To begin with, this movie from 1954 is surprisingly just as violent and action-packed as the poster/Blu-ray cover suggests, so Taza is a great popcorn treat that cuts across many lines of demographics. Basically, Kino Lorber has done it, again, with this Blu-ray release. This remark should not be taken for granted. This reviewer/managing editor of FIR doesn't believe in reviewing poor films as Editor-in-chief Roy Frumkes will attest (there are enough glib wiseguys puffing themselves up without me adding to their number) and I have passed on putting finger-to-keys on more than a few unworthy time-wasters. Conversely, I won't give a movie a good review unless it warrants it. With Taza, I repeat: Kino Lorber has done it again.
The story set-up is this: elderly Chief Cochise goes to the happy hunting ground, leaving behind two sons, Taza (Rock Hudson) who follows in the ways of his peace-loving father and Naiche (Bart Roberts, before using his real name which sounds like a stage name: Rex Reason) who has the heart of a trouble-making war-monger and who also, accordingly to type, has his sights set on the beautiful Indian maiden Oona, played by Barbara Rush, who is in love with Taza and Taza with her, but her father, Grey Eagle (Morris Ankrum) shares Naiche's warlike passions and also dislikes Taza. Thanks to some of Naiche's antics at the start, they all wind up on a reservation for breaking a treaty, where Geronimo also winds up. Geronimo is no peace-maker, either. The warrior-type Indians have a true hatred of the cavalry which is the authority. Taking a chance, the soldiers create an Apache police force to keep the peace and Taza is made the leader, complete with cavalry uniform which alienates him further from the warrior types who regard him as a traitor to their race. You don't need a PhD in psychology to see where this is going and the film delivers pretty robustly on the anticipated intrigue and action scenes.
The film is worth it to old movie fans just for the oddities, alone. Rock Hudson and Barbara Rush as Indians should be self-explanatory . When we see them in crowds amidst the actual American Indians recruited to play extras in the movie, it's east meets west as the former two's plainly European/Caucasian faces clash audibly with the American Indian's Asiatic features. Morris Ankrum, who spent his career playing old men, judges and generals manages to do all three at the same time as Oona's father, lending new meaning to the term, "My out-of-control, grey-ponytailed, pipe-smoking Dad." Bart Roberts will have viewers scrambling to get online, muttering, "That's Rex Reason! I KNOW that's Rex Reason!" as this reviewer did. The movie abounds in familiar faces from Universal movies of the 1950's, including Joe Sawyer, known to science fiction fans as one of the first victims of the aliens in Universal's also-3D, genuine classic, It Came From Outer Space.
The movie is shot in the actual desert in Utah - doubtless where the Indian extras were recruited - and very, very beautifully photographed it is by Russel Metty who shot Spartacus and Touch of Evil among his more luminary of countless credits. German-born Director Douglas Sirk has a terrific eye for composition and many shots will likely inspire audible approval from the audience watching Kino's terrific transfer of this movie, in either 2D or 3D. He also handles the blocking of the actors with an extremely deft efficiency, displaying an obvious sensitivity to ensuring the audience does not regard the less action-filled scenes as mere radio drama with a picture. Sirk directed in several countries and Taza, Son of Cochise, is reputed to have been his favorite of his own American movies. The 3D is extremely well-handled if you are inclined to be watching the 3D instead of 2D version. It employed a rarely-used camera system that allowed for greater control of the two lenses which in-turn allowed the camera operator to ensure that the primary dramatic subject of any given shot was "centered" in both the left and right camera views. The benefit here is that it produces strong 3D with much less eye strain than can sometimes be found in 3D because you are automatically looking, by virtue of the drama and cutting, at the subject in each shot with no left-right divergence. Taza is both dramatic in its 3D exploitation while being very easy on the eyes, and that's a huge plus. For the record, the 2D version is, of course, just as beautiful a picture.
Last but not least are the anticipated "Cowboys and Indians" battles and here the film is generous throughout and occasionally surprisingly intense. Blood runs freely in this film compared to most from the 1950's and the film does not mince around the grittier aspects of the story being told. The staging is done on a very large scale and director Sirk appears to be having the time of his life throwing things at the camera to exploit the 3D process, and it works wonderfully in 2D as well as 3D because of the quick cutting. Scenes such as arrows being shot from a very far distance at the viewer and seeming to graze the camera (arranged, no doubt, by running the arrows on a line, an old trick to ensure the arrow lands where it's supposed to) is a gag repeated several times and it is unique in the alarming 3D effect it produces for the viewer. In 2D it feels like good cinema to exploit the sense of danger, so this is a rare instance where the over-the-top 3D gag, when viewed in 2D, does not feel quaint. Likewise, some of the stunts appear not just painful, but outright dangerous by almost any measure. One wonders how a stunt man can do a violent forward roll on a dusty and unforgivably hard rock outcrop, fall 20 feet and land on another rock with no padding without breaking his neck. When men get shot off their horses, they hit the ground from a height and land hard, and those stunts too, are impressive; Utah is a rugged place. I know. I've been there. It hurts.
Add to this the audio commentary by historian David Del Valle, screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner and 3D expert Mike Ballew and you have a disc you'll enjoy repeatedly. In either 2D or 3D, you are missing a lot of exciting action scenes, drop-dead gorgeous classic Technicolor Utah cinematography and interesting Indian potboilery if you don't order this unexpectedly visual gem from Kino Lorber. It's a good deal for the wumpum! *** RECOMMENDED *** Since this film is decidedly recommended, we have included the purchase link, below. https://www.kinolorber.com/product/taza-son-of-cochese-3-d-blu-ray