Drums Across the River, Crown City is a played-out mining town. Just a few hundred yards away across the river there are vast reserves of gold – but across the river is Indian territory and it takes a brave man – or a stupid one – to risk incurring the wrath of Ouray, Chief of the Ute.
At the start of this fast-paced western, there’s a group of guys heading into Ute territory seeking gold, then there’s a shootout between the utes and the gold-seekers, a fist fight around the campfire, and a swap goes wrong and there’s another shootout – and this is all within around thirty minutes, and the rest of the film is the same, the plot is twisty and fully-charged like a sidewinder, the pace is frenetic, and the action is energetic( Audie gets to show off some Judo moves in some combat scenes), but most important the narrative flows freely.
Audie Murphy is gaining his confidence here, is really good as a guy transitioning from having bitter hate for utes to one who is on their side, Walter Brennan as his father is his usual excellent form, Hugh O’Brien makes an appearance as a gunslinger clad in black and a grin to shame a crocodile’s grin, and Lyle Bettger does his usual turn as the slimy villain with a perpetual smirk. Mara Corday is a bad girl hottie and eye candy Lisa Gaye flutters her eyelashes and coos “Gary, Gary” repeatedly throughout the film.
This is one of my favourite Murphy westerns, it’s energetic, action-packed, a busy plot and the story is just great. Saw this on BBC2 back in 1989, and I just have fond memories of watching it countless times afterwards.