From 1942, APACHE TRAIL stars Lloyd Nolan and William Lundigan as brothers Trigger bill and Tom Folliard, two men on opposite sides of the law, based on the short story, Stage Station, by Ernest Haycox . Trigger Bill takes after their father, always out for the easy score, nand Tom is more like their mother, easy going, basically honest. Trigger Bill’s attempts to toughen his brother up results in Tom spending three months in jail after he’s bullied into a stage robbery attempt. He doesn’t flee like his brother when the law jumps them and is finally released because of lack of evidence by a circuit judge.
He can’t get his job back as shotgun guard, but the Wells Fargo man believes in Tom and offers him a job as station master right in the middle of Apache territory. It’s about to be closed down because of the danger and getting someone to run it. tom knows everyone from his former job and all agree to stay on. Donna Reed plays an “almost eighteen” daughter of the station housekeeper who’s always had a thing for Tom.
A stage, with a strong box of money and passengers, pulls in shortly, just ahead of an Apache war party, soon followed by a cavalry officer. Someone has stirred the Apache up.
Not too much later, Trigger Bill shows up and Tom is immediately suspicious. He takes his brother’s guns, not willing to send him back out. The next morning an arrow is shot into the stage and Tom decides to sneak out and do some scouting. The strong box is locked up and he tells his men to keep an eye on Trigger Bill, heading out.
The cavalry officer leaves as well, heading to a nearby fort with plans to send help.
Tom spots an Apache party with a white prisoner who he frees with a bit of guile. On the way back, he hears a tale of a white man, adopted into the tribe, then slaughtering a number of Apache and tyaking a peace pipe. Geronimo and his people are looking for him.
Getting back to the station, he’s just in time to catch Trigger Bill trying to flee with the strong box and one of the women. In the gunfight, Tom outdraws brother, putting a bullet through each hand. They find a peace pipe on him and learn the truth. Then they settle in for a long battle with the Apache. After a lull, one Apache approaches and tells them they want the “white Apache.” No more deaths are necessary.
It comes down to a vote, using domino tiles, white dots up to save him, black side up to send Trigger Bill out of the walled station. The deciding vote comes down to Tom and Trigger Bill calls him a fool for voting save. “I’d have sent you out there to save my skin!” We learn different though.
Interesting film. I enjoyed Nolan in the Mike Shayne movies from that period. Before this one, and them, I’d never seen him in anything from his younger years, always playing character roles in those I had seen.