Apache Drums

Apache Drums is a 1951 American Technicolor Western film directed by Hugo Fregonese and produced by Val Lewton. The drama features Stephen McNally, Coleen Gray, and Willard Parker. The film was based on an original story: Stand at Spanish Boot, by Harry Brown.[2] Apache Drums was the last film Val Lewton produced before his death.[3]

Apache Drums
Theatrical release poster
Directed byHugo Fregonese
Produced byVal Lewton
Screenplay byDavid Chandler
Story byHarry Brown
Based onHis original story "Stand at Spanish Boot"
StarringStephen McNally
Coleen Gray
Music byHans J. Salter
CinematographyCharles P. Boyle
Edited byMilton Carruth
Universal Pictures
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • April 1951 (1951-04) (United States)
  • May 6, 1951 (1951-05-06) (New York City)
Running time
76 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.4 million (US rentals)[1]


A notorious gambler is thrown out of a small town named Spanish Boot, but he quickly returns when he discovers the town is threatened by the Mescalero Apaches led by Chief Victorio.



When the film was released The New York Times gave the film a mixed review and wrote, "Apache Drums is tense and exciting fare when its green and red-painted Indians, yelping and keening, ride to attack or literally bite the dust with authentic thuds. When it is loquaciously appraising its principals, it is, to quote one of them, 'kind of dull and tame.'"[4]

Recently, film critic Dennis Schwartz reviewed the film favorably, writing, "It's the kind of effective kickass B western where the cavalry comes in the nick of time to rescue the white folks from the attacking Indians. Director Hugo Fregonese (Untamed Frontier) gives a nod to Lewton's eye for detail and shadowy photography...David Chandler turns in a crisp screenplay that's always tense and filled with exciting action sequences except when he keeps things too chatty, which tamps down the narrative with a dull soap opera romantic feud...Pretty darn good stuff for such a modest western, showing that it takes all kinds to be brave and that the worst situation might bring out the best in a man."[5]

Time Out London's review was also complimentary, writing, "Beautifully staged by Fregonese, especially the climactic attack on the church where the survivors make their stand, with painted Apaches erupting through the high windows like demons from hell. Val Lewton's last production, it is full of touches instantly recognisable from his RKO series: the subtle ambivalence undermining attitudes and ethical principles, the generous stance against racism, the concern for childhood (the gambler distracts the frightened kids with an exhibition of sleight of hand), the love of traditional songs (the kids led into a chorus of 'Oranges and Lemons'; the minister countering the Apache chanting by launching into 'The Men of Harlech')."[6]


  1. 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1951', Variety, January 2, 1952
  2. Apache Drums on IMDb.
  3. Erikson, Hal. Apache Drums at AllMovie.
  4. New York Times, film review, "Cavalry Arrives in Nick of Time", May 7, 1951. Last accessed: February 11, 2011.
  5. Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, November 12, 2006. Last accessed: February 11, 2011.
  6. Time Out Archived July 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine London, Film review. Last accessed: February 11, 2011
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