Ambush at Tomahawk Gap (1953)

John Hodiak, John Derek, David Brian, María Elena Marqués,
Ambush at Tomahawk Gap is a movie starring John Hodiak, John Derek, and David Brian. An innocent cowboy convicted with three robbers, fresh out of Yuma Territorial Prison, travels with them to get a share of their hidden loot.
  • 5.9 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • David Lang, Writer:
  • Fred F. Sears, Director:
  • Wallace MacDonald, Producer:
7 / 10

Gutsy Gusto Oater.

Ambush At Tomahawk Gap tells the story of four outlaws, McCord (John Hodiak), Egan (David Bryan), Doc (Ray Teal) & Kid (John Derek), who after being released from a five year sentence for robbery at Yuma Territorial Prison, implode from within as they yearn to find the hidden loot from their ill gotten gains. Not only that, but they are in the middle of Indian territory and Apache attacks are frequent and savage in their execution.

Bloody & brutal Western programmer out of Columbia Pictures that's produced by Wallace MacDonald and directed by Fred Sears. Written by David Lang, the principal location shoot is at Corriganville, Simi Valley, California. With Technicolor enhanced cinematography coming from Henry Freulich. Though featuring a pretty weak, and at times nutty story, the film has a high viewing factor on account of its adherence to Western action staples, it helps, too, that Sears directs with an absolutely no nonsense approach.

Running at just shy of 80 minutes, it just doesn't have time to dwell on intricacies, instead choosing more to embrace that this isn't really about redemptive qualities - which since there's barely any on show is a rather good thing! Sears movie is grim and potent enough to warrant a recommendation to the serious Western fan, and it's also very easy on the eye. Bonus plot wise comes with two lovely kickers during the pulsating finale. The cast man up and give it gusto and brawn, with Hodiak particularly standing out, while even the inevitable lady character plot strand (Maria Elena Marques) doesn't cloy or hinder the pace and mood of the piece.

You will not want to ponder too much about it afterwards, but hopefully you will go away thinking that you have been royally entertained by the guns, arrows and fists that have flown and been thrown throughout the movie. 7/10

7 / 10

Did not follow the unwritten moral codes of those times.

When this film came out, people were used to westerns where there was a good guy and a bad guy. In this film, all the guys seemed bad, and that's what made it interesting. The story is about when they are released from jail, start looking for hidden money, and end up in a desert town where they are attacked by Indians. The relationships between the guys is one of not trusting, not helping and violent. John Derek at the beginning is just a senseless kid trying to prove he is tough, but after he is wounded by a woman they find among the Indians (Maria Elena Marques), he starts changing, specially because of the way she starts nursing him together with the help of an old man. The old man wants to help Derek get on the right track, and not end up in jail again. There are many scenes of violence, which shocked people at that time, but look tame today compared with the Spaghetti and the westerns of Sam Peckinpah.

6 / 10

Dusty western has its moments and a fine cast

This western is a grim, spare adventure about four ex-cons out to recover a cache of gold hidden in a ghost town. That's the entire plot, in a nutshell. The party grabs an Indian girl along the way, perhaps for a romantic effect with young John Derek, which suits the others just fine. Gold and greed are the two main themes in the screenplay, so none of the characters engender any sympathy. Most of the film dwells on the search for the gold and the anticipated Indian attack, which comes during the film's last reel. The cast is good, with John Hodiak, Ray Teal and David Bryan in the lead roles. Maria Elena Marques, a sharpshooter with a bow and fire arrow, is pretty and stays on the periphery of the story. The color work is very good, and though not a major entry in the western genre, this film is worth watching for the cast and the flavor of a golden-age western.

7 / 10

Hodiak does another guy's time

Ambush At Tomahawk Gap starts with four prisoners, John Derek, John Hodiak, Ray Teal, and David Brian all released from Yuma prison and out looking for the loot that was stashed by one of them before they were caught at the town of Tomahawk Gap. Only one of those prisoners is a ringer. John Hodiak was a total stranger and the other three made him a patsy so the real fourth guy could stash the loot. Only he got killed and Hodiak did his time in the joint.

You can understand why he wants in on the split. Only the Apaches are on the warpath and Tomahawk Gap is now a ghost town. If it's up to them no one's going to live long enough to spend any of it if they can find it.

This one is a crackerjack B western in which most of the cast is killed. The Apache attack is really staged well and ensemble cast gives some great performances.

As for the stolen money. There is an ironical twist in the end worthy of Alfred Hitchcock or Billy Wilder.

9 / 10

Three guilty men and one innocent man in quest

This film is a rugged Western with plenty of action. The premise is that four men are released from prison and set out to find the loot they were arrested for stealing. The fact is that one of the four (Hodiak) was actually just an innocent bystander and happened to get mistaken for the fourth gang member while on his horse on honest work. He has to fight his way through years of jail time with the other three, and joins them on their quest, figuring he has a right to the money now. Hodiak represents the heroic Everyman, dealing with the situation. The other characters are very well drawn, and Derek is perfect as the rebel without a cause kid, who struggles with the three different adults in his life-two who are helpful(Hodiak and Teal, representing the "Sgt Lyle" character more) and Brian (defintely the "Sgt Barnes" character). To watch it today, you would think "Platoon" had some roots in this movie. I won't give away the end, but self sacrifice is involved, and a great twist in the overall quest.