Run of the Arrow (1957)

Run of the Arrow (1957)

“There’s no hiding place for what ails you, son. We’re all under one flag now.”

An embittered Confederate veteran (Rod Steiger) who refuses to concede the reintegration of the United States of America meets an aging Oglala scout (Jay C. Flippen) and joins his tribe, making peace with its leader, Blue Buffalo (Charles Bronson), and living with a Sioux woman (Sara Montiel) and her adopted ward (Billy Miller). However, when a U.S. captain (Brian Keith) — with assistance from the man (Ralph Meeker) Steiger shot but didn’t kill on the last day of the Civil War — leads a group of soldiers in building a fort nearby, and the Sioux want to attack, Steiger’s loyalties are once again tested.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Brian Keith Films
  • Charles Bronson Films
  • Cross-Cultural Romance
  • Native Americans
  • Ralph Meeker Films
  • Rod Steiger Films
  • Sam Fuller Films
  • Veterans
  • Westerns

Writer-director Sam Fuller’s tenth feature film was this “revisionist western” in which taken-for-granted tropes of westerns and American history are turned on their head. From the opening scenes, we’re asked to relate to a protagonist (known simply as “O’Meara”) who — even against his mother’s advice — refuses to concede the Confederacy’s loss, thus becoming a man without a nation:

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 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:

  • Fine cinematography and direction

Must See?
Yes, as yet another unique outing by Fuller. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.


  • Important Director


One thought on “Run of the Arrow (1957)

  1. Agreed – a once-must, as “yet another unique” Fuller flick. As per my 10/15/20 post in ‘The ’40s-’50s in Film’ (fb):

    “Let’s get one thing straight: Lee’s surrender was not the death of the South; it was the birth of the United States.”

    ‘Run of the Arrow’ (1957): Samuel Fuller wrote, produced and directed this compact (80 min.) western and, if there’s one thing about Fuller, you could always depend on him to approach his subject from a unique angle.

    The angle here was to present Indians (in this case, the Sioux) in a way that was not common in American cinema: as real people. In all too many American films, Indians are, of course, shown as merely the dreaded baddies who must be kept in line by stalwart armies and brave settlers. But ‘ROTA’ begins as a tale of peaceful negotiation – one that breaks down due to rogue elements on both sides. Rather than fixing blame on an entire group, Fuller is rightfully more intrigued by what can happen when individual hatred stirs up entire groups.

    Thrown in-between in this mix is Rod Steiger as a Confederate soldier of Irish descent who must go through his own trial of conscience when he finds himself stuck between the Sioux tribe that has accepted him as one of their own and the largely reasonable US Army outfit that, to him, still represents those who vanquished the South.

    Fuller’s dialogue is particularly potent; as is his delineation of the just against the unjust. Fine supporting performances by Brian Keith, Ralph Meeker, Sara Montiel (the Spanish star who, at the time, was also Mrs. Anthony Mann), and Jay C. Flippen and Charles Bronson as Sioux Indians. [Note that the movie ad poster* gives the impression that the film was actually directed by Russ Meyer. Such lust was only in the imagination of the publicity department.]
    *~ which I cannot, alas, upload into

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