Directed in 1958 by Jodie Copelan, Ambush At Cimarron Pass isn't the most famous western ever made but it does have some notoriety if only for the fact that it features a solid supporting role from a young Clint Eastwood (who was supposedly paid a whopping $750.00 for his work on the film and then described it as ‘probably the lousiest western ever made'). While that's some pretty harsh criticism, the fact remains that this isn't a particularly great movie. Calling it the lousiest western ever made is probably stretching it a bit, but it's a pretty generic picture.
The storyline takes place after the end of the Civil War where a Cavalryman named Sergeant Matt Blake (Scott Brady) and a quartet of soldiers are en route to Fort Waverly with their prisoner, Corbin (Baynes Barron), in tow. Upon his arrival, Corbin is to stand trial for selling firearms to the local Apache Indians, something that the U.S. forces would obviously like to prevent as armed Apaches would pose a considerable threat to their men on the ground. On their way to Waverly, the men are ambushed by a former Confederate soldier named Sam Prescott (Frank Grestle) and his small band of survivors.
After the initial skirmish, Blake manages to quickly negotiate a cease fire after which he and Prescott decide to talk things over. Unfortunately Prescott's right hand man, Keith Williams (Clint Eastwood), still holds a pretty serious grudge against the Northerners who beat them in the war. He lost some family members during the conflict and so these feelings run pretty deep for him. As it turns out, Prescott's crew were jumped by Apaches disguised as soldiers and so the two groups of men begrudgingly agree to work together to get out of the area and to safer ground. Shortly after they come to this arrangement, some of those same Apaches show up with a woman named Teresa Santos (Margia Dean) as their captive. Taken by surprise, the men are at a disadvantage and one of the Confederates, Cobb (Desmond Slattery), gets abducted. Using Cobb as a bargaining chip, the Apaches offer to return him if the men will hand over the rifles that Corbin was originally going to sell them. Blake refuses and the men find themselves with a very dangerous trek ahead of them, Apaches only too willing to take them out one at a time before they're able to make it to the safety of Fort Waverly.
Ambush At Cimarron Pass isn't a horrible film. It is a low budget film that was likely made fairly quickly, but at just over seventy minutes in length it moves at a decent enough pace even if it takes about a half an hour to really hit its stride. The story is made up of clichés, we know that the two opposing sides will inevitably wind up working together and we know that Eastwood's character is going to have to get over his feelings towards the other men and get past his prejudice to work with them in order to survive. None of this is going to surprise anyone who has seen more than one western in his or her life. The movie is fairly well shot and the black and white cinematography does manage to do a good job of capturing the action once we get to that part of the story.
The performances here are okay. Scott Brady gets top billing and he's not a half bad leading man. He appeared in a lot of westerns, both in film and television, and he handles himself with confidence in front of the camera. Frank Grestle as the leader of the Confederates also does a decent enough job and Clint Eastwood, likely the reason most will want to revisit this one, shows at least a glint of the screen presence he'd later really and truly capitalize on. His character is a bit of a cliché and we know where he's headed but Eastwood delivers his lines with enough conviction that he works in the part even if this is far from one of his more memorable roles. Ultimately this is a decent enough time killer, not a classic, but it should appeal to diehard western buffs or those with an interest in all aspects of Eastwood's career.
Ambush At Cimarron Pass debuts on Blu-ray from Olive Films in a 2.35.1 widescreen transfer presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. There's some minor print damage on the elements used for the transfer that could probably have been cleaned up, but as it stands, this is respectable enough looking picture. Detail is definitely better than you'd get from standard definition, no surprise there, while contrast is pretty decent. Some of the wider angle shots are a little on the soft side and some scratches pop up on the print but there are no issues with obvious compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction. This probably could have looked better but it certainly doesn't look bad.
The English language DTS-HD Mono Audio track on the disc is pretty good. The score sounds decent enough and the dialogue stays crisp and clear. Depth is about average for an older low budget picture but it's there, the voices of the actors sound reasonably full. As you should expect, range is limited by the original source material but this track is clean enough and it gets the job done without any real problems. As is typical with Olive Films' releases, there are no alternate language options or subtitles of any kind offered on this disc.
Outside of a static menu and chapter selection, there are no extra features on this disc.
Ambush At Cimarron Pass isn't great, but neither is it a complete disaster by any stretch. It's a passable B-western with a few good actors in it and a decent supporting performance by Eastwood, who would obviously go on to much bigger and better things only a few years later. Olive Films offers up the movie in decent enough shape and in its original aspect ratio but as is the norm with their discs, doesn't provide any supplements. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.