Ambush at Cimarron Pass
R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (9th March 2020).
The Film

"Ambush at Cimarron Pass" (1957)

Following the end of the Civil War, Sergeant Matt Blake (played by Scott Brady) and his men are transporting Corbin (played by Baynes Barron), a wanted man for illegally selling firearms to the Apache Indians. But along the way, the men are ambushed by Sam Prescott (played by Frank Grestle), a Confederate Captain and his men who still hold a grudge against the north's victory. While a tense confrontation is happening between the two troops, there are a group of Apache Indians nearby who are trying to acquire the ammunition they were promised by the arrested gunrunner. The men lose their horses and have a low supply of food, but Blake is on a mission to not negotiate trade, and bring Corbin to Fort Waverly at whatever the cost, and that means having to work together with the former Confederate soldiers.

"Ambush at Cimarron Pass" is not a particular western classic, nor is it a lost gem, but it is significant in the fact that this was Clint Eastwood's first western feature film. Third billed playing the trigger happy Confederate soldier Keith Williams, his role is fairly one sided throughout, eager to blow away a Union soldier as vengeance for losing his family in the war, and one that frequently disagrees with the Sergeant as well as his Captain. It is also significant that the film was the only film directed by Jodie Copelan who had a lengthy career as a film editor with lengthy credits in film and television. Unfortunately these factors do not raise the quality of the production which is fairly plain to say the least. It was a low budget western produced by Regal Pictures, an arm of Twentieth Century Fox that started producing low budget productions under producer Robert L. Lippert and was a run of the mill production made quickly and released quickly for a quick profit at the cinemas. Locations are sparse with some locations as well as studio sets, the performances are fairly stilted and includes a very unconvincing Spanish accent from one character, and there are quite a few questionable motivations by the main characters.

After the men's horses are taken, the Apaches also dump their former captive Teresa Santos (played by Margia Dean), a young woman in the hands of the men. It's never quite clear what the purpose of this was. Was it to entice the men sexually so they would be off their guard? Was it to give them an asset for trade? Or was it to give some flair for audiences in a film only filled with men? Dean had an exotic look with her Greek decent, but her Spanish accent is one of the worst in any western, as if she'd never heard what one sounded like. As for the sergeant not wanting to give up the rifles or the prisoner to the Apaches even though their men get picked off one by one are made with quite a lot of bad decisions. It's often that the men from both troops start to question his decisions, but nothing particularly changes the scenario in the all too brief runtime. In addition the film has a very abrupt ending that leaves things unsatisfying for audiences. There were four credited writers on the project. Robert A. Reeds and Robert W. Woods were the original writers, with Richard G. Taylor and John K. Butler hired to adapt it into a screenplay. Apparently because the rewritten script was so similar to the original, Reeds and Woods were also credited. Direction wise, Copelan was not particularly inventive or creative, keeping things as simple as possible in framing and blocking within the Cinemascope frame. Ironically the film wasn't edited by him but by Carl Pierson.

But is it as Eastwood once put it, "probably the lousiest western ever made"? Far from it. It's not horrible but fairly average. There are the tense moments between the two troops as well as the looming threat from the Apache Indians surrounding them, with a climactic battle and the body count stacking with the runtime, from characters making bad decisions to sacrifices of battle. The film was not a major hit in its day and would not have much stature if Eastwood had not been in it, as in reissued versions his name received top billing rather than third.

Note this is a region 0 NTSC DVD


Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement in the NTSC format. The master is fairly good, taken from the original version with Eastwood's name billed third in the opening credits. It might seem strange that the Fox logo is in the opening while a more modern Paramount Pictures logo is tacked on at the end. The Regal library were sold off to Republic Pictures for television and their rights were picked up by Viacom, a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures, who now owns the rights to the film. As for the quality it is not too bad but it is not great either. On the positive side, the detail is quite good with clarity as well as grey scale of the black and white cinematography. The image is fairly clean though damage marks can be seen with speckles and scratches, though more prominent marks have been removed. Overall a fairly good transfer,

The film's runtime is 72:50.


English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
The original mono track sounds very good. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, and the music score by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter is well balanced. There are no issues of damage such as hisses or pops, sounding very suitable throughout.

There are no subtitles for the film.


Unfortunately no extras have been provided. The film was previously released on DVD and Blu-ray by Olive Films in America, which also had no extras to speak of.


The packaging states region 4 only, but in fact the disc is region 0, playable on all players worldwide.


"Ambush at Cimarron Pass" is a fairly average western with characters making bad decisions while having to trust each other along the way for survival. It won't change any minds nor is it a lost gem but it certainly does entertain even after all these years. The Umbrella Entertainment release has a good transfer in audio and video though no extras are provided.

The Film: C Video: B Audio: A Extras: F- Overall: C+


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