Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

SEMINOLE. Universal International, 1953. Rock Hudson, Barbara Hale, Anthony Quinn, Richard Carlson, Hugh O’Brian, Russell Johnson, Lee Marvin, Ralph Moody, James Best. Director: Budd Boetticher.

   There’s a sequence in Seminole when U.S. Army officers are seen trudging through the hot, humid, dank Florida swamps in search of Seminoles to expel from their native lands. It’s incredibly gritty and well crafted and hints at a moral darkness in the heart of the soldiers’ commanding officer, a man gone mad by his hatred of Native Americans. To that extent, Seminole is very much part of the western genre, although the story takes place in Florida, not Arizona.

   Directed by Budd Boetticher, best known for his taut western films starring Randolph Scott, Seminole features Rock Hudson as Lt. Lance Caldwell, an upstanding young army officer who believes in peaceful accommodation with the Seminole tribe. At every turn, he is denigrated and opposed by his commanding officer, Major Degan (Richard Carlson), a scheming, duplicitous man consumed with hate and venom.

   The Seminoles also have their own internal disputes. The Seminole leader, Osceola (Anthony Quinn in a less than stellar performance), must face down the warmongers among his own people. To no one’s surprise, Osceola and Caldwell have known each other since they were children and are divided not just in political allegiances, but also by their affection for the same woman, Revere Muldoon (Barbara Hale).

   Altogether, Seminole is distinguished not so much by its cinematography or acting, but by its humanism. The Seminoles, who aren’t portrayed as mindless warriors, bend over backwards for peace with the U.S. Army. While at times the movie can at times feel just a tad too preachy, it’s nevertheless a welcome reminder that not all Hollywood films from the early 1950s portrayed Native Americans as nothing more than enemies in the way of white settlement. In this Boetticher film, the story is far more complex.