Prior to Hannie Caulder and Chato’s Land, both released in 1972, there was this tale of a woman seeking vengeance against her attackers starring Michele Carey. She’s hell bent on revenge after being rescued by an Apache warrior named Chatto played by the iconic Henry Silva who will become her lover and mentor in the ways of vengeance.
Is this film as good as the two that followed? I hate to be harsh so let’s just say not really but it does feature an interesting performance from Silva in near mime which makes it worth a look if you happen to be a fan of the actor with the striking features.
This harsh tale begins with a stagecoach going through sparse Arizona territory. On board is outlaw Keenan Wynn in cuffs, his captor and two women. One elderly, the other a young virginal school teacher played by Miss Carey. In short order, Wynn’s outlaw gang pulls the coach over shooting the drivers, the sheriff and the elderly woman when she protests the handling of Carey. Like many 1970’s westerns, the violence is right there on the screen with little left to be imagined.
Carey’s future is sealed when Wynn decides to take her along for the gang’s amusement. Sadly this leads to an ugly, cruel rape scene reminiscent of Michael Winner’s Death Wish II stopping just short of nudity. Either way it’s impact is distasteful and I can’t help but wonder how the actress felt filming on set.
Coming upon the outlaw camp is Apache Henry Silva. When the gang decides to split up and ride on, Silva, moves in to rescue Carey from certain death after being staked naked and left to the elements. As I mentioned, it’s a rather cruel scene.
While Silva proves to be a gentle caring savior to the ravaged woman, long time character actor John Anderson is leading a posse after Wynn and his gang. They’ll find the coach and bloodied bodies and then the camp where there are mixed signs of rape, the gang and an Apache. The worry now is that she’s been captured by an Apache Brave. Either way, Anderson is appalled at the treatment the young woman has received at the hands of her captors.
Carey’s not only been brutalized but she’s in shock. Silva plays it gentle and kind nursing her back to health gaining her trust and making her a suit of clothes and moccasins. She’ll quickly find security in his care and refuse to leave for her own kind when he pushes her to ride on. Cue the love scene and oddly enough a song titled There’s So Little Time playing on the soundtrack as the two get romantic.
Now it’s time to head off in the direction of Raquel Welch’s Hannie Caulder. Carey wants her revenge and Silva is only too happy to oblige as he teaches her how to shoot a rifle and ride a horse. This is where things speed up far too conveniently to clock in at a running time of just 84 minutes.
They’ve five men to catch up with. Five men that all went in different directions. With little plot development the pair seem to have no trouble locating each man despite the posse having no luck whatsoever. An exploding powder keg, a shotgun blast, a couple of well aimed gunshots and only one of her attackers remains to be executed.
The outlaw leader, Keenan Wynn, in what might be the nastiest heavy of all those he played.
Again they’ll have no trouble locating him. Finding these five men so easily has me wondering if there’s some missing pages in the script or did the production fail at somehow making Silva a mystical figure who can locate anyone at anytime? I suspect budget restraints and choppy editing if forced to choose.
I’ll leave the outcome alone but will say there were no surprises to be found. It pretty much ended the exact way I had anticipated aside from the approaching images in a freeze frame ending.
Theoretically this was a very good role for Henry Silva albeit in a subpar production. With his high cheek bones, muscular physique and long black wig held in place by a bandana, Silva, makes for a very imposing Apache on screen. Like Bronson’s Chato of 1972, Silva has next to no dialogue throughout the proceedings. Silva was no stranger to playing native Americans having done so previously in films like The Plainsman (1966) and Sergeants 3 (1962).
While I can’t be sure, I think Michele Carey was dubbed on the copy of the film I located under the Five Savage Men title in the opening credits. That title doesn’t match the set of eight lobby cards I purchased not too long ago or the original one sheet poster I secured as well. Both the cards and the poster are under the alternate release title, The Animals.
One name that jumped from the screen during the credits was that of Richard Bakalyan. A character actor of numerous movies and TV appearances actually wrote and produced this western making it his only screen credit in both fields of production. I’m rather surprised he didn’t take a role as a member of the outlaw gang. For that matter he didn’t direct either. That chore went to a Ron Joy. His one and only directing effort as well.
Always one to connect the dots, Bakalyan starred alongside Silva in the highly entertaining Disney feature Never a Dull Moment as a couple of hoods looking to put a “hit” on Dick Van Dyke at the order of Eddie G. Robinson.
After securing the poster and lobby cards I was hoping I might someday see this oater having no idea it would jump out at me in a bargain bin of budget label releases shortly thereafter. The title didn’t ring a bell but I know Henry Silva when I see him and I quickly put two and two together.
I can’t honestly recommend the film to one and all but if you’re a fan of Silva, Wynn or Carey then I guess you’ll be wanting to see it at some point as did I.