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. Trigger Bill takes after their father, always out for the easy score, and Tom is more like their mother, easy going, basically honest. The film is based on a short story, Stage Station by Ernest Haycox.
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 and the others when the law jumps them. He’s finally released after three months in jail by a circuit judge that never even gets out of the stage, citing “consorting with known criminals” as the charge.
Tom can’t get his old job as shotgun guard back, 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 finding someone willing to run it. Tom knows everyone from his former job and all finally agree to stay on.
Donna Reed plays Rosalie Martinez, the “almost eighteen” daughter of the station’s cook, 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. and not too much later, Trigger Bill shows up. Tom is immediately suspicious, with that strong box of money on hand. 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. 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 taking 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 the 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, with both men showing a brotherly love that neither probably would have believed even just a few days before. Interesting film. I enjoyed Nolan in the Mike Shayne movies from that same period. I’d never seen him in anything from his younger years, always playing character roles in films I had seen previously.
A number of those faces one sees in movies without knowing names pepper the rest of the cast. The only one I could name was Chill Wills.