Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Charge at Feather River

Go To

The Charge at Feather River, a 1953 Western film directed by Gordon Douglas, was originally released in 3D with many arrows, lances, and other weapons flying directly at the audience in several scenes.

In Colorado territory, Miles Archer is asked by the cavalry at Fort Bellows to aid in rescuing two white women abducted by the Cheyenne and to provide security for the railroad construction teams.


  • The Alcoholic: Pvt. Smiley was in the guardhouse for drunkenness. When the brigade departs, he takes 5 canteens with him; each one filled with hooch instead of water.
  • Bankruptcy Barrel: In the guardhouse, Ryan is punished by being made to wear a barrel with a sign reading 'ABSENT WITHOUT LEAVE'.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: All of the men look suitably dishevelled following their hard cross-country ride/hike: dusty, sweaty, unshaven, numerous small wounds, their clothes rumpled, etc. Anne McKeever, however, still looks fresh and rested, her face clean, and her hair styled in a suspiciously 50s coif. Her sister Jennie also looks presentable, but has more justification: being dressed in hardwearing buckskin and having her hair in practical plaits.
  • Boxed Crook: Col. Kilrain requests Miles Archer to undertake a dangerous mission deep inside Injun Country. However, the only troops he can offer Archer are the current occupants of the guardhouse. Archer accepts command of this Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, which he dubs the Guardhouse Brigade, and attempts to shape them into a competent fighting unit.
  • Braids, Beads and Buckskins: Jennie McKeever, a white woman gone native, is dressed in a figure-hugging beaded and fringed buckskin dress, moccasins, and a beaded headband, and has her long hair in two heavy braids.
  • Bungling Inventor: Pvt. Cullen is treated as this by his squad mates, as he is always coming up with plans for the next big thing that is going to make him rich once he gets out of army. How successful any of his inventions are, the audience does not really know, as the only one seen in the movie—a Bulletproof Vest—is never actually tested. However, most of them—such as the pinch-proof bustle—do sound fairly impractical.
  • The Cavalry: Archer and the remains of the Guardhouse Brigade are holed up the banks of Feather River. Having seen off two charges by Thunder Hawk's forces, they are spared from a third when the cavalry arrives, and they learn that Baker had made it through to the fort to bring reinforcements.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Both the McKeever sisters complain when Archer and his men rescue them from the Cheyenne camp: Anne because she feels that she cannot return to white society because she has been Defiled Forever, and Jennie because she has gone native.
  • Defiled Forever: While never explicitly stated, Anne's comments indicated that she has been raped by the Cheyenne and no longer feels fit to rejoin white society. Miles Archer does not agree.
  • Destination Defenestration: When Sgt. Baker finds Pvt. Ryan dallying with his wife, he punches Ryan out through a window.
  • Fell Asleep Standing Up: Pvt. Cullen falls asleep while riding his horse and keeps riding for some distance before falling off. He is such a Heavy Sleeper that he does not wake up when he hits the ground, which greatly impresses his squad mates. He stirs briefly when they pick him up and put him back in the saddle, then goes back to sleep and keeps riding.
  • From Dress to Dressing: When the Guardhouse Brigade runs out of actual bandages, Anne—who has been pressed into service as nurse—is reduced to using strips torn from the soldiers' clothing to bandage their wounds.
  • Going Native: Archer rescues the two white woman captured by the Cheyenne, only to discover the younger one, Jennie, has gone native: becoming a full Cheyenne and now engaged to their war chief Thunder Hawk.
  • Handsome Lech: Pvt. Ryan is the base lothario, and keeps going AWOL to visit his numerous girlfriends. His attempt to woo Sgt. Baker's wife is what gets him sent back to the guardhouse and then immediately bounced onto Archer's squad of Boxed Crooks.
  • Heavy Sleeper: Pvt. Cullen is a such a heavy sleeper that he falls asleep and falls off his horse without waking up. His impressed squad mates hoist him back into the saddle where he stirs briefly, and then keeps riding, still asleep.
  • Injun Country: The Cheyenne are on the warpath due to the incursion of the railroad into their lands. Archer and the Guardhouse Brigade have to infiltrate deep into Cheyenne territory to rescue two white women being held prisoner by the Cheyenne.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Anne thinks that Miles cannot possibly be interested in her because she believes she has been defiled forever by her treatment at the hands of the Savage Indians. Her sister Jennie does not help her insecurity by telling her that Miles is only showing interest in her because they are in the wilderness, and once back in civilisation, her won't look twice at her.
  • Last Breath Bullet: The Guardhouse Brigade finds an elderly Arapaho left behind to die by his war band. As Archer and the others turn to leave him, he uses his last strength to throw his tomahawk into the neck of one of the Red Shirts, then expires.
  • Last Stand: Having been pursued by the Cheyenne every since their raid on the camp to rescue Anne and Jennie, the Guardhouse Brigade finally run out of places to run at Feather River. They dig into the bank and prepare to hold off Thunder Hawk and his braves for as long as possible.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Guardhouse Brigade consists of a bunch of Boxed Crooks released from the guardhouse to accompany Archer on his mission into Injun Country. Archer has to assemble this collection of drunkards, thieves, brawlers, deserters, and general ne'er-do-wells into a competent fighting unit.
  • Rescue Romance: After rescuing her from the Cheyenne, Miles Archer falls in love with Anne McKeever, even though she believes she has been Defiled Forever. During their Last Stand, he finally manages to convince her that he doesn't care and, as The Cavalry arrive, he tells her that those are the men who will dance at her wedding.
  • The Savage Indian: The Indians are a hostile force out to destroy the westward progress of the railroad. They do unspeakable things to captive white women, and leave their old and sick to die alone. When the Guardhouse Brigade find an elderly Arapaho abandoned by his tribe because he was slowing them down, Grover comments "No wonder they call them savages!"
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Pvt. Poinsett uses his repeater to shoot open the locked storeroom door where they find the sole survivor of the massacre.
  • Sticky Fingers: Pvt. Cullen is in the guardhouse for stealing (and drunkenness). Throughout the Brigade's mission, he keeps filching things: most commonly Smiley's canteen full of booze.
  • Stock Scream: Although this film wasn't the debut of the infamous "Wilhelm scream", sound designer Ben Burtt named the sound after Pvt. Wilhelm, a minor character in the film who emits the famous scream after being shot by an arrow.
  • Those Two Guys: Smiley and Cullen (the drunkard and the thief) are almost always seen together and provide most of the Comic Relief: most often through Cullen's attempts to filch Smiley's stash of booze.
  • Unfriendly Fire: Worried that Sgt. Baker is going to kill him, Ryan attempts to take him out first by stabbing him in the back with an arrow so it will look like the Indians got him. Baker is too quick for him, however, and knocks him off his horse; telling him that their reckoning is still to come.
  • Water Source Tampering: Thunder Hawk's braves dump some of the bodies of the dead soldiers down the fort well following the massacre. This prevents the Guardhouse Brigade from being able to refill their canteens when they return to the fort.