“There’s no hiding place for what ails you, son. We’re all under one flag now.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Given that O’Meara’s sentiments reflect those of many in our nation today, this feels like an especially intriguing and worthy tale to pay attention to as it unfolds. Like Kevin Costner’s Lt. John Dunbar in Dances With Wolves (1990), O’Meara attempts to escape through assimilation with the Sioux, after “winning” a contest from which the title takes its name:
(Note, however, that Chris Smallbone of NativeAmericans.co.uk informs us this supposed custom — of an arrow being shot out onto the land, and the accused person attempting to outrun his assailants once he reaches the arrow — was made up by Fuller.)
The thrust of the film centers on whether and/or how O’Meara will eventually reintegrate into his original society, and what tensions will inevitably emerge during this transition. While it’s jarring seeing Charles Bronson as a Sioux chief:
… and hearing (uncredited) Angie Dickinson’s voice dubbing Montiel as “Yellow Moccasin”:
… it’s still refreshing to see what appear to be authentic Native Americans hired as extras.
This compact, character-driven tale remains worth a look despite its limitations — but be forewarned there’s quite a bit of violence, including yet another supposed Sioux custom (skinning alive) that isn’t authentic.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments: