance and gratitude in a revenge/redemption narrative, but who cares.