When some men are attacked by Indians, a survivor obtains an Indian medicine arrow. An Indian tells Blade he has found gold but will not tell him where until he has that arrow. So Blade ... See full summary »
When some men are attacked by Indians, a survivor obtains an Indian medicine arrow. An Indian tells Blade he has found gold but will not tell him where until he has that arrow. So Blade starts killing the survivors of the attack but fails to get the arrow. One of the men he kills is John Cardigan and Kit Cardigan, a Scout for Custer, now starts looking for the killer of his father. Written by
Maurice VanAuken <email@example.com>
Movie serials generally have pretty simple, single-minded stories. There's a series of skirmishes between the good guy and the bad guy over some treasure or doomsday weapon, and that's pretty much it. But Custer's Last Stand is unique among all the serials I've seen. It has many more principal characters, each with their own story thread. It's all tied together by a quest for a ceremonial Indian arrow with coded directions to a cave of gold, but that's strictly a continuity device. The cave is never even found. Along the way there's a hero searching for his father's killer, a disgraced soldier battling alcoholism, a renegade Indian trying to foment a battle with the white settlers, an Indian girl with divided loyalties, an equally conflicted saloon owner, shoot-outs, fist-fights and large-scale battles, cameo appearances by Buffalo Bill, Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickock, and of course the climatic massacre at Little Big Horn. This is one brim-full serial! There are always at least two or three separate story threads playing out simultaneously, with the action cutting back and forth among them. We're used to this kind of story construction today--it's standard television soap opera technique--but in a mid-1930s serial it was pretty revolutionary.
The cast is full of veterans of the silent era, including former serial queen Helen Gibson. Performances tend toward the florid and aren't helped by the serial's rapid shooting schedule. There are shots in which actors stumble over lines or the director can be heard barking directions, and no time was wasted re-shooting them. For me the most interesting performance was by Marty Joyce, playing the teen character's sidekick. Joyce is clearly having a good old time embellishing and ad-libbing all his dialog. It's too bad he was killed in an auto accident shortly after making this film. It would be interesting to see how he handled other roles.
I highly recommend Custer's Last Stand to fans of pre-Republic serials. It's as rich and panoramic an epic as you're likely to find.
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