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First, it must be noted that Hondo and the Apaches was not an official theatrical release in the U.S. but a movie cobbled together from episodes of a television series that ran in 1967. It was released in theaters in Europe. That said, enthusiasts of westerns and fans of Robert Taylor may find it of interest and appreciate the references to a John Wayne film of the 1950s.
The first part of the story deals with the capture of frontier scout Hondo Lane by renegade Apaches determined to thwart his efforts to keep peace between the local Indian chief and the troops at Arizona's Fort Lowell. Even with that settled, Hondo has enough troubles back at the fort and with a mine owner named Gallagher (Taylor) to keep the tension taut during the film's second half. In addition to Taylor, there are cameo appearances by film actors Gary Merrill (All About Eve, 1950), Michael Rennie (The Day the Earth Stood Still, 1951), and Jim Davis, who gained fame a decade later as patriarch Jock Ewing on the television series Dallas.
Ralph Taeger plays Hondo, the character first created by John Wayne in the 1953 movie of the same name. Apart from an uncredited bit in Taxi (1953), the original Hondo was Geraldine Page's first feature film role. She played a character named Angie Low, who turns up slightly altered in this television version as "Angie Dow." Two other characters from the movie also appear here, scout Buffalo Baker (played on the big screen by Ward Bond and on TV by Noah Beery, Jr.) and Apache chief Vittoro, played in both versions by Michael Pate. The television show and this picture were produced by Batjac, Wayne's production company.
The significance here for Robert Taylor fans is that Hondo and the Apaches was the last of the western roles that sustained him for most of the final two decades of his career. After his two appearances on the TV series as Gallagher, incorporated into this movie, he never made another western. In fact, he only made two more film appearances before lung cancer took his life at the age of 57 in 1969. Taylor's career in westerns, about a dozen pictures dating back to his role as Billy the Kid (1941), was substantial enough to get him inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1970.
Hondo, the series, was a big break for Taeger, who had been working on television and supporting film roles since 1959. The show was not only geared to western action, it also gave him a substantial character to play, an embittered man whose Indian wife was killed during an Army massacre, but it failed to catch on with audiences and was canceled after only one season. Taeger landed a few more television roles over the following 15 years (and one feature film, The Delta Factor, 1970), but mostly turned to other jobs and business ventures outside the entertainment field.
Lee H. Katzin (1935-2002), the director of Hondo and the Apaches, had success with a number of other television series, earning Directors Guild and Emmy nominations for Miami Vice, The Mod Squad, and Mission Impossible.
Director: Lee H. Katzin
Producers: Andrew J. Fenady, John Wayne
Cinematography: Lester Shorr
Original Music: Richard Markowitz
Cast: Ralph Taeger (Hondo Lane), Kathie Browne (Angie Dow), Michael Rennie (Tribolet), Gary Merrill (Ed Dow), Robert Taylor (Gallagher).
by Rob Nixon